The Bohemian Experiment

Sunday Morning Blues

Posted by beckert10 on June 20, 2009

It’s Sunday morning and outside April sun warms the land.  I pull the covers over my head like a vampire.  Partly it’s guilt.  If it was a rainy day at least I’d know everyone was bound indoors.  But I know on a day like today people are out, feeling energized by the rays, saying things like, “What a day to be alive!  It’s a gift from God!”  Fuck them.

I stumble out to the living room and it seems like there is a layer of clear plastic between me and the rest of the world.  Everything feels distant and out of reach.  My head is a dull ache and as I move the pain comes in jolts.  The front door is splintered and there is what looks like shit splattered on the wall above the trash can, but upon further inspection turns out to be refried beans.
I tell myself, “That’s it.  I’m done.  Never again.  I know I’ve said it before, but this time I really mean it.”
How many days of my life have I wasted by trying to feel good the night before?  They all start off the same: a couple of drinks, a smoke or two, but there’s something about feeling good that doesn’t quite feel good enough.  It’s as if there’s a drug dealer in my subconscious who talks me into, “…just a little more, my man…it’s what you need.  Come on bro, what feels better than feeling good?”

How many years now has then been going on… waking up Saturday, Sunday morning, sometimes both, opening my eyes to that feeling I call crusty, because I feel like that stuff that gathers in the corners of the eyes while sleeping.  I’m a scab, crusted over the gash that I re-open every weekend, that I first inflicted at age fifteen when I woke up on a deserted beach at night with no memory of how I got there, the last thing I can recall saying, “Wow, you can barely taste this when it’s mixed with root beer.”  It was that night I’d first met the pusher man inside my head with his chinchilla coat and fedora who talks you into the infinite one more, refills your cup over and over until you wake up on Sunday morning wearing the same clothes you went out in, your mouth tasting like refried beans and tequila, your wallet missing, your head feeling like it lost a bet, the only coherent thought you can seem to muster, “Fuck me…why did I do this to myself again?”  There’s not an obvious answer to why I keep doing this to myself, but in my more honest moments I realize it’s not all just for fun.  I don’t have twenty drinks because I’m merry.  I have twenty drinks because I’m sad, only I don’t really know what I’m sad about.   Nothing is obviously wrong, but it can’t be quite right either or else I wouldn’t give in to the pusher man and let him take me for a ride in his Caddy to a place where I don’t feel good or bad…I just don’t feel anything at all.

A Log of the Previous Night’s Activities

6:47:  Consider first drink but decide to hold off until company arrives because of my commitment to hike the next morning.    Decide to take a bong hit instead.

7:01:  Crack first can of beer, telling myself, “It’s just one…they’ll be here soon.”

7:14:  Polish off first PBR, grab the second. I reason that two beers is essentially the same as  one.

7:16: Chug beer in the shower between lathers

7:25:  Flex in front of the mirror then get dressed.

7:32:  Receive call from friends stating their tardiness, a common side affect of alcohol.

7:34:  Decide to hold off on further beers until friends arrive.

7:35:  Open 3rd beer because, “They were supposed to be here by now, so technically, this is like having my first when they arrive.”

7:40:  Consider additional bong hit, but don’t want to get too stoned before company arrives, lest I enter an overly-introspective state.

7:43:  Hit the bong

7:44:  Hit the bong

7:50:  After some brief calculations I derive that I was conceived out of wedlock.

7:52:  Call Todd and say, “Where the fuck are you, dude?”  He requests that I, “Chill bitch” because he’s en route.

8:00  Open another beer, telling myself I just won’t drink any more for a while.

8:11:  Friends arrive dressed in Iowa Hawkeye colors, in lieu of their NCAA tournament game this evening.

8:15  I shotgun a beer, telling myself this is the one I was supposed to have when they arrive.

8:29:  Todd, shocked at my not having a television, accuses me of being a Luddite.

