Sunday, September 30, 2007

Beer Run

George makes me laugh. Almost every time I talk to him, I end up bawling in laughter. Today was the same. We were all siting down at the shopping center. George had just made a beer run to Auburn being that they don't sell alcohol on Sundays here. He pulled up in the fire lane with his captain's cap on, dark sunglasses, and a big toothy grin upon his face.

"Give this brotha some love," George says as he rolls down his passenger's side window.

George thrives on positive reinforcement and attention. I walked over and climbed inside his Buick.

"Me and Pookie were making love last night..." George started to say as I sat down.

"Gross man," I say as I laughed some more. "I don't want to hear about you screwing her." Pookie is entirely unattractive.

"Listen to me, brotha," George replies getting a serious look upon his face. "I was just about to cum when she started laughing uncontrollably. I thought she was laughing at me."

"What happened next?" I ask sheepishly, grinning from ear to ear. Afraid of what I might hear.

"I got to laughing, too, and we couldn't finish making love. We just laid in the bed talking to each other, laughing like little childrens, drinking wine, and smoking cigarettes."

"I thought you were going to tell me she stole your wallet again."

"She promised me she wouldn't do that anymore."

I burst out laughing at the seriousness with which George said that. George got to laughing as well. Pookie will no doubt sneak off with George's wallet once again. She just has to wait until he passes out after one of their drunken love making sessions.

I can't berate George too much though. I've been in some pretty dysfunctional relationships over the years. My marriage to my ex-wife was the strangest existence. It taught me to never get married again. Sure, I entertain getting married to Rosa, but I always have second thoughts. Doubts. There seems to be these tying chords all women exhibit. Like the possessiveness that so exasperates me. My ex-wife was terribly possessive almost as if she owned me. I have had comments on the blog about my and Rosa's relationship that exhibited this same possessive mind set as if I had to tell Rosa what I was doing every minute of every day. To hell with that.

For me, it's about being accountable to someone else which I guess is pretty unhealthy in it's own way. It helps me to moderate my self destructive behavior knowing someone else is dependant or reliant upon me. I need to be made to feel bad, but no so bad I excuse myself from the relationship. The same dynamics play themselves out in my and my father's relationship as well.

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Chomping at the Bit

I am so impatient. I am chomping at the bit to get my new camera. I can't wait to start taking pictures again. This morning it was cold with clear skies. I watched as Venus soon rose above the horizon followed by the day's first light and then the sun. I wished I had my camera so I could capture this brilliant start of a new day. It is during moments such as experienced this morning that I relish being alive.

I feel so stupid now that I am back on my medications, though. There are definite pros and cons to the anti-psychotic I am taking. A few days ago, writing came so easily to me. Effortless. I felt so creative and couldn't wait to write more and more. Now? My mind feels tired and slow. It is a major effort to get something written down for this blog. I am having to read other blogs to get the inspiration to write. Slow. Dull witted. My mind aches. Writing is a painful process.

Last night, Rosa and I were talking on the phone about things sexual. She asked why I never want to make love anymore.

"I can't," I reply. "My medications completely blunt my sex drive."

I now know how all those frigid wives felt trying to spurn their sex starved husband's advances.

"But you were so amorous a few days ago," Rosa says.

"I was off my medications. I can't even get excited about porn when I am on them. These medications make me entirely asexual."

"Have you thought about Viagra?"

I laugh and say, "I am leery of taking more drugs. My drugs are already costing over $2000 a month."

I got out of the bed to come and look at pictures of naked women pulled up with a Google image search. No joy. It did nothing for me and I sighed, growing bored at all the fake and unrealistic looking women on the Internet. It was like giving a gay man a Playboy magazine and expecting him to get aroused. It did nothing for me.

I still couldn't sleep last night. I had all my windows open and listened to the wind blow and the last sounds of summer's insects as they faded away while the temperature dropped. Gone are the katydids and the cicadas. It will be a long winter until I hear them again. I also thought of Clara on that loading dock behind the shopping center. She must have gotten chilly last night. The temperature dropped to near 45 degrees. Her sleeping bag should be here in a few days and she will be toasty warm at night.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Let's Get It To-Go

I managed to sober up enough to be able to take my mother out to eat. We went to local restaurant called Barnes that has been around since the sixties. I got the scrumptious baby ribeye and my mother got the baked catfish, staying true to her diet. It was delicious and the only mar to the evening was seeing my former in-laws. As expected, they treated me coldly. I just smiled, said hello, waved, and put on a brave face.

"We would have to run into them, tonight," my mother said quietly over the table. My mother always disliked my in-laws.

"It would be just my luck," I replied, looking pained.

I took mom home and swung by the shopping center to check on Clara which is just behind my parent's house. The sun was setting in hues of beautiful orange, yellow, and pink -- almost like a vivid oil painting hung on a gallery wall for all to see. Oh, how I wish my camera was here.

Clara was sitting in front of nail salon with her legs crossed bouncing her foot as she smoked a cigarette. She looked terribly bored.

"It is going to get cold tonight," I told her as I walked up and sat down beside her on the bench.

"I know," she said. "I am going to freeze my ass off. That's why I got this."

She pulled a bottle of Captain Morgan spiced rum out of her inside jacket pocket and showed it to me.

"When do you think that sleeping bag will be here?" she then asked.

"The first of next week," I replied.

Clara has already put a twenty dollar down payment on the bag and promised me she was going to pay twenty a week. The sleeping bag was only a hundred and twenty dollars so she should have it paid off soon. The weather guessers are saying we are going to have a warm winter, though. But warmth is relative to a homeless person. What is cold to a homed person is downright balmy to someone living out of doors, or on the streets.

Was determined to give the drinking a miss tonight, just for the rest of the day anyway. I guess I am going to just go walk for a few hours -- walk until I can walk no more.


The morning started out innocently enough, but went downhill as the sun rose high in the sky. I found myself standing in the line of the convenience store with four green bottles of Thunderbird wine in hand and an uneasy feeling. I almost felt nauseous knowing what I was doing, but the urge to drink was just too strong. It is a compulsive urge that is hard to describe. You can't think farther than the moment at hand -- an acute lack of foresight and conscience.

"Did you get them?" Clara asked me anxiously as we walked back up to the shopping center. She had been waiting outside the store for me.

"Here," I replied as I handed a bottle of wine to her.

Impatiently, she unscrewed the cap and took a long drink after looking around for the police. I walked quietly drinking my wine, as well, feeling defeated. It was far too early in the morning to be drinking, but I always was a morning drunk.

"What are you doing today?" Clara then asked me.

"I am supposed to take my mother out to eat to a new restaurant tonight," I replied. "My father is in Florida for a football game."

"Doesn't look like you are going to be doing that!" Clara said with a laugh which only further deepened my surly and foul mood.

"Why do you drink?" I abruptly asked Clara in a moment of candidness.

"I just get bored and it passes the time. There is nothing to do when you are homeless," she said. "How 'bout you?"

"I drink to hide bad feelings and emotions. I drink to hide my pain," I said, finishing a bottle of wine -- that alcohol making my head swim.

