Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Crack-Up

I haven't had a drink all quarter and I feel pretty good about it. Program people make a big deal about 90 days ("same as cash", I inevitably add... silently). I began my longest-ever bout of sobriety (since childhood... seven years and change) by doing "90 meetings in 90 days" three times running, so I've got a pretty good idea why. This time around I've been "white-knuckling"—staying clean without taking any meetings. And I'm not saying if it's going well or going badly because how the heck am I gonna know... but I am (slowly) re-integrating myself into ordinary life. I think.

Once I'd wrecked the car and got my license pulled (and done my two weekends and so on) it was well over two years before I got even my State ID. A car and license are still out of the question. I can really nurse a grudge. When my landline phone went out? Hey, everything's broken; phones are just an excuse to go into your pocket; god help you if you try and fix anything... you'll be put on hold for the rest of your life waiting to talk to some robot that can't help you anyway...

So no phone for a while. Stuff like that. Hell, if you're gonna roll around wallowing in misery all your god-damn life, there comes a point where the least you can do for your own family (that loves you and that of course you love dearly yourself)... is to leave them alone and not go dumping all your useless drama on them. So you can get pretty cut-off.

I also seem to have made some deal with myself where I could seal myself from social reality with booze and resentment and build myself a wall of habits (good and bad... I never quit reading all the time for example...) that would protect me as far as possible from having to ask for things... particularly in unscripted encounters (I'm not so bad ordering food, for example, and indeed hugely prefer sit-down style to this horrible self-service crap that's somehow been visited even on the yuppies... where's a decent diner downtown I ask you).

So, no license. And no Prozac... a drug habit which has actually done me a certain amount of good in the past. No medical care of any kind for that matter other than the tooth extraction that would've soon been a flat-out emergency. No cel phone (like I've hinted)... T-Mobile had fucked me over to my massive disappointment with the Sidekick (I was an "early adopter" of the-web-in-your-hand, just as I had been earlier of the web itself [and of, I think, no other computer applications])... don't get fooled again.

Obviously no Union Organizing, having proven to my own satisfaction that I was among the (two) Worst Organizers Ever, and that when I was optimistic enough to try to fight the tendencies I'm here struggling to describe. In fact, I pulled most of my books (slowly since I was doing it all on the bus in my backpack) out of the Unofficial Department Library I'd been maintaining in the barracks for years. And, let's admit it, "phoning it in" to some extent with every aspect of the job other than classroom work and tutoring (where "give it everything you've got" is the only way I know how to get through the process at all). Let the world know: Vlorbik doesn't feel at home even in his own skin.

What's troubling me right now, though, is: when am I finally going to break down and call the landlord and get some repairs made. I'm not doing them or myself any favor by living with bad drainage in kitchen sink and shower alike, for example. Which is actually part of the trouble. I'll, not only feel guilty... I already feel guilty... but maybe have to admit I feel guilty and it'll be awkward and sure I have to do it but I don't have to do it right now.

But, then, the least I could do would be, I don't know, clean up a little around here. Nobody's actually even watching me live in squalor inside the actual apartment but the cat. Am I acting all this stuff out so I'll know how I feel? Or what?

On the other hand, who am I kidding? They never are gonna let me be back into the Middle Class and anyway I left more or less under my own power and I had reasons. This way I get to be this Mad Prophet type—or maybe I should say Court Jester.

And on a good day, hey, it's my process. I'm doing things my way to an astonishing extent and've got the self-control to've quit smoking and to've lost a bunch of weight and posted gohd knows how many words of darned good stuff all quarter and helped some students with a lot of math problems and the new computer is mostly a blast and the guitar is totally a blast and I'm just productive as all hell. Maybe I'm allocating my psychic resources the best I can just like anybody else and hell, maybe I'm even pretty good at it. Maybe it's even beautiful.

So there's probably a bit of mania in it. Indeed, the way I figure, my diagnosis if it were rightly known would probably involve some mania-and-depression, some obsession-compulsion, addictive personality obviously... and even, god help me, some outright unibomber-style sociopathy. Some autism, I imagine. "Neurosis". We'll leave the sexy stuff out obviously... for all I know, my mother will read this someday and you've gotta draw the line somewhere. I think I've known at least a few classic Borderline Personalities, and sure enough they remind me of me... and I've experienced Delusions and I've "heard voices" and been at least pretty close to flat-out Paranoia...

You get the idea. Crazy people are looking for a Way Out, right? Well, then, I just wanna know where all the exits are. Anyhow, maybe it's all really just Munchausen's. And couldn't everybody make the same claims? It's like the fortuneteller: "you feel both very loving and completely heartless... all at the same time" (or what have you: everyone feels themselves to be alone among their contradictions when of course contradictions—or, rather, dichotomies—are the very blood and marrow of psychic life). They call me mad? Ha-hah! I'm the sanest man who ever lived!

And all I really want to get out of is having to live up to anybody else's idea of what I should be doing...


  1. Hey, congratulations on getting yourself together. I can imagine how hard it is to drop the alcohol, etc., for an extended time and take control of your life. You've got a lot to offer others--your students and your readers and I'm sure people you know, so it's great to see your commitment to this rather than wasting valuable time. Life's too short to throw away any of it, and helping other people (in educating and in writing, for example) doubles the worth of it, in my opinion. Please keep it up!



  2. thanks. as i put it recently
    (with my usual overstatement):
    "the only way you're ever gonna
    feel *good* about yourself
    is to do something for somebody else--
    this is the entire *gospel*!".
    now i don't have a whole lot of *faith*
    in much of *anything*... but there does
    seem to be something *to* this statement.
    based on simply observing cases, i mean.

    imposing various regimes on one's own schedule
    is easy enough if the *motivation* is present.
    what's hard is to *want* to. "having no faith"
    makes this particularly difficult... this time around,
    in the face of the "you can't get clean for others"
    platform one encounters in the meetings,
    most of my, "faith" if you will, in the worthwhileness
    of things in general comes from being with my girlfriend.
    i guess i'm using "the relationship" as my higher power.

    your encouragement means a lot to me.
    thanks again for commenting.

  3. Cool. You and I are "white-knuckle" buddies.

  4. good to see you here mr. p.!
    i sure don't rule out going to a meeting
    or even beginning regular attendance.
    but this is *working*...

  5. I just wanted to say I am proud of you and understand your struggles. I have close friends and family that struggle with alcohol and drug addictions. Although I am not a drug or alcohol addict, I am addicted to something that causes pain in my life everyday and the struggle seems unbearable sometimes. I want you to know that if there is absolutely anything I could ever do to help you, I will do it and I mean that. I know this is probably weird coming from me, but like I hinted at before, this hits home for me and a lot of people just do not understand it.

    On a new note, what is your schedule like next quarter? I would like to stop by and chat if you had the time.

  6. i've got a monday & wednesday 1-3:15
    and a tuesday-thursday 9-10:15.
    i'll also be in most fridays.
    i'll post *lots* of office hours
    (but am weirdly not sure when...)
    so i oughta be available for drop-by time
    pretty readily. always glad to see you of course.

    the big book prospectus (@, obviously, orange papers).