Saturday, December 14, 2013

… or choking

(new dawn treatment center)

It is oftenest when I am near others that my strangeness becomes impossible to conceal.

Little things. It is just the stuff that I say, my reaction to the talk of others. I can't seem to let an obscure reference remain that way. Everything I say seems to somehow be rooted in a time that is decades previous to everyone else's frame of reference. I am caught oddly trying to cast strands to draw the past into the present. Surprised at confusion.

There is that, and my sleeping patterns. 

I went to a company off-site event, with all of the new people that I will be working with. They are not actually "new" to me. I have worked with all of them for some time, though not on this "team."

We all went to a great seafood dinner last night where we ate crab and ceviche and mahi mahi and Portuguese fish stew, and lots of fried stuff from the depths. When we came home after dinner everybody gathered around in the living room to watch a movie. The original Friday the 13th was on and it seemed to appeal in a general, almost kitsch, way. At least in terms of irony and poor taste. 

I tried.

After about 15 minutes of watching Kevin Bacon conduct his unique version of acting I went to sleep. I felt like I was being tortured being kept up so late, out of a sense of obligation. It was probably only 10pm. I slept in until the luxurious hour of 4am.

Two mornings in a row now I have woken up and felt as if I've had a hangover. It's just been the sudden change in sleeping patterns, the disruption of the shifting of the circadian rhythms, but fuck…. I don't miss feeling bad like that, at all. 

I havent drank anything in two and a half months now, alcohol that is. I've had lots and lots of coffee and the occasional glass of water. The first month I felt great. Now that feeling has worn off and I am starting to notice how boring life can be. Time drags on. You have to learn to face emotions other than remorse, and there seem to be a fair amount of them in waiting.

It's exhausting.

Remorse is too strong of a word. I suppose it is more of a low-level guilt. It is mild and usually non-specific. Though sometimes sharp memories will find their way through, bursting the milky membranes that exist between daily drinking, sleeping, and then morning consciousness. Their sharp edges announcing themselves in flashes of regretful memory, pangs from the recent past.

That feeling. 

You spend so much time contending with your own questionable behavior that you don't have much spare time to experience any other internal sensations. When those perfectly normal emotions finally do arrive they are awkward and ill-fitting. They seem so odd, unnecessary, and large. That others possess them as being fully developed and functioning attributes only make them seem that much less desirable.

That's what I'm calling boredom now. That sickening normalcy known as health. The tedium of rediscovery and reinvention, an unfamiliar world in which I can no longer rely on mistakes made in perpetuity as the sole basis for personality. It is the developmental equivalent of learning to want to go to the mall, and being happy about it. It's supposed to be like a lobotomy that works, a process that we can all be proud of.

Though, the other night a friend noted my increased capacity for empathy.

Jesus man, keep your voice down... You'll ruin me with talk like that. 

He went on to describe the unwelcome drinking habits of others. I was riveted. I had to admit that it did sound like a familiar pattern of reprehensible behavior, but it didn't make me want to drink any less. Not that I need any props or encouragement. I do not have cravings. I simply get bored. Time moves much slower in the abstemious mind, it becomes noticeably more difficult to tolerate certain others. Though counter-intuitively those "others" were only recently your favorite people. 

Your new friends are miserable, often using phrases like "my recovery" and "be careful…."

In short, sustained or attempted sobriety makes one a sanctimonious, meddling bore. It is the default tone of that struggle.

The sanctimony is not a required component, per se. It creeps in to replace the omission, filling the vacuum of behavior created by the absence of intoxication. It pours in as sands from the hourglass, bringing with it its coarse language of betterment, improvement, and the new self. 

You find yourself unexpectedly talking about things in a way that only abstainers do. You adopt their phrasings for certain moments and situations and it is all quite off-putting, but you can hardly stop yourself. It is your new, fresh shame and burden to bear.

Jesus knocks louder than ever at the door and you're just trying to talk over the racket. 

You keep thinking, Maybe it's not Jesus. What if it's Keith Richards out there instead? 


You can hear the vague tones of denial and disapproval inserting themselves into unwanted moments. If it were only dismissiveness then it would be fine, but it is also the voice of specific longing, which only hints at the deep inner hypocrisy, a tone that no one enjoys or endures for long. 

You just love to parachute, but you also love the earth. Nobody who likes to drink really wants to stop drinking, they only want drinking to stop being such an issue, a problem. They always want earth beneath them when they jump from a plane, even if they can't see it, they want to know that it is there, and in which direction. They don't want to have to think of these things, they want the world to work the way that it is supposed to. Few jump from a plane genuinely wanting only endless clouds and sky, and directionless falling. 

The teetotaler must find things in their new life that they can hold up and then overvalue for others, to try to convince themselves of the worth of their alternatives. To insist upon them. 

It's all true, of course. It's just not very convincing. There is nothing seductive about abstinence. I feel like I am walking through life wearing a condom that I can't stop talking about. 

But the stories of others' skydiving adventures are almost as boring as the telling of their dreams, which is almost what I'm doing here. 

That is what listening to abstainers is like: like hearing about the experience of surviving a jump, of being proud of still living.

Or, telling the story of going to the store to buy lottery tickets.

Hold on now.... You jumped from the plane, and then fell for a while, and then landed? But you're okay now, right? Oh good, lucky that, then. It must have been the parachute that saved you.

But wait, you say you went right back up and did it again? Only to survive to tell us about it now?

That's really something. You are one crazy mother-fucker…

It is true torture for one who prides themselves in ostracizing those types of people. You have become the rigid phony in the room, the one that you used to sniff out as passing game, the sublunary story teller… you exist without the use of your self-deprecation mechanisms in place to save you, to astonish yourself and others with inner subversions. You have the head of a familiar fool and the body of a naked midget. 

Self-deprecation works quite well with mild self-abuse. One art of life concerns the balancing of your abuses. Conflict resolution need not always involve others, etc. If you try to convert the quality of self-deprecation to abstaining, and rely on it as a social device, then you just make people uncomfortable, or worse. It's like asking people you barely know to openly feel sorry for you. It removes all humor from the joke.

But the increased capacity for empathy also - perhaps mainly- applies to self, it seems to be sourced there.

So, there is that: the compensatory qualities of the exile. The silence that follows the laughter that follows the witticism, or jest, or joke, or joking.