I wanted to just go home and drink my Heineken and my last bottle of wine. I left Clara to trudge the thirty minutes home drinking wine as I walked. I didn't even care if someone saw me -- imbibing in broad daylight -- garnering many steely stares from passing motorists. I just no longer cared about anything. I was kind of hoping I would get arrested so I would have to stop drinking.

As I passed my mother's Catholic church, I said a prayer looking at the cross out front -- a prayer asking for healing and to cure me of this inescapable urge to drink. God didn't answer me back though. I was only consoled with an empty feeling. At least, the pain and the turbulent emotion I had been experiencing and feeling all morning were gone. I felt like a blank slate.

Sometimes I get winded by the truth. Suddenly, just out of the blue, every now and again, it hits me hard. It did just then, on my walk back home. This is normal for you, I thought. You're an alcoholic and alcoholics drink. Remember what they say in A.A. about being powerless over alcohol and you are. I never thought I would use a twelve step from A.A. as an excuse to drink. I chuckled to myself at the thought. I stepped into my bathroom upon arriving home to look long and hard at the man staring back at me. Sad eyes. Weak smile. So much history in the lines upon my face. It suddenly occurred to me what I was doing, how I was living -- how completely insane it is to be living like this, drinking my life away still, after all this time. And I almost just turned and ran in repulsion. I just couldn't bear it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Keenly, I Walk

The rains of yesterday were a distant memory on this gloriously sunny morning. I trudged through my neighborhood on the long thirty minute walk to the shopping center -- keen to tell Clara I had ordered her a nice goose down sleeping bag. My Google check having arrived and being much more than I thought it was going to be. Dew glistened in the grass on the side of the road like little twinkling diamonds in the rough. Mesmerizing me. These days I seem to see beauty in the most mundane things -- an artist's eye I hope to nurture when I start painting in a few weeks.

Stopped by the convenience store on the way there -- the beer was so tempting, but I purchased a harmless Gatorade instead. My favorite clerk had long gotten off for the day. No doubt sleeping. The little lady cashier was abrupt and surly making me want to respond in kind. Brusquely, I thanked her and continued on with my journey -- a journey of good news and good tidings.

Arrived at the shopping center to only find Big S. The rest of the gang was nowhere to be seen. He was sitting in front of the little Korean restaurant drinking his sweet tea from a straw. He had on his characteristic overalls which prominently displayed his Buddha-like belly.

"Seen Clara?" I asked, shaking his hand.

"She is panhandling over by restaurant row," Big S replied as he pointed to the east.

Near this shopping center is another shopping center where all the restaurants are located. An Internet cafe. Mexican. Chinese. Pizza. Barbecue. Steakhouse. A little English pub. All can be found the twenty minute walk away. Clara has learned that satiated shoppers are more likely to share their wealth after a good meal or a few drinks. She pounces upon them as they leave the restaurants for their cars. I was far too lazy to walk over there after my initial walk to the shopping center, though. Clara's good news would have to wait.

I took a seat down near the grocery store to smoke and finish my drink. I can see why the gang hangs out down here every day -- the shopping center being so vibrant, social, and the center of activity. If you wait long enough, something is bound to happen. It seems to draw interesting people out of the woodwork. I thought of all the interesting people I have met these past few years hanging out with George and the gang.

Back to blue skies again today after the gray of yesterday, cloudless. The last of this old year unfolding hesitantly as if it can't decide if it wants fall to start -- heading towards Christmas and the new year. The holidays will be here before we know it. I can't wait for Halloween, the smell of burning leaves, and the sound of my doorbell ringing as children come trick or treating for candy. Candle lit pumpkins on my front steps. The planting of fall mums in my flower boxes also being a favorite ritual of the year that I always shared with my ex-wife when we lived together.

I feel really strong and well today. A fitting reprieve from the dour doldrums I experienced for days earlier in the week. Felt like I could take on the whole world in one big embrace earlier as I sat at the shopping center enjoying my surroundings. Thus goes the teetering tenuousness that can be schizophrenia. Maybe, it was because my medications had run out for several days before I got my next injection. I don't want to dwell too much on the whys as I want enjoy what is. These little eyes in the storm should be savored and lived like no other moment in the life of a mentally ill person as sometimes the good days come only seldom -- like little oasis of light on a dark, moonless night.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lightning on the Horizon

Ah, what a perfectly calm and serene night. It's cool and I have my whole house opened up -- every window is letting in gloriously cool, rain soaked fall air. A moment ago, Rosa and I were sitting on the porch as we watched a lone, solitary storm to the north drift off to the east. A grand show of lightning was displayed for us by one of nature's anomalies -- at least it's an anomaly for this part of the country this year.

"You feeling okay?" Rosa asked. "You are awful quiet."

"I'm fine," I replied. "I am just enjoying the show and enjoying a calm moment without terrible urges."

Rosa has only known me while I was on the medications that work for me and my schizophrenia. She asked me tonight what it was like all those years I wasn't medicated.

"Extreme paranoia," I told her. "I always thought my neighbors were plotting and planning against me. I would think cameras were in my ceilings and that my phone was bugged."

"It is hard to believe you're even schizophrenic now," Rosa said, cheerily. "You're so normal most days."

"That is the nicest thing someone has said to me in weeks," I replied as I turned to look at Rosa and smiled warmly, reaching out for her hand.

So many times in my life I was berated for having a mental illness -- only when things went wrong would my family get involved. No one ever came around to say how well I was doing, or took the time to encourage me when things were good. So many "shit hitting the fan" scenarios played out in my mind as I told Rosa of my mental illness's past, my symptoms, and how my family handled them. I really appreciate acclamations when things are going right. It can make all the difference in the world for someone who suffers from a mental illness. Just a simple, "I'm proud of you. You're doing great," from my father would mean so much to me.

Rosa and Maggie are already in the bed -- Rosa having taken her bath and blow dried her hair. I heard Rosa a moment ago loudly telling Maggie to scoot over and that she was being a bed hog behind my closed bedroom door. The biggest, goofiest grin erupted on my face hearing those two tussle over sleeping real estate -- the women in my life. It's these little intimate moments I most enjoy about living with two determined and incorrigible ladies. I better go get in the bed and referee my two prize fighters before one or both end up sleeping on the couch. I can't sleep without them.

Famished From Lack of Beauty

I parked at the Post Office and sat in my favorite park awhile ago. You could hear thunder in the distance and the sky was a beautiful, if ominous, dark blue. Juxtaposed on that deep blue background was the most beautifully green old oaks and the carefully manicured lawn of St. Augustine grass. And my eyes, almost famished of beauty and color after being inside all day, feasted upon this sight. I didn't realize how much I missed the out of doors until I spent a day writing in my dark and drab front bedroom sequestered like some monk in a dank chamber. It was a wonderful fall day with cool breezes blowing out ahead of all the storms on the way, and everything in the foreground was saturated with color too: the dark red brick of the old abandoned cotton mill, the vibrant cars on the highway, a bright yellow and black butterfly fluttering nearby, the numerous colorful mill houses across the parking lot from the park. I almost felt as if I was in some picturesque painting being unveiled right before my eyes with nature and God being the artists.

