Buzzed and Confused

Three o’clock 🕒. I can see why some people use gabapentin for recreation: I’ve got a good buzz going. No joke, I have to get off of this drug. It looks as if my brain has become normal enough to respond to pleasure once again. This is dangerous to my sobriety, and maybe I can’t call myself sober anymore anyway. I want to be able to write soberly and seriously. Writing ought to be my way to mental wellness. Use it as a vehicle to transcendence. This idea makes me want to go over my Keats and Mallarmé again… I just don’t want to relapse to alcoholism. It nearly killed me three years ago. And I was useless as long as I was drinking. The withdrawals were awful and scary. What hooks a person on alcohol is the euphoria, which resembles a foretaste of heaven. But when you abandon your life to alcoholism, you give up your responsibility to society. You lose everything you had due to an obsession with a buzz. It is like the Lotus Eaters in The Odyssey, the most depressing episode in the poem.

Quarter of five. I just emailed Pastor about my discovery regarding gabapentin. How worried should I be?


The Caffeine Trap

Quarter after four. I restrung my J Bass and gave it a good workout this afternoon. The strings are extremely bright and made more so by the bridge. I told Pastor that I’d be willing to buy a keyboard amplifier for the church so Eduardo can set up outdoors. Maybe at Guitar Center I can work a trade in for the American Fender bass. But no: see about an exchange from Musicians Friend first. Call them Tuesday, after Memorial Day is over with. On Friday I spoke with a rep who was a complete ignoramus. She knew absolutely nothing about music gear, nor how to retrieve records from their system. She was too stupid to be embarrassed about it. I came away frustrated and angry… Meanwhile, Aesop is dozing after an anxious afternoon of me messing with my bass guitar. And I’ve probably overdosed on caffeine again, making me irritable and kind of mean. I felt great five hours ago and now I’m a jerk. One two liter of Coke is almost a six pack of cans. Also I feel like I’m having to rationalize my caffeine intake. I know that it’s too much to be healthy and moderate. I begin to use it because it makes me feel good, and then I want more and more of that euphoria. How does that differ from an alcoholic buzz? In principle it is no different, and that’s why I have to justify doing it. It’s another addiction.

The Bottle

One o’clock. I think I want to drink beer, and that’s my battle with myself. A lot of evidence points to it. In this case, I probably need to heap on the religious discipline. It hurts, but it keeps me alive. I don’t know what to do. If I want to drink, then it’ll probably happen that way. My body would hate it, especially stomach and liver. I can’t afford the financial cost of drinking. Before I knew it I’d be overdrawn. I’d lose my friends. Aesop would be neglected. I could end up in the hospital. People would accuse me of being selfish and irresponsible. My conscience would kill me. I would be worthless as a person… It’s beginning to rain. Damien is not here… I know that I cannot drink alcohol. If I can just drive that home to my inmost self, I might achieve some peace. What can I do for a diversion? Playing an instrument usually helps.


Quarter after four. Well the book came. I marked my place in it where I left off… Tomorrow I’ll call in a refill for my medication, as I am down to my last three pills. It seems to me that my life would have been totally different if I had flown the nest at 18 years old. What if I had gone to Columbia University in New York? Would I have learned that I was a homosexual? And then what? My mother was protective of me while I went to college here. She judged that one friend who came over was gay— and she was probably right. He and a circle of his friends tended to be androgynous. They had wanted me to join their clique… and what would have been wrong with that? The bunch of them used marijuana frequently. I figured out later that must be why one of them had tits like a girl. They were not good students. But why did they want me in their group? I belonged to another group of friends, mostly musicians, who were all heterosexual. The network spanned multiple high schools and ages. This was the reality I chose, and which my mother approved. It appears quite clear to me now… Moreover, when I looked up Sheryl on the web, I noticed that her name was preceded by a “Ms.” I don’t think she’s ever been married. On the other hand, Beverly is a mother and a grandmother.

I’ve been mistaken for gay since junior high school because I never had a girlfriend. My illness made me shy of dating when I was young. Some people accept that schizophrenia is a biological disease, and that’s that. You treat it with meds just as you would a physical illness. But others go in with a psychic scalpel and try to find meaning in the nonsense, a method I disagree with. The controversy between psychiatrists and psychologists will likely go on long after I’m gone.


