The One In Which My Doctor’s Good Intentions Will Kill Me…

I had an appointment with my doctor this morning. I don’t know if my doctor doesn’t understand the concept of addiction or what, but I came home with prescriptions for pain meds AND anti-anxiety meds. And — here’s the kicker — a casual mention that marijuana (she actually whispered the word) sometimes eases nausea. I’m pretty sure my doc just advised me to blaze up a doobie to deal with my stomach issues. Interesting. Hot tea and ginger ale have been making it bearable for now.

I’m seriously surrounded by cartoon characters.

I ripped the prescriptions up, by the way. I’m not taking any chances. I’m 24 days clean and sober today.

Death…

I’ve been thinking about death a lot. It’s consumed me this week. The recent death of my cousin, the impending 1-year anniversary of my best friend’s death, my grandfather’s current slow demise from lung cancer, and finally, the virus that courses through my own veins. I’ve tried to commit lately to being grateful for each day, to living as well as I can, to not focusing on the fear and the darkness. It’s just that when the fear does seep in, the sadness, the loneliness…in the midst of the maelstrom, it all just seems so…I don’t know…overwhelming?

The problem is, when I sink into this place it releases the floodgates on things long repressed. Of course. Naturally. It’s the endless loop of torment that then plays over and over, trying to convince me that I’m less than. The loss. Of others. My own. And…I’m 8 fucking years old again. Is it always going to go back to that? The loss is always tied to abandonment, isn’t it? Or rage. Or fear. I suppose it doesn’t really matter. In the end, it’s just the loss and it leaves me quite empty and broken-hearted.

There’s really no way to prepare for such misery. Just pray that it passes quickly enough. It always passes, and if I can keep the madness at bay long enough for it not to consume me then hopefully I’ll be looking back on these words soon and wondering what the big deal was.

I’ve been writing a lot lately. The other thing that’s consumed me. For better or for worse. I’ll share some of it in these pages soon. I’ve needed time to wrap my head around some things before I shared. Forgive my absence, my silence, those of you who’ve written, commented, tweeted, etc. Please know I appreciate your good thoughts, your prayers, your support. I’m working my way out of the darkness. I’m trying.

Ruminations on the Nature of Things…

I’m starting to lose myself. Even as I creep slowly back to awareness, back to consciousness after these last dizzying 6 weeks, as the reality sets in and I’m brought back around to this realm from the one in which I’ve been ensconced, even now I’m not sure what’s real and what’s not. I’ve been faking my way through the last 6 weeks, but now, finally, it’s all catching up with me. The armor of strength I feigned to avoid the inevitable breakdown has become a mere shadow, taunting me as I struggle to hold onto it. Where once there was strength, now sorrow and despair have sunk in and have me in a stranglehold that makes it difficult to breathe as I come to terms with it all. How desperately I long to be numb once again, to not have to feel.

The only difference between now and 6 weeks ago is thus: I was haunted by different things 6 weeks ago, only then the terror tended to vanish to the bottom of a glass, becoming more abstract, less threatening. I’ve not used since the day before I had the stroke. It’s not that I don’t want to use. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. As the days continue to slide into one another, I want nothing more than to drown any coherent thoughts I have in absinthe and despair. But I can’t. I will die if I do that.

But how I want to pour a shot. I want to swallow a bottle of Valium and chase it with a bottle of rum. I want to grab the sharpest blade I can find and run it hard against my skin to cause myself physical pain to distract me from the emotional anguish of what is happening around me. But I can’t. I can’t move.

I wrote about memories this morning. And grief. It was more of a yell than a thought, but the process was somewhat cathartic. I expressed my rage and lightning didn’t strike. So there’s that…

Whispers in the Wind…

Last night around, oh, I don’t know, 2:00 in the morning, I suddenly needed very badly to talk to someone. I had just returned from taking a short walk. It was an interesting walk. I suppose it was in the 40s, but what with the wind and all, who knows how cold it really was. I tell you, though, there’s nothing like being out there that late at night while the world around you sleeps. The wind tried to snatch my hat away, settling instead for making me gasp when it blew into my face. I walked through it all, drinking deeply from and keeping warm with a thermos full of tea until I was good and dead behind the eyes.

But back at the house, I sat down heavily and stared at the telephone. There were a couple of people I knew on Pacific time, but I didn’t want to think about the west coast just then. Then I remembered: Fitzy was in Colorado. Of course. A 2-hour difference wasn’t that bad. Anyway, I had a lot I wanted to say to him, and until that moment I lacked the courage I needed to do it.

His brother’s machine picked up. The outgoing message was sing-songy and annoying. I pulled the phone away from my ear until I heard the beep and then I left a rambling, incoherent message. I hate leaving messages for people. I always sound like such a tool.