Tried another online A.A. meeting today. I am surprised at how orderly they seem. Sure, you have a few detractors who shouldn't be typing, but the moderators take care of them pretty quickly. I grow impatient, though, at the people that want to share and can't type fast and some that apparently can't type at all. Minutes can go by with only silence in the chat room as they peck away. My butt also grows numb sitting in this office chair in front of this computer for any length of time. It can make for a long and uncomfortable hour of tedium and boredom. I think I will stick to real life meetings for the time being.

I kept going to the fridge just to look inside it a moment ago, opening the door and standing there as all the cold air ran out. Rosa walked in to see what I was doing. She thought I was getting supper started.

"I keep looking at my Heineken and trying decide if I need to pour them out," I said.

Rosa laughed and then I burst out laughing at the silliness of it all. A much needed laugh amid the serious business of addictions.

"Let me pour out that six pack," Rosa said with a smile. "It is going to drive you crazy."

"No," I replied. "I promised Wanda I wasn't going to drink today and I am not. I can handle having a six pack of my favorite beer in the fridge. It will be a true test of my mettle. You can drink them. That six pack cost me eight bucks!"

"Okay," Rosa said, walking out of the kitchen. "Don't be surprised when I say, 'I told you so.'"

She's probably right. I probably won't be able to resist them come dark fall and my favorite radio programs come on.

Breakfast with Alcoholics Anonymous

Went to a breakfast A.A. meeting. It was Rosa's idea having talked to one of my A.A. friends on the phone last night. Rosa cooked a delicious sour cream, cheddar, and hash brown casserole to carry with us. It was an open meeting so she could go even though she is not an alcoholic. It was a pleasant meal with plenty of homemade biscuits, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage. Rosa's casserole was a hit and there was only a small amount left to carry home. I felt comforted by seeing my old A.A. friends and even my friend, Wanda, was there, having a day off from working at the hospital. She has been having struggles with drinking as well and that is why I haven't seen her lately. When A.A. members tend to just disappear then you know that are "back out" as they say in the groups.

"I've heard you've been struggling a lot lately," Wanda told me after the meeting. "Your girlfriend just said something to me about it."

"The only time I feel well or okay is after drinking a six pack of beer," I told her. "I feel like a hopeless drunk."

"Just don't drink today, okay?" She said. "One day at a time. Let's do this together. Read the stories in the Big Book about the hopeless drunks that got sober. They were so much worse off than you and they got sober for years until they died."

I agreed to not drink just for today and promised my friend that I would try and stay sober to be there for her. Wanda told me she had a slip up as well and got drunk and said terrible things to her daughter.

"I destroyed years of built up trust in just one night," she told me forlornly. "All for a bottle of Cuervo Gold. I don't think my daughter will ever forgive me. Tequila always did make me mean. It seems I have to constantly remind myself why I can't drink."

I gave her a big hug and told her to hang in there. I am so glad I don't have children as I would have put them through hell over the years with my drinking and crazy ways. God works in mysterious ways and I think he worked wonders when he made me a very asexual creature -- no rug rat's lives to destroy in the process. I was never much one to sleep around.

After the meeting, was my shot for my schizophrenia. I have been afraid of driving lately and Rosa drove us down to my father's pharmacy to pick up my injection and to go to the doctor's office. I got my digital camera ordered while I was down there with my father's American Express card and it will be here next week. I can't wait to take pictures again and videos. It was a $380 dollar camera so it should take awesome pictures. I had to borrow the money from my father to be able to afford it much to my chagrin.

Canon 650 IS digital camera

Tonight is our usual Thursday night hotdog supper I host for my mother and Rosa. Rosa went by the grocery store a moment ago and got some delicious looking Hebrew National 1/4 pound hot dog wieners. Even after a big breakfast, my stomach is already grumbling and it is going to be a long wait until tonight. One of my favorite foods is a dog with mustard on a toasted bun piled high with kraut.

Felt so frustrated by the whole drinking, alcoholic thing and told Rosa about it after she had arrived back home.

"Why can't I just have two or three beers like a normal person?" I decreed. "I just want to be normal and average."

"You're not a normal person," Rosa said, plainly. "You're an alcoholic."

I get so tired of labels. Alcoholic. Mentally ill. Bulimic. Schizophrenic. Food addict. Bi-polar. The list could go on and on. I wanted to lash out and it is a shame you tend to lash out at those you most love when this happens.

"You can't drink for the same reason I can't smoke rock," Rosa finally told me after my little temper tantrum. "We get carried away. We can't stop once we get started."

I sat sulking on the couch as Rosa held me, frustrated. It doesn't help that I have a $269 dollar check coming in the next few days that I consider frivolous "play money" -- the money from last month's Google Adsense revenue. All my bills are paid. The car has a full tank of gas. I have plenty of food in my pantry and fridge. Two cartons of cigarettes. And I could just get rip roaring drunk for a few weeks with the only repercussions being the damage to the relationships I have by neglect. I sometimes wish I worked, as I would think that would help moderate these urges. I tend to have far too much freedom and free time. I would be too tired after working all day to even think of drinking and would just watch t.v. and go to bed.

The deep inner struggle is the hardest part -- that "stinkin' thinkin'" as they say in A.A. I put up this big charade that everything is okay for my family and Rosa when I am two steps from just saying, "to hell with it all," and walking away in a drunken stupor. Somehow, amazingly, I manage to keep it together everyday. For my loved ones. For Rosa. For Maggie. I've been pretending all my life really, since I was that young teenager hiding in that crawlspace in my bedroom drinking a bottle of wine as I smoked cigarettes. I've been hiding and struggling ever since -- putting on a brave face for a world the completely exhausts and exasperates me. For a daily mental grind I sometimes wonder if I can keep up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

That Crack House High

Lunch was a greasy-spoon burger all-the-way down at Merl's Diner -- money I shouldn't have spent being almost broke after paying a hefty bill this morning. An empty wallet greeting me after paying for my meal. Ferret accompanied me -- my now un-homeless friend having gathered himself, shaved, taken a shower, and wearing clean clothes. His new living arrangement is humble, but seems to suit him well. His spirits shining brightly with a renewed vigor. Anything is better than that leaky tent in the woods by the river for him.

"I've got to get a job," Ferret told me as we sat eating -- surprising me as Ferret has been so anti-establishment and anti-work lately. "I thought about getting a job at the grocery store in the shopping center bagging groceries."

I agreed it would be a good and simple job for Ferret -- a job he could easily walk to and handle. He would have to curb back his drinking, though, I told him. A twelve pack of 'light' beer every night instead of a 24 pack of 'stout' Budweiser, or that terrible alcoholic swill Ferret so likes such as Steel Reserve or the ice beers. Possibly even just a six-pack.

"Having a safe place to stay picked up my spirits," he told me as he ate his fries with ample ketchup. "It gives me hope that things are going to get better for me. They couldn't get any worse. I tried to tell myself I liked living that way, but it was just my way of coping."

Sometimes, that is all it takes for things to start looking up. A helping hand out of a quagmire of a situation. Homelessness can be a hopeless feeling predicament. Thank God for lucky breaks -- breaks that can make all the difference in a life. Lucky breaks I've read about countless times on the blogs of other homeless people that brought them out of living without a home.