Quarter after ten.

Tempted to do Coca-Cola again, but I don’t like the feeling of being hooked. Also I can’t sleep well with caffeine. My book is coming today. Aesop needs wet food. Guess I’ll go to the store right now… I’m thinking about aborting the story I began. Maybe let it germinate for a while. The Coke yesterday really went to my head. I was able to distinguish between sanity and craziness induced by caffeine. Today I bought just a ginger ale. It occurs to me that the caffeine triggered a hypo manic— if Todd is right that I’m bipolar. I had a wild flight of ideas yesterday afternoon, which isn’t like me. Usually I’m quite realistic, even a little bovine and dull. I’m safer to avoid caffeine. I can only imagine how alcohol would affect me now. Not pretty. I anticipate getting my Baldwin book today. A package from UPS is always a good thing. Roger just drove up and backed into his driveway in that old rust colored Ford. The weather is fantastic again. Corona has become business as usual each day. I feel kind of restless and frustrated. Mostly I’d like to jam with my band again as soon as possible. Between now and then is just marking time.

One fifty. I pulled out my Aria bass and gave it a play. First I checked the battery to make sure it wasn’t leaking. There was no damage. It’s a great sounding bass. I had a friend who distrusted it because it wasn’t a Fender. Everything was different back then. I drank and acted like a prick. But Roman insisted on talking politics, and left his television tuned to Fox News all the time. It got so I felt uncomfortable at his house. I can remember it now. The last time I saw him was ten years ago. The right wing was everywhere around me, no escape from it. Everyone I knew was a conservative. The street I live on was entirely the same. But nowadays it’s harder to tell the difference between a liberal and a conservative. Maybe it’s only me. The Millennium was a strange time. I heard a lot of people say that you can’t be ambivalent. You are either for Christ or against him. There is no fence, no agnosticism. I learned later that black and white thinking is unrealistic and not very healthy. In my opinion, Jesus was a dichotomous thinker, as was Aristotle with the Law of Excluded Middle. In truth, we need the shades of gray to be healthy.

Free Souls

I can still hear my sister’s voice scolding me about selfishness. I wish it would shut up. I cringe whenever Polly spouts about anyone being selfish. My therapist helped me by saying that one hundred percent altruism is impossible. I agreed with her. After that, I was able to let it go and move on. To this day I think AA and other organizations that push altruism on people are absolutely stupid. As Sheryl said, it’s impossible to be completely selfless. People don’t realize what they are saying. My therapist was very rational and insightful. She made even the irrational sound logical and plausible. I kind of miss seeing her, actually.

Quarter after three. Then again, Sheryl could be a bad person too. She questioned my involvement in the church at a time when it helped me. Hank, at the store, did an odd thing this morning. He asked me about the church, then he cut me off and started talking to the customer behind me. The conversation involved the brand of cigarettes the guy smoked. After some analysis, I concluded that Hank, as a smoker, felt uncomfortable with the idea of the church. So, he began a conversation with another person who smoked. The customer was also a rider with the Free Souls, I guess. I grabbed my stuff, turned around, and left unnoticed. Free Souls. It makes me wonder what is the true nature of freedom. Is it the freedom to do self destructive things like alcohol and drugs and promiscuous sex? Is that freedom or is it a kind of bondage? I only know that alcoholism nearly killed me. And I found out that there is life without alcohol. A life without addictions is the other way of looking at freedom. The real free souls are people like me.


Ten thirty five.

I had an intense drinking dream this morning. I was really very joyful, and I was with my friends Pastor and Eduardo. My mind is trying to dupe me into believing that I’ve been drinking when in fact I haven’t been. I guess if I had my wish I would go on a spree. Still I refuse to crack. My conscious self is in charge, the captain of my ship, regardless of what Freud asserted about the unconscious. Active alcoholism distorts the whole way you think, especially by rationalizing more drinking. It is a treacherous trap that kills you in the end. Evidently my brain still manufactures endorphins and remembers the crazy euphoria I used to get. It’s like being on heroin. I will go to the market soon and buy a soda of some kind. This is Saturday. I’m listening to my wiser self and denying my brain the pleasure it craves. Delaying gratification will bring about some greater good.