8:34:  Begin playing a card game, the object of which is to chug massive amounts of beer.

9: 03:  I count four empty cans next to me.  I inform the other players that this pace can’t be sustained, in light of my plans to hike in the morning, which draws laughter and the order to finish another beer.

9:17:  Todd suggests I am of Semitic origin, another reference to the lack of TV, and suggests we head to the bar to watch the basketball game.

9:24:  I take a bong hit for the road, positing that I’ll drink less if I’m stoned.

9:28:  While I’m urinating on a red Mitsubishi Eclipse the owner approaches and inquires about my actions, threatening physical violence.  I insinuate his mother is skilled at performing fellatio.

9:44:  Arrive at the bar.

9:46:  Todd asks what I want to drink and when I reply, “Water” he calls me a faggot and orders me a tequila and a beer instead.

9:57:  I am approached by a stranger and asked if I remember the blood code for the original Mortal Kombat on Sega Genesis.  I correctly recall it and a conversation ensues about the merits of various mid-nineties video games.

10:14:  While attempting to pass gas I feel what I believe is commonly referred to as a ‘shart’.  Alarmed, I head to the bathroom to evaluate.

10:18:  After checking my pants and declaring a false alarm, I craft what is known as a ‘manpon’ out of toilet paper and insert it between my butt cheeks in case a similar incident arises.

10:24: After ordering another round of beers and shots for the boys and me, we proceed to have a conversation about fruit sex.  I argue that a tomato of sufficient girth can be quite accommodating, while Brandon expounds on the virtues of watermelon.  Todd swears to the realistic feeling of a cantaloupe.  We conclude that any soft, fleshy fruit would likely produce good results.

10:49: Brandon poses a philosophical doozy: whether or not performing the masturbatory act in a girl’s face in the woods constitutes masturbating in the woods. After a prolonged debate about various physical and mechanical theories, we conclude it does not.

11:17: Another round arrives.  I note that it is still plausible to be in bed by midnight in order to wake up by 8 for hiking.

11:18: I signal the waitress and request four double tequilas.

11:24: A buxom girl of Latina descent walks by with vials of multi-colored shots.  After noticeably staring at her breasts I order two electric-blue vodkas.

11:34: Todd suggests another bar and upon mentioning my intent to return home he again questions my sexual orientation.

11:38: Outside, we each order a sausage of uncertain meat composition.

11:50:  Enter new bar

11:55:  Fresh round of drinks arrive. I reason I can still be in bed by 12:30.

12:17:  Decide one o’clock is a perfectly reasonable bed time.

12:51:  Two o’clock begins to seem more realistic

1:14:    Note the resemblance between a patron and Lionel Ritchie.

1:26:    Conclude that three o’clock is more than early enough to go to bed and order shots for me and the Lionel look alike.

1:41:    After ordering another beer, I drop it as the waitress hands it to me.  I question her dexterity and she in turns questions my sobriety.

1:43:    I’m approached by a thick-necked brute who requests I leave the premises.  I make a remark suggesting a discrepancy in size between his physique and penis.

1:44:   After being forcefully shoved out of the door I begin to urinate towards the front steps, again making insinuations about the bouncer’s genitalia.

1:45:   I make general, derogatory accusations about those standing near me.

1:48:   Todd assuages the management and explains I suffer from a neurological disorder.

1:50:   Todd goes inside a bank lobby to withdraw money.  Deciding I need another drink, I proceed towards a cluster of bars down the street.

4:47:   A taxi driver is yelling at me, demanding payment.  I stay silent, hoping to confuse him, then open the door and begin to run.  I dart down an alley before realizing I have no idea where I am and my wallet is missing.  Hoping my cellular device’s call history can provide a clue about the last few hours, I find only that I have attempted to dial 99999999999999 several times, and 66666666666 once.

5:26:  After walking for nearly an hour I recognize a landmark and set a course for home.