Ferret left me to walk to his mother's house to get his birth certificate with the hopes of obtaining a new state ID for getting a job. I walked back up to the shopping center to sit with Clara and Big S for a while until George showed up. I was so glad to see George and we went for a long drive out into the countryside as we drank beer and talked. George was in fine spirits and regaled me in tales of last night's poker game over at Pookie's house.

"I love her to death," George told me of his girlfriend, Pookie. "But she will get high on that crack and steal everything I own. I don't know what to do with her at times."

George's dysfunctional relationship with his girlfriend amuses me in an understanding way. He never gives up on her. Pookie will do dastardly things to George, but he rarely complains about it. Loving her all the same. Pookie will come down from her crack house high, so sorry, and apologizing profusely to George for him to forgive her. George always does. Each storm is weathered and forgotten only for history to repeat itself.

Near my home there is house in a dilapidated and poor neighborhood where great groups of people go to hang out on the front porch everyday despite the heat -- throngs of cars lining the road. I drive by there often on my way to my parent's house and long to join them, feeling lonely. George was talking about going on a previous day and what he did, accompanied by a friend of the owner of the house.

"We just sat and talked for hours. Shooting the shit and drinking beer," he told me. "It is good to have friends, ya know? People to hang out with. Good folks."

I agreed. It is good to have friends and I urged George to bring me along the next time he went. It is strange how despite my social anxieties I feel so at ease with blue collar, working class people. People of simple means and simple pleasures. My mother is the same -- her best friend being the polar opposite of her own sheltered life, being dirt poor and having a lay-about alcoholic husband who won't work. My mother loves Sandra and feels so at ease around her. They go out to eat every Tuesday night. It reminds me of my own relationship with George and the gang.

Having not really slept for twenty-four hours, I feel a nap coming on. The sleepy embrace of my bed is calling me. I have also read over everything I wrote this past day and it seems I am on a manic high -- the words coming so freely and fast I almost can't get them all down with this computer keyboard. I am worried I wrote too much -- shared too much. I rarely see other people express such emotion and thoughts as I do on my blog and that makes me think I am obviously doing something wrong. People live such guarded lives with guarded feelings and emotion. Afraid that to show them would express weakness and weakness is picked upon and taken advantage of by unscrupulous people. People are obviously being guarded for a reason -- a reason that escapes me. I try to reassure myself that I am anonymous for the most part -- the only clue to my identity being a three year old picture of me on this blog. It is still unsettling anyway.

The Forlorn Ones

Still can't sleep for thinking of all the homeless out there. Ones that were like me -- lost, helpless, wounded, without anywhere to go home to. The ones without families to coddle them like mine. I become deluded thinking I must live like that -- my cross to bear. I never talk about it in my real life much for not wanting to upset Rosa or my family. I write about it in excess though -- grand lists of preparations. Determined this time to 'do it right'. Visiting Campmor and looking for hours at all the survival and camping gear I could order. I keep thinking I am far too intelligent to live like your average homeless person. That I have the skills and knowledge to make it a pleasurable experience -- an adventure. Like Don Quixote tackling a windmill, I want to tackle my own deluded dreams of living sans home. It is a fitting aphorism for my madness.

I lay there in bed a moment ago. Thinking. Thoughts of people in sleeping bags in the bottom of doorways and alleys. People with sheets of cardboard for a bed. Great throngs of sweaty, unwashed men grouped together like sardines in a tin inside Rescue Missions. The eyes of sad children, hungry and homeless. Worried mothers, helpless, not sure of what to do next. Their lives being blown like feathers in the wind. Vulnerable and many of them harmless, the waste product of societies madness and avarice. Many of them sleeping out of doors to not be institutionalized like me when I was homeless. The mentally ill -- fearful of medications because that is the way, 'the solution', the convenient way society deals with the insane.

Bleary eyed, I leave Rosa in the bed to come and write about it. To get my thoughts down and out of my head with the hopes that by doing so I will get some release from these images that haunt me. I harbor a keen sensitivity and empathy for people experiencing such plights. I think I shall go curl up in the bed with a novel -- like all those nights I spent as a child under the covers with a flashlight trying not to disturb my brother or alert my parents. That would always make me sleep so well afterwards.

I sometimes think there is nowhere for me to go to get comfort and solace — no base, no point of reference for me in the whole universe, how utterly alone I am in my madness, I can't continue on. That is when I write. It is like standing at the edge of a precipice and almost losing your footing, you can't go on, your mind won't let you. I try and shake loose these thoughts -- the precipice being my urge to be homeless again and dwelling on such predicaments. Writing seems to help -- the balm that soothes my wounds.

The Sign of the Cross

I walked down to my favorite park, smoking cigarettes feverishly, and talking to myself like some madman, quietly, well after midnight. It seems like such a long distance to the park from my house, but only takes thirty minutes to walk -- that thirty minutes feeling like an eternity I am so excited to get to my favored place. The park has a different ambiance at night that belies it's presence during the day. A quiet calm -- almost spooky. Serene and yet eerily foreboding. Dark, tall shadows are cast by the big old oaks in the light of the street lamps by the highway. I sat in one of those long shadows, smoking, as I watched the very few cars parade past on the nearby highway -- their headlights shining like dual beacons in the night. The coffee I bought at the convenience store and my radio, my only companions.

Was musingly entertaining thoughts of becoming a monk tonight -- leaving my life to join some monastery in Old Europe. A life of quiet contemplation not much different than the life I already live. I could spend my days writing in quiet solitude evoking thoughts of the monasteries of medieval times when men of the cloth would feverishly slave over tomes of knowledge and religious texts. Atoning for my lifetime of sins, maybe God would cure me of this unfit mind and this incredible urge and cupidity to drink. I wouldn't have to give up much -- my home, finding a home for Maggie which Rosa would readily agree to harbor her. Kissing Rosa goodbye would be the hardest part. It was just a passing thought, though -- a muse to entertain my fanciful notions. I would probably make a terrible monk as I would talk too much.

Walked by that Catholic church once again on the way home -- my wanderlust for the night satiated. The auspicious chapel calling out to me; the front lit by a lone spotlight showing a glaring white cross. I stood for a moment, looking longingly, thinking of the church as being a safe haven for us troubled souls. I said a little prayer for good health and then did the sign of the cross in good Catholic fashion -- the four points signifying loving God with all one's heart, soul, mind, and strength. Pleased with myself, I walked onwards as I talked to God. Pouring out and bearing my soul.

Stopped by the convenience store for some salt and vinegar potato chips and a refill of my coffee before arriving at my destination. My favorite after-hours clerk was pleased to see me, his moustache bristling as he grinned, greeting me as he looked over his glasses. We made small talk with him discussing the crazy customers he gets in the early hours of the morning. "It's a full moon," I told him as I smiled knowingly. "Ahhh," he said. "No wonder tonight's been interesting."

