Dream about Job

Quarter of seven AM.

I’ll probably go back to my reading of Henry James, whose name was big where I went to college long ago. The father of Modern fiction, we were taught. It’s also been a long time since I read Yeats, though his taste for spooks was never for me. The Golden Dawn group and all that. I don’t see much evidence for the paranormal, but once in a while I’ll have a deja vu, the feeling that I was there before. There’s a song by K.D. Lang dealing with this, and thinking of it calls my mother to mind, and the idea of making music in that final year we had. 

I owned a very nice Stingray Bass with a teal finish, and the color seemed to follow me everywhere and bring me good luck. I bought it with my earnings from the disco band at Musician’s Depot on Centennial Loop. But after my mother died, I did a lot of crazy things, so I no longer have the Stingray. Easy come, easy go. In fact, before she died I did crazy stuff. And yet it seems that life has a way of forgiving you and restoring to you what you have lost, if you play by the rules. It’s like what happened to Job, sort of. He got everything back. Lately I’ve been dreaming of the Book of Job, and it’s probably significant. God and the devil strike a bargain to test Job’s faith, like it’s all a big game. But what’s interesting is how evil is just an instructional tool, and all part of the same plan. I finally let the dream play out to its conclusion the other night, and that’s what I found. 

Alcohol

Eight thirty.

Inflation is very bad, so that I can hardly afford groceries every day. For a couple of reasons I’m cutting out the Snapple tea each day and just buying bare necessities. Right now it’s mostly sunny and nice, so how could anybody have a problem? I suppose I should read more than I write to be wiser. But the older you get, the more you become a fogy and resist new ideas. I often long for not just the past but for other countries; and of course I wish I could drink beer again and sample heaven as before. When you are sober, the world weighs on your shoulders as if you were Atlas. When you are drunk, the world rolls away and you don’t even care. I know I won’t do it anymore, but I still think we are too harsh on alcoholics in hospitals and other places. Carlos Williams made a little poem about a drunkard that was quite sympathetic with him. I don’t remember the ending to the one by Robinson, “Mr Flood’s Party,” or whether he had compassion or not. Does an alcoholic have to have a reason to drink? Whatever, I think it shows strength and courage to stay sober and deal with the challenges head on rather than try to make them go away.

One Thing

Eight o’clock.

Saturday morning. It’s very quiet in the house right now, which is kind of nice. I can’t think of a way to describe this month so far, except as a time of temptation for me to drink beer again. Last night I caught myself trying to rationalize doing this. I seemed to think that sobriety has a finish line, and after that you’re free to drink all you want. Now I have to figure out how to correct my thinking errors about this problem. It’s hard to accept that staying sober is a lifelong proposition; maybe it really is one day at a time, as AA says. Meanwhile, my life without alcohol can be pretty dull and anhedonic, and it seems like the One Thing I want to do is get drunk and forget the world. This feels like the authentic and genuine action for me to take. But even this is rationalization to do something essentially bad with my life. And as time goes by, I come to believe a little more in the existence of good and evil in human affairs. It started when I sampled some Baudelaire in French two months ago. Wickedness is just that, no matter what mental gymnastics I try to pull off. And goodness is the free and clear path, however boring it may be. 

Republic

Quarter of eleven.

A lot of staying sober depends on your beliefs on determinism. If you accept the influence of genetics and the sort of psychological “beast” that Plato talks about, then you might have some trouble with your recovery. But lately I’ve had my own problems trying to maintain sobriety. When you look for the dark places in your experience, it’s easy to find them. The trick is not to give in to them, or your mind can turn into a rationalizing function for a lot of bad stuff. I guess Plato is actually helpful here, where he discusses the tyranny of the soul. You are okay as long as the rational part rules over the appetites and impulses. But when these overturn your reason, it becomes just a yes man to craziness. It’s kind of like a tale by Poe about a mental hospital where the patients have revolted against the doctors and taken over their roles.

My dog is becoming a creature of habit. He begged me to go to the store this morning so he could have his cookies like every morning. It is just over 40 degrees outside and clear blue skies. I went out and saw Michelle and Karen— and I bought Aesop’s cookies, plus his dog food, and some things for me. Right now I feel the Snapple calling. 

Overcast

Eight o five.

At the market it was Raj taking care of things today. Since it was very early and a Sunday, I didn’t see many other people outside. I looked at the sky and saw a hint of blue through the overcast, and the forecast says sunshine later. I had a strange day yesterday, just with my mood and mental state. Caffeine can do that sort of thing to you. By the way, Raj told me that Michelle will be back next week, so I said I’d be glad to see her… I feel I ought to read something, maybe a Hemingway novel, but it’s hard to focus my attention for very long. My mind is often a flight of ideas when it’s not impoverished of thought. Although I told Pastor I’d be in church today, I have to ask myself if I really need that anymore. Next month I’ll have four and a half years of sobriety, with or without church support. The thing that has helped me the most is to avoid feelings of guilt and shame. Learning to do this is a philosophical thing, something existential. When you disable remorse, it’s possible not to drink or otherwise self destruct, and then life can go on.

Eight fifty five. I’d like to say the weather is beautiful now, but it’s still cloudy and windless. Yet even with the cloud cover there’s an abundance of light. 

Salud

Nine o’clock at night.