5:57:  I arrive home and realize I don’t have my key.  I knock and knock, but my roommate does not rouse. I kick the door as hard as possible several times and it at last splinters and gives.  My roommate comes out, startled, and inquires about my actions, implying they are not reasonable.

There will be no hike today.

According to this website I’m looking at, I have a problem.

I frequently find my conversation centers on drug or drinking experiences

Check

Most of my friends or acquaintances are people I drink or get high with.

Check

I regularly get high or take a drink upon awakening, before eating, or while at school/work.

Check

I have periods of time that cannot be remembered.

Check.  Check.

I often double up and/or gulp drinks or regularly use more drugs than others at parties.

Do I ever.

I often drink or take drugs to “get ready” for a social occasion.

When don’t I?

I often drink or get high by myself.

Does the pusher man in my head count?

I have tried to quit using substances but cannot.

Half check.

Last night was a crude attempt.  I figured having something to do in the morning would be a way to keep my drinking in check, but it turned out to be less than successful.  This website also recommends finding an alternative activity to do in place of drinking and doing drugs, something to distract me from what it calls the “booze brain.”  The suggestions include: reading, playing an instrument, cooking, and finding some sober friends to go out with.  I can’t imagine playing the tuba, whipping up a batch of split-pea soup or blasting my quads while the rest of the city is out getting pissed.  I don’t think I even have any sober friends.  But I do realize the validity of the suggestion.  I know that I must distract myself from myself, or at least from the voice that insists on a couple more, which really means a couple at a time until I wake up with memory gaps and a broken front door.

For my friend John, the distraction in question is God. His falling out with himself occurred during junior year of university.  The fevered pitch of substance use which led to this shift occurred during sophomore year while we were studying in London.  John had gotten a taste for Ecstasy senior year in high school, when E’s popularity was peaking. Our whole crew had experimented with it and determined the only thing not to like was the awful comedown that coincides with serotonin depletion.  For all intents and purposes, though, it was THE drug: all pleasure all the time, with none of the fiendish ups and downs of cocaine or the unpredictable bouts of darkness that can accompany psychedelics.  John was never much of a drinker, although he certainly didn’t shy away from a good alcohol binge.  With Ecstasy, he seemed to have found his true love.  He was infatuated.

In southern New Hampshire and the greater Boston area it was easy enough to come by, though the quality varied wildly.  In London, however, the stuff was everywhere, of good quality, and much cheaper than we were used to.  This probably explained the popularity of House music in London at the time, which I always argued was listenable only while on E.  We would usually buy ten hits at a time and binge over the weekend.  Come Monday we didn’t feel much like being alive, but by Friday we had recuperated enough to think it was a god idea to do it all again.

Everybody behaves differently while under the influence of a given substance.  I particularly enjoyed the gregariousness of the drug.  I could have the time of my life just sitting, smoking butts, and chatting.  John was more of a high energy user, requesting we do things such as run from our home station of Baker Street to Piccadilly Circus or Trafalgar Square, typically resulting in me asking him if he’d lost his fucking mind, which, in a way, he had.  He was a mover and a shaker on E, wanted to hit this club then that, give so and so a call then somebody else, run clear across the city, take another hit, then run back.  Herein lied the appeal of MDMA for John.  It allowed him to express a side of himself that usually lie dormant behind shyness.  Any serious substance dependency is a take on this theme.  One’s drug of choice is generally based on personality, un-inhibiting behaviors that occurs naturally, but generally are more difficult or seem inappropriate to express while sober.  John would open up, tell people he cared about them and talk about all sorts of things that normally would not have found expression due to his tacit nature.

One of our most flamboyant Ecstasy binges came during a vacation to Ibiza, off the coast of Spain.  While E technically wasn’t legal there, it might as well have been.  One could exit the clubs, walk twenty meters to a group of obvious drug dealers, make a purchase, and walk right back in.