I have feverishly tried to gather my thoughts tonight -- my mind feeling chaotic and turbulent -- which is sometimes an embarrassing struggle. Most people take a fit and well mind for granted. Thus my insomnia. I want to try and will away my mental illness through prayer and sheer determination. No medications -- the same medications that make me constantly feel tired, slow, sexless, stupid. I sometimes feel that my fragile mind will just blow away like on a strong gust of wind in a storm. And that terrifies me — that one day, who knows when, my mind will just soar off on ‘the wings of madness’. It has happened before. So I come to write in this journal. Orderly organizing my thoughts and writing them down -- proving to myself that to do this means I am of a sane mind -- still in control of my faculties. Crazy people don't write blogs I try and tell myself. Proud that despite all my problems I can still think, can still put one thought after another -- that despite everything, I haven't lost it completely.

I don't know how other mentally ill people cope without a safe place to talk about it anonymously like I do on this blog. Families are terrible places to go to discuss an unwell mind. At least, my family is -- causing fear and harsh judgement. You turn to doctors and express forlorn and disorganized thoughts -- delusions and paranoia -- and they want to put you in the psychiatric ward of the hospital for weeks on end as has happened before to me and it is very much like being in jail. It is totally beyond me, how, when life and your mind spirals out of control and detaches itself from reality like a veneer detaching itself from on an old wall in a dilapidated house -- people survive without a safe place to write and express themselves. How they survive and still keep their dignity. I can see why so many mentally ill people turn to alcohol and drugs, and end up on the streets. How it is almost essential to be "fucked up" as much as possible -- anything to forget and detach ourselves from the reality that is our lives when feeling mentally ill.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Crazy Moon

A full moon greeted me outside my bedroom window as I sat down to write this evening. Framed perfectly in one window pane like some milky white, glorious globe. A crazy moon rising -- shining brilliantly and casting moonshine on the ground marked by long shadows in the dark. I had a girlfriend who once worked in our local emergency room at the hospital. She swore that us mentally interesting people come out of the woodwork on such nights. My father does as well. I would hate to disappoint them and you all by saying I feel mentally well. I have to live up to my moon's namesake. My mind is busy and yet tired at the same time. It has been a busy day that felt like a week's worth of days all rolled into one.

My and Rosa's little spat we were having didn't last long.

"I just can't sleep without you," she told me over the phone tonight.

"I'm coming to pick you up," I replied, missing her deeply.

She gave me a heartwarming embrace as I pulled up in front of her house to bring her "home." I have actually had trouble sleeping without her as well -- the bed feeling empty with it just being me and Maggie. I missed the feel of Rosa's cold feet as they would brush up against mine and her soft snoring as well. That wonderfully warm spot I would occupy when she would roll over to the edge of the bed wrapping herself in my covers.

I then let Rosa read some of my writings today written down at the shopping center when we arrived home.

"Why didn't you come and get me?" She asked, as she lives very close to the shopping center, jealous I had spent time with Clara and George without her.

"I was being self centered. I thought you would disapprove of my drinking beer. I was hiding."

"I don't mind you drinking a beer," she told me. "I do mind you getting shit-faced though."

"Well, we will just see how things go. I didn't get drunk today by any means."

One of the things I most love about Rosa is her nightly routines. Women captivate me in the great efforts they go about to make themselves presentable. Rosa is not much of one to wear makeup, lipstick, or fancy clothes, but she does like to tidy herself every night. Putting on her face cream, taking a long, hot bath, and putting lotion on her hands and feet. She will escape from the shower with one of my towels wrapped tightly around her head and hair, making me smile with amusement. These routines are comforting to me and I have missed them the past few nights. Intimate little shared moments -- the mundane aspects of another's life that often go overlooked by familiarity and routine. I savor them.

I also realized tonight I have shared far too much on this blog -- allowing strangers to glimpse into my world with a candidness that I know made many wince in discomfort. Blogging is addictive. My instinct is to now hide and shy away -- to no longer write of mental illnesses or addictions, having now been saddled with those labels. I catch myself doing it to -- defining myself by my flaws, my glaring defects of character and body. I am more than the sum of my parts, though. I am kind and caring. I have an enduring strength that I don't often show. I have healthy sense of humor that I should allow out of the bag more often. I have bravely kept on ever forward and I am writing a book about it now and that there is nothing to be ashamed of how I ended up. Lives unravel for a myriad of reasons. Some more simple or complex than mine. We all struggle everyday with just making sense out of a crazy world filled untold pressures and responsibilities that are thrust upon us.

Spangled Shafts of Light

Spangles of sunshine shone down through the trees as I walked home from the shopping center a moment ago. I felt so alive -- so fit and well. Vibrant. The first few days of fall are cherished by me before the nights grow cold, the days shorter, and the world turns a drab brown with winter's onset. Carefully dodging numerous cars on the highway, I listened to the radio on this fall day as Sean Hannity preached that spurious right-wing propaganda he is known for. It is the only thing on the radio during the day besides National Public Radio and I am a radio addict and will listen to anything except music. Even that right-wing bullshit. I am far too moderate in my political leanings to believe all that stuff Hannity and Limbaugh preach, though. I listen on amused, astonished people will believe such propaganda. Amazed that we allow such divisive people to play such prominent roles in our media -- given the spotlight for hours everyday. Giving rise to thoughts about how the public has little, to no control over our specious media these days.

I arrived home to find numerous messages on my answering machine. I had forgotten my injection for warding off my schizophrenia. I was already a day late. No wonder everything seems so technicolor and surreal -- my anti-psychotic medication having run out. I grow extremely impulsive and compulsive off my medications and the first signs of my disease are manifesting themselves. An incredible thirst -- I have drank over twelve sodas today. An incorrigible desire to smoke -- having smoked three packs already in this young day. One after the other, a cigarette is lit nervously. Thoughts of mind control by the medications my father forces upon me also erupt in my mind -- scared that the medications I take are hurting me, destroying my mind, controlling me. I will refuse to take them. It is the proverbial snowball rolling downhill. I can see the conundrum now, my mind still lucid. In a few days I will not be able to, caught in the throes of my mental illness. My family will cast disparaging remarks my way -- growing fearful of me as I become typecast as the stereotypical violent madman, a lunatic. I will be held in repugnant aversion by the people that I love.

I wrote so many things in my little black notebook today. Tales of Clara and George. Of Big S and Ferret. A dance of words played out on paper as I wrote about the lives of my interesting friends. Lots of dialogue as that's what I think I write best. Mistakenly, I think I am more creative when I am not medicated. I certainly feel more active and vibrant -- my mind so busy with ideas, thoughts, desires. It is an intoxicating feeling and state of being. Akin to a stupor. I almost want to burst at the seams to be a writer and to write, and couldn't wait to get home to share with you all my day down at the shopping center. I was weaving that tale with Clara and George as I was walking home -- carefully remembering all that was said. Knowing someone is reading is so comforting and encourages you to write in your journal every day.

My senses are heightened. I smelled burning leaves walking home today -- a comforting smell I normally associate with fall. It brought on a flourish of memories from my childhood as winter would set upon us and I would have to go back to that dreaded prison that was school. Thoughts of the big pecans in my grandmother's huge backyard on her farm as she would rake leaves into a big pile to let me light them excitedly with a match to burn. Those big pecans were always the last trees to lose their leaves near the first frost -- the last vestige of a summer's past.