I lay back on my bed, fully clothed and on top of the blankets, and covered my face with a pillow. I thought about the wind outside, how it had pushed me and made me lean into it for balance. I can tell you why we think of the wind as a living thing, if you like. It’s because it has a voice. It howls around the corners of buildings and whispers past your ears. It sighs over the ground and bustles on its way around your legs. If I thought it would tell me something I wanted to hear, I might have asked it a few things.

Redemption

Not an auspicious start to 2011. Death, grief, despair, relapse, poor health. Pretty much in that order. Working on pulling myself out of the darkness. Blog posts have been woefully scanty, and likely will be for some time to come. Or, I will become annoyingly prolific.  Could go either way. For now, sobriety and health. I can’t have one without the other.

The One with the Copious Amounts of Angst

I have a small window of opportunity in which to write this. The limited time in space is of my own creation, but knowing what I do of myself and the road I’m currently on, I understand that I need to do this now and not wait for an hour or two, lest this become a cacophony of disjointed, nonsensical, random thoughts…worse even than this already promises to be, given my current frazzled state of being. Plus? As soon as I hit “publish” I am on the move again, off into the night to the nearest bar for liberty and libation. I’ll not be imprisoned any longer, at least in this physical space. This house is boring me tonight. I had a taste last night. Now I have an insatiable thirst for it all.

Last night. When I meant to compose these thoughts and send them off. Something else happened instead. One of my former college professors has been trying for 2 years to get me to come speak to his class about life as a writer. I refuse. I appreciate it, don’t get me wrong. But public speaking – even to a group of barely post-pubescent college students – is so not my thing. I’m barely comfortable talking one-on-one to people I’ve known forever. The idea of getting up and speaking to any group larger than say, two people? Yeah, not gonna happen.  Anyway, he’s been busting my chops to get me to do this. Last night he called me to tell me he was taking this particular group of students to Patriot Place for a night out. This is not a college activity I remember…going out drinking with your professor. Anyway, they were going to 5 Wits, followed by dinner at one of the many fantastically overpriced restaurants adjacent to Gillette Stadium. He asked if I’d join them, and funnily enough I was in the mood to escape my own personal reality so I agreed. I popped 4 xanax and was on my way.

I met them at 5 Wits and we got our Espionage on. 5 Wits is an hour-long interactive theater experience. It was interesting. It was meant to serve as an exercise in group cohesion. Basically there were a lot of nervous giggles until we got the hang of what was happening. Anyway. Following that, we had to decide where to go to eat. It was cold and Patriot Place is huge, so we chose the closest place. It was a frou-frou wine bar/bistro place. I don’t remember the name. All I know is that I can now cross off my bucket list the following: Go to a classy joint and act like I belong there.  Heh. Yeah, I’m working-class Boston. I dig blue-collar sports bars. Wine bars? Not so much. Seeing the ridonkulous dinner prices, we chose to have a couple of drinks and several slates of cheese, and head somewhere else for dinner. Slates of cheese. Cheese served on slates, with the type of cheese written in chalk beneath the thimble-sized samples. What the hell? My intent was to drink water, eat some cheese, and head home. Instead what happened was I ordered 5 flights of wine to pair with the various cheese choices.  Five flights, three glasses in each flight. I don’t even like wine, but it seemed like the thing to do. That’s not entirely true. The thing to do, in my mind, was to get numb. Really, really numb. And so I drank wine. Then I had a couple of Stella Artois, then a couple of cocktails, which I ordered because they had really fun names. I drank and I ate smoked goat cheese, aged cheddar, and brie infused with lavender. Yum.  Know what I discovered? Never again do I care to patronize a place that serves popcorn infused with duck fat ever again. Duck fat-infused popcorn. Dude. Drown it in butter. Now you have my attention.

We left ritzy wine bar place, and skipped over to CBS Scene, right across the street. Though it was less cold with a few cocktails in me, walking far still wasn’t an option for different reasons. CBS Scene is fun. There are over 100 televisions broadcasting every sport imaginable.  And they serve food on plates, not slates. And they have beer. And nachos. That’s what I’m talking about. We ordered good old red-blooded American fare, drank our weights in whatever ale was on tap, and had a grand old time talking about literature, writing, and sports.

We closed the place, and my professor escorted his group out of the restaurant and back to Milton. I walked back to my car and realized fairly quickly that driving wasn’t a good idea. Public transportation had stopped an hour earlier, and I’d spent every penny on food and libation. I thought—wrongly—that I’d be able to sleep it off in my car and drive home at first light. It was way too cold, so I stumbled down Rte. 1 to the nearest motel, plopped my credit card on the desk, and took a room. Thankfully traffic was light on Rte. 1 because I vaguely remember using the yellow line as my guide, walking gingerly down the middle of the highway, singing some random selection of tunes at the top of my booze-addled lungs.

