It’s been one year since I attempted to check-out. I wrote a three-part blog about the experience so if you haven’t read it yet feel free to browse the April 2015 archives.
So what’s changed?
Well, I’m definitely not “fixed” yet. That’s hardly the goal, anyway. The real aim is to adapt to and accept all aspects of the mind, to create a healthy synergy. Ignoring or otherwise suppressing negative thoughts and tucking them into dark spaces is counterproductive since you can’t fix a problem that can’t be seen. Facing the “void” of potential non-existence gave me tremendous perspective, though I didn’t bounce back as much as I’d have liked. I still face a concerning level of depression, but I wouldn’t describe myself as suicidal. Put it this way… if a truck randomly hit me when I cross the street tomorrow, I wouldn’t be upset. But you’re not going to catch me crossing the street without looking both ways either.
What I am now is probably best described as a sort of… numbness.
As House says at the end, he doesn’t feel good or bad. He feels nothing. Now I do feel some things some times… happy when I share a good laugh, hope when I follow the rise of Bernie Sanders, secure when I balance my finances, inspired when reading about quantum physics, refreshed when I go for a hike… I’m not dead inside. I just have an indifference toward my existence. Like milk a couple days after it’s expired. It’s probably still drinkable but it’s just as tempting to dump it down the drain. And neither can really be singled out as unreasonable responses.
Sadly, this is actually progress.
There are some mornings that I’ll wake up, look to the rooftop I nearly jumped from and feel it calling me back. I say aloud, “Don’t be silly, David”. I see the value in not taking the easy route, smoke some pot, and move on with my day. Usually the temptation is fast and fleeting. But there are still days when I’ll think positive thoughts and smoke and try every other method of distraction and the feeling doesn’t go away and the reassurance doesn’t return. Those days are difficult to handle because I pride myself in being logical and have tremendous faith in the healing powers of marijuana (fuck Big Pharma meds). When one escapes me the other usually has my back 99% of the time. But when both fail I find myself concerned, like a car that knows it’s running low on gas and has a major hill yet to climb before the next gas station. Uncertainty creeps in and it’s frightening. And that’s usually when the alcohol creeps back into play.
Booze was my major vice in college, a vice that took a few years to wean away from after graduating. I developed a negative association between alcohol and sex since one tended to follow the other. While alcohol isn’t nearly as pleasurable as sex, obviously, it’s the underlying sense of release that feels so reliably freeing. Alcohol for the mind, sex for the body.
It shrinks my liver, doesn’t it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m competent. I’m walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I’m one of the great ones. I’m Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I’m Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I’m Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I’m John Barrymore before movies got him by the throat. I’m Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I’m W. Shakespeare. And out there it’s not Third Avenue any longer, it’s the Nile. Nat, it’s the Nile and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.
– Don Birnam, The Lost Weekend (1945)
These days, if I indulge (alone) in alcohol it’s the red flag that I’m entertaining last resort methods of self-medicating. Exercise, weed, meditation, music, writing, drawing… when all of these fail, that’s when I’ll pick up a reliable bottle of bourbon for breakfast.
Is it often? No, not often. I have my little binges from time to time, but I always pull out of the sporadic spirals and have been able to stop cold turkey when needed. Thankfully my will power still surprasses my addictive nature. I’m extremely lucky in that regard.
At the end of the day I think I just need to find my greater purpose, like finding a job I’m actually passionate about and a woman I feel passionate toward. I think it’s paradoxically why I sabotage any entertainment of success and, even more so, opportunities for love. Because the happiness that comes with success inevitably widens the emotional spectrum, which gives way to the potential of extreme sadness. If I stay centered in the middle… never really happy, never really sad… it becomes an oddly comforting stagnation. This is the overarching obstacle I need to face and overcome, even with the inherent risks that might come with it.Because being stagnate isn’t any way to live and to continue on such a path would be the same as being dead. Eventually the difference will be impossible to distinguish and the argument for ending it will become more convincing. It’s difficult to roll the emotional dice while suffering from depression, but to win in this life I recognize that I have to play.
I just wish the stakes weren’t so damn high.