Passed by that little Catholic church on my way home as well -- the same church my ex-wife would go to and my mother attended. I wanted to walk inside and sit on a pew in God's house. My inhibitions overrode my desires, though -- afraid that I wasn't a true Catholic, a true Christian, and wouldn't be welcomed. I wanted to pray solemnly for good health and fortitude -- to plead with God to sort it all out for me. One of the priests came out to tidy and tend the flowers on the front veranda of the chapel. I came so close to walking over to talk to him, drawn, wanting to confess my sins, wanting to hear encouraging words of God's love for me. A man of god -- he looked so pleasant and welcoming. Appearances can be deceiving I have learned. Even for a man of the cloth.

Think there must be something wrong with the wiring in my head. Because sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm schizophrenic, it's too frightening to remember sometimes. I sit here distracting myself with writing and reading, blanking things out. Even though I feel the first un-medicated symptoms coming on, I don't want to believe it -- I don't want to believe I'm actually mentally ill, or alcoholic for that matter. Who would? Labels, once given, you will never be able to shed unless you give up your current life and take on a whole new one. I still don't register it sometimes, even when I'm sitting here in my comforting home, writing, I stare up mindlessly at the blue sky out my window beyond this computer at the changing light and all around me the world swirls with a technicolor vividness brought on by my malfunctioning brain -- alternately stunned by either beauty or fear. I sit in awe.

Independence Day

"Don't you have a family?" I asked Clara today as we sat smoking and drinking beer -- lazily losing ourselves in the ambiance of the midmorning sun.

"Yeah," Clara said, taking a drag from her cigarette. "They won't have anything to do with me though. My father says I am a hopeless drunk. He was a worse drunk than me, but he was a functioning alcoholic. I'm apparently not a functioning alcoholic since I am homeless."

I told Clara of my family and the relationship I have with them.

"They (my father) think I am stupid and just a mentally ill dolt," I said, confessing. "I have to play the role of the sick son or all hell will break loose. If I show any signs of independence they up the dosages of my medications or threaten to put me in the mental hospital. They also hide things from me and sugarcoat everything to not upset me. It is so frustrating. I get tired of being coddled."

"I wouldn't put up with all that shit," Clara replied, tersely. "That is why I am homeless. My family is nuts as well. I could go live with my father, but would be absolutely crazy in a few weeks. My father is a mean and abusive man. I would rather sleep behind the dollar store."

"I sometimes wonder who is actually the sick one in our relationship," I said of my father.

"I would just walk away. To hell with all that," Clara told me, crossing her arms in a defensive stance. Clara could easily say that because she doesn't have anything left to lose. I still have a lot to lose. Thoughts of Rosa and Maggie came to mind.

"I think about it everyday," I finally replied.

It was so nice sitting with someone who actually understood me and who actually understood the urge to be homeless. I told Clara of Albert Vanderburg and The Panther's Tale. Albert was an artist and an elderly man in Hawaii who just quit his office job, let his apartment lease run out, and lived on the streets of Honolulu. He would make money by returning shopping carts at a shopping center for quarters and would spend his days reading books, eating discarded to-go boxes of food, blogging from a library, sitting on the campus of the University of Hawaii, and drinking quarts of beer. He was such an unconventional, unorthodox, and avant garde soul. I admired him deeply.

"All this is on the Internet?" Clara asked.

"Nine years of his life is written down and put on there," I replied. "It took me a week of continuous reading to finish it all."

"I would love to live in Hawaii," Clara said. "Tropical sunsets. Warm breezes. Exotic food."

"I've been to Honolulu and it is truly nice," I replied. "After reading Albert's tales, I have often dreamed of selling everything I owned and moving there to live homeless. Albert's tales explained how to do it successfully. You would never have to worry about cold winters."

George finally pulled up into the fire lane nearby breaking my train of thought. I walked over to his car to open his door and sat in the passenger's seat as a surly old lady got out to go do her shopping at the Piggly Wiggly. I reached into my backpack to pull out a quart of beer and took a drink. The beer was tepid and warm -- the carbonation harsh on the back of my throat. George was astonished.

"You off the wagon?" he asked with a surprised look on his face.

"I am trying moderated drinking," I replied sheepishly.

George laughed and pulled a bottle of liquor out from under the seat of his car.

"Old times," George said as he held up the bottle towards me in a toast and then took a drink. "Old times."

I told George about how I was about to go crazy in my sobriety. I struggled everyday with urges and all encompassing thoughts of drinking beer. I finally gave in and decided to try a moderated form of drinking -- only getting a buzz, and not getting sloshy drunk. I realize I am playing with fire, but so far all is well.

"A man ought to be able to have a drink when he wants too," my alcoholic friend, George, told me.

I sighed as I took another drink of my Colt 45. I just don't know. I do know I feel better the past two days than I have in months. I realize I am self medicating and in this age of morally indignant Dr. Laura's and Dr. Phil's that is a terrible no-no. The liberal use or abuse of alcohol upsets the delicate equilibrium that our society is founded upon. Inhibitions are lost. Laws are broken at times. Avarice and excess is displayed and shown. I told George that I was just an inch away from disappearing into the woods, forever lost -- to go back to that life I lived the winter of '03 and '04 -- tired of all the conventional souls surrounding me, the souls parroting Dr. Phil and all the moral declarations from friends and family, and the preaching from the pulpit of societal compliance. I realized then, if I were to ever have true freedom, I would have to pay a dear price -- a dear price indeed. I would have to give up everything.

Modern Day Thoreau

I came trudging home early this morning in the predawn dark ravenously hungry. A grand breakfast was on my mind and thoughts of Maggie as well -- fried eggs, Colby cheese, country style sausages, Grands biscuits. It had been a wonderful evening out of doors. I have so missed camping out and it was nice to get lost in the moment -- my anxieties melting away. I realized lately that I have been a bundle of frayed nerves and these camping forays allow me to unwind, relax, and to forget about what ails me -- leaving my homed life behind -- a life that I would forego in a heartbeat. I feel like some modern day Thoreau making lasting memories and tales to adorn the memoirs I am writing. I grow so contemplative on these journeys.

The evening started out so simple. I hiked down to the tracks and the cotton mill nestling myself in my tent. My headphones of my little Sony radio adorned my ears as I listened to Bob Mitchell out of New Orleans. I feel a certain connection with that city since my brother and sister both lived in New Orleans for years and both graduated from Tulane. 9 pm arrived and I pulled out my portable Radio Shack television and watched the last hour of Ken Burn's The War on Public Broadcasting. What a wonderful documentary and what arduous times this country experienced. It makes this little war we are embroiled in Iraq seem like a minor skirmish in comparison. The hour flew by as I was enthralled in that program.

My most lasting memory of last night was the stars in the sky. I sat on the threshold of my tent near midnight taking sips of warming Southern Comfort as I looked up at the expansive sky above and the skyline over the Chattahoochee. Orion and his sword paraded across the sky along with Leo the lion and Cassiopeia. Behind the mill was sheltered and dark, and the stars seemed to stand out amid a pitch black sky with regal royalty, twinkling brilliantly. I thought about how we must not be alone in this grand universe and how inconsequential my little life is in the grand scheme of things -- my problems paling in comparison. Those were humbling thoughts. The late Carl Sagan's words of this little world being a mote of dust in a sunbeam brought a melancholy, nostalgic sense of purpose to me - the Earth being one tiny little rock amid a universe so vast it is mind boggling.