Last night. That was trip. I got home this morning and slept for a few more hours. I felt like death when I woke up. No surprise there. Screw it. Numb is good. My diet today has consisted of pain and anti-anxiety pills, chased at one point this morning by Robitussin to deal with this incessant cough, and soon to be chased by a glaringly obscene combination of any bottled booze I can get my cold, aching hands on. Hence the need to get this post out now.

A brief non-sequitur:

I found some peace in Maine, on the lake, in the cabin. It may be as close to God’s country here on the East Coast. I fished there when I was a kid and never felt closer to God. I so yearned for that sense of peace.

Do you fish at all? I don’t know what it is but it’s the most serene feeling. To be in the water amid the silence of everything around you is a beautiful feeling. I read a book years ago called “A River Runs Through It” and fell in love with the peaceful setting described by the author. The book was set in Montana.

“Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters. “

These sentences in the last paragraph of the book are perhaps the most gripping I have ever read. It’s the story of Norman McLean and his brother, Paul, who was beaten to death in 1938. It is about not understanding what you love, and about not being able to help. More significantly, it is about passion, and what happens when you don’t have it. It is the truest story I have ever read; it might be the best written. And to this day it won’t leave me alone.

It all reminds me of a time when, as a youngster, I experienced the true freedom of youth (and the repercussions thereof) when I stayed for a week at that cabin with my cousins, my aunt, my uncle, and my grandparents. We were young and in the midst of the great outdoors. The adults’ idea of fun was far different than our own, and we saw to it that certain rights of passage were met head on that week. One night, around dusk, my oldest cousin, Kristen, and I decided to take the canoe out on the lake and do some fishing. Sure, we had been warned against doing this. Sure, we had been threatened with serious punishment. Sure, neither of us knew exactly how to work the oars, steer the thing, avoid sand bars, and navigate our way back to land once we were out there…but it was the danger that made it exciting. Up until that night all we had caught on our lines had been sorry looking fish and a few dead eels.  We threw back out catches anyway, but what it made it ours was the night sky and the silence of the lake and the adventure of doing all this against the express direction of those who were in charge.

So we went out and rowed our way to the middle of the lake. There we sat for 2 hours, surrounded by nothing but the call of a few loons and the gentle lapping of the waves against out tiny wooden refuge.  We hit a few sand bars, but we were resourceful enough to make or way out of the situation. Eventually we made our way to the opposite end of the island where, to our dismay, we saw the flashlight signals of the adults calling us to shore. We made it to land and were met with the stern disapproval of our caretakers. As part of our punishment we were made to carry the canoe back to the cabin through the brush, over the dirt and rock road, on our shoulders, in bare feet. It was a painful 45-minute walk back to the cabin. But thinking back on it, I’d repeat the punishment time and again to feel for one second the freedom I felt out on that lake, with my cousin, in the silence, safe and happy.

The things that are most true I can’t bring myself to write tonight. As I reflect on it all, I can now draw at least one conclusion. It’s fear and uncertainty that influence me on every level these days. My existence seems almost mechanical at times, as I try to bury what I can’t bring myself to face. So I work too hard, and I stay awake too long, and I indulge too often, and I try to forget. But in the process, I’ve forgotten what the whole point is, or perhaps I never knew it. I think I did though, because I remember a time when I could feel. I just want that back.

I wanted to try to live in accord with the promptings which came from my true self. Why was that so very difficult? When I was a child I wished only to feel safe and at peace. Loved and protected. My wishes have not changed much. The people whose duty it was to love and protect me unconditionally instilled in me form a young age that I was not worth the effort. For 38 years I have believed that with my whole heart.

I’m left tonight balancing precariously on the precipice of sanity. I’m not sure what to do next. I’ve put it all out there and I don’t know what to do with it. It’s left me feeling raw and terrified and vulnerable.

I’ve stopped believing I deserve better. I don’t. I can’t. This is the easier road. It’s the road of the weak, the forgotten, the unnecessary, the meaningless, the lost, the unloved. It’s the road I belong on.

Sunday, bloody Sunday

A bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum came crashing down on my head today. I don’t mean metaphorically; I’m speaking quite literally. I was in my garage — a place in which I don’t spend a great deal of time, because, well why would I really? — foraging through a spare refrigerator I used in the past when I used to host a multitude of people with no place to go for various holidays. My house has always been the land of the misfit toys around holidays. And that’s the way I like it. You don’t have a place to go? There’s plenty of room at my table. I’m related to no one around my holiday table, and yet they are my family in every way that counts.  When I bought my first house I bought this huge, gorgeous dining room table around which I could break bread with those who meant the most to me. My grandmother sat at that table only a few times, but it is for that very reason that I will NEVER get rid of it. I can picture her sitting in the high-back chair, smiling proudly as she watched me fake my way through cooking a meal in the kitchen – a meal that, if I’m going to be honest, probably tasted like cardboard, but that she would claim was the most delicious meal she’d ever had the privilege of eating.

