Monday, July 25, 2011

Random Stuff...

Ever get the uneasy feeling that the progressives and the Tea Partiers are just two sides of the same coin?

They both favor ideology over pragmatism, they both believe that their versions of what ought to be is of more immediate relevance than what actually is, they both want every item on their respective wish lists delivered to them right now, and it all better be packaged exactly the way they want it all packaged, or there's gonna be hell to pay once the primaries roll around.

Or some nonsense along those lines -- I can't quite recall how that's supposed to work. This is one disadvantage to abstaining from alcohol: a lot of the things left- and right-wing ideologues say make more sense if you've already put away three or four bottles of beer. Once you've started cleaning up and your system has been on the mend for a little while, their rants and raves sound more and more like... well, rants and raves.

And I'm the one who's talking to a therapist. I dunno, I just thought maybe getting my mind back in focus, my system straightened out, and my feet back on the ground was a good idea. It makes getting through the day a whole lot easier, but blogging about politics has gotten noticeably harder. And there's a big election coming up next year. Manic progressives and teabaggers taking turns playing Poutrage -- just like now. Sounds like it's gonna be fuckin' hilarious.

Just like now.

(Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...)

* * *

On a better note, the results from the blood work I had done on the 15th turned up in my mailbox. This was the follow-up to blood work I had done in May. One number for my thyroid had risen above the normal range enough to get my doctor's attention; hence the additional blood work.

Well, that level has dropped to within the high end of the normal range. I'm still a bit concerned, but right now, the only thing I can think of that would cause this change for the better in two months and without any medication is having stopped drinking. I was drinking more heavily than was normal for me in May, for various reasons; as of July 15, however, I hadn't had a single beer in almost a week. That's the only major change I've made in two months.

I'll probably have some more blood work done later this year, just to see what everything looks like compared to the last two sets of results. You never know...

* * *

I decided to get back into sketching. There's this song that's been popping in and out of my head for a few days now: "White Bird" by It's A Beautiful Day. It's from the late 60s, and I have it in my iTunes. It's a wonderful song, but it seems no one ever plays it on the radio anymore, certainly not on what passes for the classic rock station here in the Richmond area.

Anyway, this is what I sketched out with that song in mind...

And while I'm at it, here's the song:


Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Elevator Will Go All The Way To The Bottom...

But I don't think you want to be on that elevator when it finally gets there. That's more or less what my therapist said to me yesterday morning, and I totally agreed with him...

You know the button on a cassette player that you press to reset the counter to zero? Well, I found out last year that when it comes to alcohol, there is no resetting to zero. When you resume drinking after a good sober stretch, you pick up at a point behind where you left off, but you start to accelerate pretty damn quickly, and the next thing you know, you've zoomed past where you left off, and you're hooked all over again.

That's easily the most sinister quality about alcohol, and that's why most alcoholics who keep trying to quit keep failing, with or without support from others. Some experience worse withdrawal symptoms than others. But I think for nearly everybody, the first week is the worst. I know my own nerves were good and raw for a while, especially at night -- I had to turn off the fan in the wee hours of one humid, sticky, and sleepless night because the air from it made the hair on my arms and legs feel like insects crawling all over me. Boy, am I glad that shit is over with.

I did tell my therapist that I still have beer in the fridge. The wisest thing to do would probably be to pour it all down the sink and be done with it. But for now, I keep it there to remind me of where I left off when I stopped drinking two weeks ago, how nervous, depressed, ashamed, and hurting I was that afternoon when I woke up from the previous night of drinking. I think of that every time I open the fridge.

The difference is, I'll grab something to drink besides the beer. That's an improvement...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Things Are Settling Down Now...

I've been real quiet around here lately. Long story as short as I can keep it, I was on vacation last week -- a much needed vacation. I spent part of it with my family in New Hampshire, the first visit I've paid them in four and a half years. And I used that occasion to get serious about giving up drinking, or at least trying to. It got a little choppy at times, but overall, it was a very good visit, and I've not only managed to stay sober, my stress and anxiety levels have dropped considerably, what I thought was nerve damage in certain parts of my body has almost entirely vanished, my blood pressure is normal even though I've stopped taking the medicine for it, and I've gained some weight back (I was down to 179 at one point -- not exactly normal for someone who stands about 6'2") -- and this is only Day Eleven for me. I started feeling better than I've felt in months fast. By my standards, anyway.

The one big problem for me now is getting enough sleep at night. If I can get five hours of sleep, I know I'll be okay for the day -- six seems to be optimal for me. But lately I'm lucky if I get four. I found out that this is common among recovering alcoholics. It could take several months to reestablish a somewhat normal sleeping pattern, perhaps a year or more. That doesn't bother me, though; the last few weeks I was drinking, I was hardly sleeping at all. The situation is slowly improving, and though I've yet to get back into AA meetings, I find the "one day at a time" aspect of AA to be quite helpful. The same goes for the serenity prayer -- and I'm still a bit of an agnostic. But what's the alternative? Cirrhosis of the liver? Chronic pancreatitis? Cancer of the everything?

Fuck all that noise, I'll take the insomnia. Speaking of noise... My doctor told me that I would likely experience visual hallucinations as a consequence of alcohol withdrawal, and I know that that's also common among people who try to quit drinking. But I tried quitting more than a dozen times in the past year before I went to New Hampshire, and what I kept getting were auditory hallucinations. They were kind of strong at times, too. They were easy to pick out though: if you think you hear something unusual, but you can't tell which direction it's coming from, then it's all in your head. Once I figured that out, I just began to ignore them. They've virtually disappeared since then.

So I'm doing much better now, and in a very short time. Aside from the chronic insomnia, nearly all the problems I was having, mental, physical, or otherwise, seem to have resolved themselves -- and all I had to do was lay off the alcohol.

But there's one thing I can't get over. I drank for fourteen years before I quit for a spell last year. Then I started up again, drinking for one more year. The first fourteen years, I don't have any real regrets over -- lots of people drink too much for too long, regardless of the consequences. This last year, though -- I feel like I just threw it all away, and for nothing but sheer stupidity. Last month, I came close to losing my job because of my drinking. I've been beating myself up over that ever since. It's not something I've wanted to talk about, though I've done so with others.

It's not so much the realization of just how extensive my drinking problem was, and is. It's knowing how casually I had been courting self-destruction during the last twelve months, and knowing on some level not far below the surface that I was doing so. Sigmund Freud wrote of life, and pretty much all of human history, being a constant struggle between two forces which he called Eros and Thanatos -- love and death, respectively, or the instinct to preserve life versus the impulse to destroy it. For all his shortcomings as a psychoanalyst, he got that much right. The struggle is most obvious and lurid during wartime between two or more factions. But it functions in isolation as well, such between a drinker and the bottle that has gradually isolated him from those around him in ways he can sense but can't identify.

And when you've always been a bit of a loner in the first place, like me, the isolation was already in place. Isolation was a normal part of the landscape to me -- the drinking just reinforced it, and it wasn't until last month that I finally started sensing just how abnormal it was. It took a whole year wrenched out of my life to see it for exactly what it was: a courtship with self-destruction.

The good news is, I've stopped drinking, and this time, it's working. I don't dare say I'll never consume alcohol again -- I said that last year, and I got burned badly. I just don't want to touch the stuff now.

And with any luck, I may not ever touch it again. One day at a time. There just ain't no other way to do this...