One of the things that has continued to amaze me these past few months is my will to fight and to survive. I thought this morning of all I have been through -- schizophrenia, homelessness, my battles with addiction, the exasperating social dances I have to endure everyday despite my social anxiety. My life continues to fight for itself and I never give up. The way I continually adapt to survive despite myself and all my problems. I get up to soldier on another day. And sometimes what saddens me most is knowing that I always will...that no matter what happens, I will be here to face it and to fight -- the tenaciousness of life is absolutely amazing.

I've done a bit of thinking over these past few days -- my mind busy with thoughts about life and the grand scheme of things. I'm not sure I know all the answers or that I have the key to success. I do know that I want a simple life of simple pleasures. It seems to suit me best. Pleasurable meals. Amber beers. Camping trips. Railfan excursions. Works of non-fiction that make me ponder and think, and not the fluff that can be most fiction. Days spent alone and away from the humans that so exasperate me. I have all these grand ideas I want to pour out onto the blog, but can't. I would upset people and my readers would just dismiss me as crazy -- ideas on our puritanical work ethic obsessed society, the nuclear family, religion, politics. I can almost burst wanting to express my ideas. I keep them to myself, though. It is safer that way. I dare not bring about the ire of the thought police. Most people are too encapsulated in their comfort zones and the rote routines of their lives, and to write about these things would upset them -- questioning the very fabric of our mentally ill society, and I do believe our society is mentally ill. I struggle with the idea that I am actually the sane one amid millions of crazy people with my medications being forced upon me to bring me into line with our crazy society -- my soma as Aldous Huxley would say. A Brave New World is a brilliant book, by the way, that you should read. The comparisons to modern society are uncanny and foreboding.

Today shall be a writer's holiday from my memoirs. I intend to mosey on down to the shopping center to wile away my day, writing in my little composition notebook my observations as I nurse beers and smoke cigarillos -- a lazy day spent being the quintessential writer. Tales of Clara, Big S, Ferret, and George I hope to write, wanting to capture these unique souls and their lives in words. They all have a tale to tell. Lives that would be dismissed by most conventional souls as useless, addiction addled, unorthodox, lay about. The freedom their lives seem to harbor intoxicates me and seems to draw me like a moth to a flame -- the freedom to follow their whims not saddled with families, jobs, and all the modern conventionalities of society that we are all so pressured to follow and obey. As free as the wind. I want that freedom. Freedom is something that is a myth in this day and age in the complex society we live in.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two Car Garage

I was pleased to learn from George this afternoon that Ferret has a more sheltered place to stay. He moved into the heated garage of a house not far from me. The house is actually right across the street from my grandmother's house.

"Everything he owned fit in a brown paper bag except his sleeping bag and tent," George solemnly told me. "I gave him a ride up from the river. There wasn't much to move. It was sad."

"What happened to his t.v., clothes, and all the stuff at Monte's house?"

"I guess Monte threw it away or sold it," George replied. "He never came back to get it."

That made me sad hearing that. Ferret tried so hard to work, take his medications, and hold things together while he lived with Monte. All those things were hard earned and were not charity from his friends.

It is a humble start, but a garage is a much sturdier shelter than a tent in the woods. Ferret's so called landlord is a known drug dealer, though, so that alarms me about the situation. My grandmother was always complaining about the activity late at night at that house across her street. Ferret might have a drinking problem, but nothing would be worse than getting hooked on crack. I hope he keeps his head firmly upon his shoulders. With winter coming on, he needed a place to sleep that is warm and dry and I guess that garage will have to do.

George went on to talk about his mother. I adore George's mom and what George told me concerned me. George's mother is in her eighties and growing frail. I love how she always calls me, "baby."

"She's getting real forgetful," George said. "She left the oven on after cooking a pan of biscuits the other morning."

"I've done that," I replied, trying to assuage George's worries.

"That is not the only thing," George went on to tell. "She keeps asking me who some of my cousins are. She doesn't recognize them."

My grandmother had Alzheimer's and didn't even know her own son in the later stages of the disease. This news didn't bode well.

"Aricept," I told George.


"Aricept is a medication for senility and Alzheimer's. Ask her doctor about it."

I had to spell it out as George wrote it down. He assured me that he would get his mother to the doctor in the next few weeks. I would hate for something to be wrong with Mrs. Jones. She is such a dear old soul.

I seem to have the sharks circling in my comment section just waiting for me to falter and fail. It is rather amusing, in a way, that someone would expend all that energy just to take delight in my downfall and tell me about it. I was expecting some, "I told you so's," but not just so soon. I've been through much damn harder times than just having a morning drink and a lunchtime beer. I lasted six months homeless in the woods by sheer determination. Don't count me out just yet. I get tired of everything having to be so black and white -- so polarized and divided. I see it in every facet of our society these days.

I am headed back down to the old cotton mill to camp tonight. I just have to wait on my father to bring my nightly medications. I am going to sit in my tent Indian style until late in the evening as I listen to the radio from far flung cities like Chicago and New Orleans after dark. Looking out my tent door at the horizon over the Chattahoochee -- a skyline that brings me joy. I may even build a small fire outside my tent. I went and bought a pint of Southern Comfort to keep me company and to chase away the blues. It is going to be grand and much needed evening. I will feel like the hobos of yesteryear.

Lunchtime Brew

Sat down in my favorite park at lunchtime eating cheese on wheat crackers and nursing a gigantic bottle of Colt 45. When I walked into the convenience store to buy the beer, I felt as if I was trespassing -- as if they were going to tell my father. Sins and transgressions. It's a very small town I live in. It was all rather disconcerting to feel such a way. I keep telling myself that I am thirty-five years old and buying beer is perfectly legal and acceptable. They did check my identification because I look so young which I found reassuring and comforting in a strange way.

One of our local crack heads was sitting on the convenience store's wall directly above a no loitering sign when I walked out. The irony made me smile and chuckle.

"Got a buck?" He asked, watching me with yellow tinged eyes and scratching the stark white whiskers on his chin. I recognized him from when I worked at Autozone as a manager. He has a talent for rebuilding carburetors which is almost a lost art in this day and age of fuel injection.

"Sorry man," I said as I kept on walking to my favored spot. I wasn't feeling very generous today. My one track mind was too intently focused on escaping to my favorite spot and enjoying my liquid lunch.

It was so comforting to be sitting in my favorite park -- the warm sun shining down on me. The pigeons cooing softly and the noise of squirrels busily gnawing on this year's acorns. The vibrantly green grass stretched out like some carefully manicured carpet. Tall, hundred year old oaks standing guard over me and sheltering me from the wind and sunburn. I watched intently, the cars on the nearby highway, as I drank my beer and listened to a burned compact disc of old Coast to Coast AM radio shows -- that alcohol soothing my frayed and worn nerves. I was in heaven if there is such on thing on this God's earth.