Nervous Service

Five forty. We’re having a food pantry tomorrow, and I will go help out. But I still feel weird about Christian faith. In our culture, is it the only way to be a good person? Pastor proposes having a Zoom coffee hour after virtual service on Sunday. I don’t know. I feel uncomfortable right now. I’m inclined to go to bed and rest for a while. Maybe I’m a little scared of the virus. But many other people are more afraid than I am. Anyway, I gave my word that I would show up, and that’s that. Also I will send in a check to Our Redeemer next week. I feel a little tired. Anxious and distressed, I’m not sure why. Yet getting out of the house tomorrow is better than being shut in. I don’t feel very well… I’m torn between doing the right thing and doing the easy thing. The right thing is to help out my church. But it’s easier to stay home and read a book. Or just do nothing. I will do what I can.

Ten forty. I was just dreaming about abusing benzodiazepines. I was in my mother’s bed with my fist gripping the pill bottle. Dr T came down the hall and muttered something. I also dreamed that I was in the driver’s seat of a car parked at the roadside. It was night. My head was just inches away from being hit by cars passing in the right lane. I guess the message is that I don’t feel very safe. I’ve put myself in the path of danger. I admonished myself aloud, “Jeez Rob, you need to relax.” And it’s true. My body is tense like a coiled spring and my mind can find no peaceful place. It seems that in tough times there’s no substitute and no alibi, no ticket out. The only way out is through.

Step by Step

Eleven o’clock.

I had a donut at the salon and went to the store. Life seems almost normal despite the lockdown. The radio at the market was playing “Rooster” by Alice In Chains. A few times I stopped and told myself that this is reality. I’m supposed to call Todd in a half hour. Darcy was aware of the situation with Ride Source. So I get to have a phone appointment today. She said that Ride Source will be messed up for the next month. I’m beginning to wonder at the process of life. It seems there’s never a respite from the ups and downs. It’s a constant roller coaster, particularly to a sober person. The only nirvana is the delusion of being on drugs. My parents lived in this house as if it had been a safe haven from a world of chaos.

Quarter of one. Todd was concerned about my hemoglobin being elevated, so I called the office of my hematologist. They are working together on the concern right now. I don’t know what to think about that… I guess it indicates dehydration. Again it’s never a dull moment. The reprieve we’re all hoping for doesn’t come, and then we die. For many years, alcohol was my security blanket and shield from the hostile universe. Eventually it became just another item in the same menacing world. Now the force field has been deactivated and I’m a sitting duck. But so is everybody. We’re all in the same boat of danger and uncertainty. I can understand why people get addicted to things. We find a comfortable feeling and want to repeat it. When that comfort zone is used up, we seek another sensation. We don’t realize or admit that we are defenseless. In reality, we survive by our courage and our wits. The logic of the heart is our best weapon for staying alive. The brain can turn traitor on us, and then what do we do? Put one foot in front of the other…

The Role of Music

Looking forward to playing Sunday, though I’m concerned about the element of alcohol on the premises. I hope no one gets too tipsy. I remember how alcohol used to ruin band rehearsals when I was younger. We made jokes about it. The fact is that alcohol destroys everything you undertake to do. It has a nasty way of usurping the role of what is important, whether the business is music or making glasses for low income individuals. It’s the ultimate sabotage. So yes I am nervous about the drinking during practice. Alcoholism is intimacy with some great reptile you pretend you can control. Unfortunately, music is a profession that people use as an excuse to drink or use drugs. Serious musicians don’t use substances. I can’t imagine Chick Corea getting wasted before a gig live or in the studio…

But I know that people who listen to music want to feel good. The performance of music aims at the pleasure of the audience. It makes me wonder about the role of pleasure in human life. Musicians are the merchants of dreams and beautiful things. Alcohol is part of the dream for many people. I also wonder what I’m getting out of the experience of making music. It’s a talent and a skill to be able to play, and that’s all I know. What is the cultural role of music? Is it about more than feeling good? Can it also be didactic; can it teach you anything? Perhaps it stimulates more than the heart? One would like to believe that music is a spiritual release, an exercise in being fully human. So that music is on a par with the best poetry. Hopefully it offers something for everyone.