Everything consumes time. I’ve never been good at managing my time each day, or keeping a rigid structure. I could read my book right now, but it takes time that might be better spent writing my mind. I found it bizarre how Baudelaire is spiritual in a dark and wicked way. Is that healthy? To put down anything in words is to make it more real… But it isn’t just bizarreness: familiarity with “the devil” can happen in substance use, as it once happened to me during the years I had a job in an office. On Friday nights I’d get ripped and watch old Polanski movies, King Crimson concerts. I seemed much younger then, and I guess fifteen years does make a big difference. But the mystery to me is why I waited so long to take charge of my life, jerking the strings away from “Satan Trismegistus.” Now I know it’s really possible to do this. Stay away from the booze and everything is doable. The best way to keep sober is never to start drinking in the first place… The very last time I drank beer, I was sick and couldn’t keep it down. I’d have two beers and then throw them up. Finally, with a Miller High Life in my hand, I said that everything was different now. And I realized that nothing else mattered but life itself. I knew that a way would open up to me, though it would take some sacrifices. What you gain by it is integrity: purity, wholeness, and health. 

B-day Cash

Eight thirty five.

Unfortunately I feel like I’m getting sick with something. It started with my ears being stopped up, and then I had a dry cough, especially at night. Now, my sinuses are a bit congested. I got to the store in a light rain. I found out that Michelle’s daughter is in the hospital with Covid. In my mailbox I found a birthday card from my sister, so I came inside and opened it: she had enclosed a check for fifty dollars. I thought, she shouldn’t have. Even the card was very nice: serious and not silly… I dreamed last night about an old man I passed on the street who uttered a stream of vituperation at me for some reason. When I saw him again later, I thought to tell him I’d been sober for four and a half years, and this information seemed to soften his attitude somewhat… I definitely feel under the weather, but I have no plans for today. I can just stay home and watch the rain come down, or hopefully concentrate on a book. Something quiet and easy. 

Independence

Quarter after eight.

A few hours ago I read “The Delicate Prey” and didn’t like it very much. So much of Bowles deals with helplessness and victimization. Sometimes his characters are at the mercy of their own unwise impulses and bad decisions. If I were a member of AA, my Higher Power would be independence, which is really a contradiction with the meaning of the program. And if there’s an essence of independence, I wonder what it would be. I could never admit to absolute powerlessness, the first step of AA. It is just the opposite thing that is needed: empowerment… It must have rained all night long. Now it’s cloudy with a little sun at intervals. The anniversary of my mother’s death happens in two days, marking twenty years that I’ve been living on my own. It’s been far from perfect, but I managed to stay alive against very unfavorable odds. The forecast says more rain at noon. Maybe I’ll get home from church before the rain starts. On the other hand, it sounds like a shower right now… Yesterday, my brain was riddled with superstition, so I had to stop and assess what was wrong. But by now I seem to be feeling more or less okay again. Feelings of terror and helplessness are not constructive, so I consign all the past with AA and the other trash to the wastebasket. 

Used to Be a Bacchant

Quarter of seven.

I’m just getting ready to go to the store for a Snapple tea and some food. The light outside is gradually coming on, showing the gray sky in my window. It may be warm enough to go without a jacket, and no rain is forecast for today. Later I should read a good book to try to goad my brain out of its lethargy. What I really miss is playing music with friends. However, I’m not a Dionysian person anymore since I quit drinking. It’s still hard to figure my life out.

Quarter of eight. Aesop looks more alive than he did last night… To say that I used to be a bacchant is a romantic way of saying I was an alcoholic. There are different ways to intellectualize alcoholism and make a culture of it, but a skunk is still a skunk. And yet for me, sobriety is the undiscovered country, the last frontier of experience. After four years, I still don’t know what to expect with my life without beer. If I’m not exactly happy, then I’m at least alive and fairly healthy. Different kinds and qualities of pleasure are available to people. I guess the life of the mind is good enough for me. It is said, Live by the sword, die by the sword, but I’ve put the sword away, and the dragon I once fought has shrunk down to a baby alligator. Don’t feed it and don’t piss it off and it will stay little and cute… I’m looking at a lonely day ahead, but it beats a day of frenzy and uncertainty— sometimes. Both offer a chance to learn new things. 

Together

Eight thirty five.

The market was very busy this morning; people on their way to work or school stopped to grab something to eat and drink. For a while I forgot my preoccupation with philosophy and religion and became a face in the crowd. If church were not about doctrine it might be kind of fun, but I always find a point to argue with. I guess that subconsciously doctrines are everywhere. With the store bunch I felt like I participated in a Joyce novel like Ulysses, every identity blended into one, a universal mass… I see that my mailbox outside needs a repair; another good tug will pull it right off the post. I hope I can get Roger to help me with it. Worrying about it does no good… It’s rather odd to me to think that we’re all in this together. Being part of a community can be quite difficult if you do too much thinking. I imagine I’ve been guilty all this time of criticism. It should be easier to go with the flow than fight the current.

Ten o’clock. The weather now is a gray overcast. I hear sounds of construction going on. At the intersection of Maxwell and Bushnell Lane was a closed off section marked by orange pylons, but I didn’t see what they were doing. Being honest, sometimes I could really use a six pack of beer to feel more like my natural self. I suppose I’m fulfilling a duty to the community by abstaining. And sometimes this is the best I can do.