That night John, a guy who normally was too reserved to ask a girl her name, was a dancing machine.  He was grinding with some of the hottest chicks in the place, back and forth between them, laying hands on one and five minutes another.  He was the man, the kind of guy you see and ask, “What’s that bastard’s secret?”  His secret, his spinach, was of course the small tablets we were popping at hour intervals.  The way I describe John that night was free: free from worry, from stress, from caring what anybody else thought, and above all, from himself.  But freedom through a substance has a dual nature.  Through it and only through it are you able to get in touch with some other side of yourself.  The drug is the medium by which change is possible, but one becomes bound to its power to transcend.

At about seven a.m. water began pumping out of vents in the floor and shooting out of previously unseen geysers.  I thought at first that I’d pissed myself before realizing it was cool, salty Mediterranean water.  John was in such a zone that I cold barely tear him away from the place.  He was drenched, pale and shivering but determined to not let go of his night of invincibility.  He wanted more Es.  There was a desperate look in his eyes, that he was willing to do anything to make the feeling last.  He had gone to heaven, and the idea of returning to earth was unbearable.

They kicked everyone out at 7:30 and outside we scraped together our cash, in four different currencies, to buy all the pills we could.  We took half of them then ran and jumped in the sea.  We hadn’t even told our friends we were leaving.  From there we started wandering, digging on everything we came across: dogs, street vendors, shop keepers, bugs, rocks, sand castles, animal droppings.  Some people reeled back in fear at our dime-sized pupils and pale skin, but we were too twisted to know any better.  We popped the remaining pills as needed, staving off the inevitability that this Ecstatic ride was bound to end in a downswing of agony.

By about noon we were out of drugs and by two the last of our dose was beginning to wear off. We faced the prospect of a crushing comedown amidst midday tropical sun and not having a clue where we were or a dollar to our name.

At one point we found ourselves in the middle of a junkyard shanty town, circled by mangy dogs, watched with suspicion by hobos.  John looked defeated.  All life was drained from his face.  He kept asking me, “Do we have any more pills? Check your pockets one more time, come on man.”  Later, we came upon an isolated cliff that plunged straight down hundreds of meters into a clear blue sea.  Despite the horror of being alive at that point, I had to stop and appreciate the beautiful view.  John said: “Let’s just throw ourselves in.”

At last we found our way back to a pocket of civilization where I drew cash and hailed a cab, only we were so fucked we couldn’t remember the name of our hotel.  Through a stroke of fortune we happened to drive right past it, and I paid the fare which was exactly the amount I had left to my name.  We dragged ourselves wordlessly to bed and collapsed, not waking until the next morning when the girls came in, squealing with relief to find us, announcing our flight was leaving in an hour.

It took the better part of a month to begin feeling normal again, before our bodies had replenished the brain drugs we’d depleted that night.  I don’t think either of us were capable of feeling happy for that spell, one in which I learned the opposite of joy is not sadness, but apathy.  Feeling nothing is the lowest of all human states.

After that early-autumn binge John never really had an appetite for the stuff.  We did it together a few more times but he lacked the energy of earlier highs, seeming instead withdrawn.  Second semester of that school year, back in the States, he became less and less a part of the boys’ weekend dosing, often going home to spend time with his family. By the end of the year it was clear he’d dropped that lifestyle completely.  Junior year he commuted from home and spoke openly of his involvement with the church.  He was now substance free.  He’d found God.  He was born again.

Before I moved out to Denver the family confronted my brother about his drinking.  It was a bit strange, because it wasn’t as if he was a raging drunk who was missing work or beating women.  In fact, it was hard to believe he had a problem at all.  After all, what’s wrong with relaxing with a drink or two after work?  Nothing, to some extent.  But the subconscious drug dealer is ever persistent, and soon one or two turns into three or four, which then become five or six, and eventually after work becomes nothing more than a time to melt away into the soothing distance of a buzz until the next groggy morning when one stomps off to work again and labors towards the promise of another 5:00 escape.  Over time this cycle manifests itself as a sort of distance from the rest of the world, as if the commitment to the psyche’s hustler leaves little time for anything or anyone else.