Anyway. I used the refrigerator for storage for the abundance of pies and fruit cakes I would inevitably end up with. Today, though, I was foraging through it to finally clean it…a task that’s well overdue. I clean. I’m a cleaner. I get anxious, depressed, stressed…I clean. I love to clean. It calms me. I usually have the music blaring in the background and if you look through my windows you’ll no doubt see me cutting a rug with my mop or vacuum cleaner as I dance around, inhaling the pine fresh scent and cleaning my ass off! I haven’t partaken in a good cleaning marathon like that in some time. I don’t have the energy. Or the will. But this had to be done. I spend such little time in the garage that I hadn’t really noticed that thanks to the heat and humidity it was starting to get a little funky in there. I needed to focus on something other than misery, so I went in to clean. I opened the door to the freezer and tumbling down from the top as I opened the door was a 1.75 liter bottle of rum. I was leaning down a bit and it hit me square on the skull causing me to bite the living shit out of my tongue, then tumbled to the floor and shattered, sending rum and glass up the length of my body and across the garage floor. After I stopped seeing stars I just kind of sat there for a minute, not really sure what to do. I had no shoes on so stepping on shards of glass seemed unwise. I could taste the rum. I licked my lips, looked around, looked heavenward and shouted “Oh you have GOT to be fucking kidding me?” Then I started laughing and after about a minute the laughter turned to sobs as I slumped to floor, my hands landing in a pile of rum-soaked glass, cutting my wrist enough to produce a thin line of blood that trailed off to the floor mixing with rum in a way that seemed heart-breakingly ironic.

Suicide At The Wishing Well

Sleep actually came pretty easily after a rude awakening last night. I’m guessing the demerol had something to do with it, but I slept and I wasn’t in pain so I’ll take what I can get. I struggled with whether or not to take the meds, but ultimately my desire for a pain-free night won out. I had overdone it yesterday with a trip in to the city to see my doc. Today, though, I’m sticking to Advil. I just flushed the rest of the demerol. I don’t trust myself.

Sitting on the deck now trying to finish an assignment for work. Slightly distracted by the sun. Haven’t seen much of it lately. I’d love to go for a walk but I’m not quite up to that just yet. Still, it’s nice to be outside for a bit.

I have to go to a wake tonight. An alkie, like me. We smoked our first joint together sitting on the rail road tracks behind our Junior High when we were 12. I also smoked my last joint with him at age 25, sitting in some girl’s apartment, tripping out of my mind because the joint was laced with some hallucinogen or another. Worst experience of my life. I was paranoid for days.

I haven’t seen Tommy in 2 years. He had moved out of state. We were both clean and happier for it. We had made plans to see each other next month at our 20th high school reunion. Instead he overdosed on a speedball and I’m struggling to move beyond my damn living room on a daily basis. It’s more an existential struggle than a physical one, to be honest. But there’s little distinction to be made when the outcome remains the same, no?

Anyway. If I thought I was up for leaving the house twice today, I’d go find a meeting. I could use a meeting right now. Guess I’ll settle for finishing my work and then purging my thoughts onto the blank page before me.

To Insanity, With Love and Squalor

It’s not that I haven’t written lately. I’ve written, madly. It keeps me up at night. That and the, you know, nausea. And the fucking nightmares. I’ve written pages and pages. Know what I do when I’m done writing? I go out to the fire pit in the backyard and I burn every last word. Talk about catharsis. Or insanity. I’m not sure which. Could be a touch of both. I watch the fire rage (and by rage, I mean crackle; it’s a fire pit not an inferno) in to the night sky and stand just outside its reach, just close enough for the smoke to wind its way, menacingly, around my body and into my lungs as I inhale deeply. 

This particular ritual usually takes place sometime around 3 or 4 in the morning. So I’m guessing my neighbors probably aren’t all that thrilled with me either. Twice I’ve had the fire department pay me a visit. I asked if it was illegal. No, they said, just a bit odd. Fair enough, Mr. Fireman. Color me eccentric.

Something happened a couple of nights ago that precipitated this…what? This…episode? This craziness? This jesus-christ-i-need-to-get-a-grip behavior. Something happened that triggered this mess. I was going to write it out here. I’ve written it out and burned it up, but I was going to write it out here. I was going to do that because sharing safely is what this is all about, right? And I’m deathly afraid it will, once and for all, consume me. That? Is not how I want to go out. I’ve fought too hard for that bullshit. Or maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. I’m really not sure anymore.  Perspective is so lost on me right now.

So I was going to share it, let it go. Instead I let it go up in smoke with all the other words. It’s cool. The flames will keep me company tonight. They have their own story to tell. Sometimes it’s best to remain silent.