It seems the easiest person to fool is the self, but I’ve never met a substance abuser who wasn’t, in some way, aware of their problem.  Thus my brother hesitantly accepted the truth and decided to quit drinking cold turkey.  In the stead of booze he picked up running. We went to the mall one Saturday and picked out a pair of shoes.  Later that afternoon my brother went for his first run.  Nineteen minutes later he came panting up the driveway, bent over with his hands on his knees in the classic posture of an athlete in repose.  He had a look of horror on his face, as if he were thinking, “Good God! What have I done?  If this is the price of sobriety, give me a double right now!”

After a couple of weeks he started to get his wind. He bought books on running and subscribed to Runner’s World magazine.  At night he would read through them and jot down notes in a training log, always with a can of caffeine-free Diet Coke beside him.

Into his first month he bought a pedometer and heart-rate monitor.  He was running five days a week, often hitting the five-mile mark.  One weekend the tail end of a hurricane battered the northeast coast and inland areas, bringing fierce winds and torrential rains.  Even these conditions couldn’t stop my brother and, in spite of my mother’s pleas, he set out to do his duty to himself.

When I came home to visit for Christmas he went out running in a blizzard for an hour.  He came back into the house covered in a mass of snow and slush like some sort of super-fit snowman.  He had joined a runner’s club and was charting his progress so he could attain the prestige available at 1000 mile intervals.  He was running at least five days a week, often six or even seven.  I looked through his training log once and found a system of notes and figures that seemed to require some kind of athlete’s Rosetta Stone to decrypt.  My parents, while thrilled at his turn around, would often implore him to take a day off, that it wouldn’t kill him, but he would hear nothing of it.   Discipline was what he needed, unrelenting and reformatory.

At the start of the spring he entered his first race, a 5K in Massachusetts, and finished modestly in the top 1/3.  Within this system of ranking he seemed to find his true vocation, a goal to aim his efforts towards.  He began to monitor his eating to help him meet his ends, swearing off all artificial ingredients and processed foods, going completely organic.  He would scour food packets for the ingredients, say things like, “Dioxinoprophyll?  That’s a sure way to an early death!”  He switched from Diet Coke to water on account of the artificial sweeteners.  He bought an encyclopedia set on healthy living and eating, listened to podcasts on the subject, and attended lectures by gurus in the field.

By the end of the spring he’d broken into the top-ten of a 5K race and was beginning to set his sights on the greatest of all races: the marathon.  The Boston Marathon of 2006 would be the showcase of his reform from drinker to runner, diseased to super healthy.  I was happy for him, but it felt like I still hadn’t gotten my brother back.  He’d gone from building a wall out of alcohol to building it out of sweat and training routines.  He’d substituted one set of symptoms for another, and while certainly a healthier outlet, my brother still seemed aloof.  He remained absorbed in something that kept me from seeing him, not just the health nut him or the five o’clock alcoholic him. The same went for John. In finding God he seemed to have found something besides a drug to give himself away to, but give himself away nonetheless.

In essence, there is no difference between the alcoholic and the health nut, the E-head and the religious zealot.  The same goes for the man who lives and dies with a sports club or claims his wife to be his everything.  But even beyond these extremes, in those various pursuits that compromise a life, is a tendency to desperately want to give one’s self away to something.  It’s why we work, play, love, smoke, fuck, love, marry, sire, befriend, drink, worship, do, because left to idleness one inevitably comes to question the point of existence, and even the possibility that there is none is enough to drive most people to drink, or at least to exercise, God, or board games.

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One Response to “Sunday Morning Blues”

  1. Katie said

    Wow, there is the ultimate truth in your last few sentences.

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