I am missing Rosa today. We talked on the phone for a short while earlier with her reminding me to take my morning dosage of my anti-depressant. I was taking them at night, but they kept me up -- wired like some speed addict. I am not used to us being apart, but we both agreed on having more "alone time" as we were spending all our waking hours together. "Absence makes the heart grown fonder," were Rosa's cliched words. It has also served to lift a great deal of pressure I had felt bearing down on me. The only way to describe the feeling is that it feels like freedom. Something I have sorely missed. The freedom to go camping at night and to stay up late without feeling so guilty all the time.

Rosa is lottery obsessed and was talking about buying some tickets. "What would you do with a couple million bucks?" she asked me.

"I would invest it and live off the interest and would buy me some land, live in a tent, and have a huge garden filled with vegetables. I would like to live like an American Indian. I would be one of those crazy survivalists you read about in gun and ammo magazines."

"What? No new Porsche? No ridiculously grand house?" Rosa asked, astonished.

"That stuff wouldn't make me happy," I replied honestly. "I am not very materialistic."

"You're nuts," Rosa said, chuckling.

I laughed as well, but it was the truth. I am coming to the conclusion that a life that is too easy causes me to become lax and complacent. Lazy. I seem to need some hardships to invigorate me and spur my creativity. I thrive in situations such as wilderness survival, homelessness, and the arduous strife that can be my mental illness un-medicated. Like Atlas bearing the weight of the world, these are my burdens to carry and only then, by carrying them, am I a complete and whole human being.

I threw the advertisements back up a moment ago -- just for a few more days to try and get up the funds to buy a very nice camera. I've already made $1.25 in the hour I put them back up so I am off to a good start. I look forward to sharing my views of the world again upon this blog with videos and pictures.


My father came and brought my medications late in the afternoon. Rosa decided to stay home last night as well. It was the perfect opportunity to go urban camping down at the old cotton mill. I packed up my camp stove, my cheese and crackers for a snack, lots of bottled water, my radio, candle lantern, and a bundle of National Geographic magazines I had yet to read. I hiked the mile down to the tracks where my discarded tent sat behind that grand old mill. It was beautiful evening befitting the special mood I was in last night. I had struggled so deeply all day and needed to get out of my house and to lose myself in such an adventure. A bright, almost full moon graced the sky to the east as I arrived at my tent to crawl in and comfort myself for the night -- zipping up the door and closing out the harsh world that had so stymied me all day. I was where no one could find me or bother me. I was all alone. Solace.

It grew late in the evening as I lay on my side in my sleeping bag reading my magazines by candlelight -- the magazines taking me to far distant lands and learning about creatures never heard of before. Far off, into the woods, stray dogs barked vigorously bringing me comfort -- the only sound besides the numerous trains rumbling by on the tracks nearby. I thought musingly about how I am also a mongrel of a human being just like those stray canines barking in the night. Wanted by few and left to fend for myself for the most part. A person of many, various aspects and parts -- a piecemeal of a being. Writer. Lover. Companion. Schizophrenic. Alcoholic. A myriad of puzzle pieces making a whole being.

I slept a sleep befitting a king during the night only awaking to use the bathroom once. Morning arrived with the sun already on its way up into the sky. I begrudgingly crawled out of my sleeping bag to start my day. I boiled some water and ate a bowl of hot oatmeal along with a few sweet, salty, and nutty granola bars. Drinks of lemon/lime Gatorade accompanied my meal.

I have found that more and more recently: my senses, one by one, becoming hypersensitive -- started with sound, then taste and now smell, almost like layers of me are being peeled off. I am not sure if this is a byproduct of my schizophrenia, but it feels invigorating. I felt so alive and vibrant this morning -- as if I could take on the whole world at once. My heightened senses causing me to view the world with technicolor lenses and rose colored glasses.

After breakfast, I sat smoking a plethora of cigarettes and writing in my pen and paper journal. What surprised me was the amount of emotion that came flowing out as I wrote. So many feelings, fears, and thoughts came pouring out onto the pages of my little composition notebook. I wrote furiously until my hand began to cramp, trying to get all my thoughts down as fast as they would come to my mind. I thought of posting copies of my writings here. That's what I had intended to do, just because this is where I have been writing everything else, but in the end I couldn't do it. Couldn't, because I didn't want anyone here to worry about me any more than I know some of you already do. The emails and comments I get are so kind, and so supportive, but in a way, recently, I have found myself being a bit inhibited here by them too.

Not sure I have said quite what I mean there, because I really do appreciate all the support I get here. I really, really do, and I think you all know that. But when I first started writing in this blog I wanted to write everything, even about the times I have felt I couldn't go on, too, all the darker things -- the aberrant thoughts and urges my mental illness saddles me with. I struggled with my desire to write of my schizophrenia and alcoholism openly and honestly. I also struggled with the aspect that I didn't want this to become another whiney journal about what ails me. It is a careful balancing act I commit to everyday -- to write what is on my mind or to give a more reader friendly version of my life. A dilemma really, because it defeats the purpose of this blog if I can't be honest in it.

So, I just want to say that I am stronger than I may seem. I wouldn't want to wish this situation on anybody, but I come to this blog to vent my emotions and feelings. I enjoy the catharsis of it all -- to be able to write down and share my most intimate thoughts with my friends and confidants. Something I cannot do with my family or Rosa as they would grow too worried and concerned.

I then left my campsite after packing up my gear into my big orange and yellow Kelty backpack and hiked down the highway to Merl's Diner to get a hot cup of coffee. I could see Clara sitting out in front of the dollar store up at the shopping center. I got another coffee to-go and walked her way.

"Good morning," I said, greeting her and handing her the Styrofoam cup of steaming liquid.

She looked up at me with sad, red, and hung over eyes. I could see a lifetime of emotion in her face. I wanted to give her a hug.

"Hey," she said quietly and morosely as I sat beside her.

"You feeling okay?"

"Sunday was a long day," she replied. "I thought Monday would never get here."

"Was for me too," I said with a sigh.

She reached into her backpack to pull out a half empty pint of Southern Comfort and poured a liberal dollop of the sweet liquor into her coffee.

"Want some? I've been nursing this bottle all night."

I held out my cup towards her as she poured some in. We sat drinking our alcoholic coffee, watching the world go round -- countless people visiting the shops at the center and going about their early days. The warmth of that alcohol felt so good. I felt as if I could take on the whole world.

"You still going to go to A.A. after drinking all that?" Clara asked, amused.

"Yeah," I replied. "Maybe it will allow me to drink in moderation."

Clara laughed and patted me on the leg. "Lack of money moderates my drinking," she said.

I smiled, feeling mentally well for the first time in days -- glad to be alive and enjoying this simple moment with one of my friends. My alcoholic brain was in overdrive this morning -- thinking of what if I can moderate my drinking. To only have a few drinks and then quit. That liberal dollop of Southern Comfort worked wonders for what has been ailing me. I felt calm and relaxed. Sublime. If the doctors won't help me then I will medicate myself.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Highway out of Town

According to Ferret, George's cookout today was a huge success.

"There was about twenty people there out at the lake," he told me excitedly. "We all drank beer, grilled burgers, fished, and talked about various things. It was so awesome to get to drink free beer instead of that damn mouthwash. George's mother made potato salad and the most delicious baked beans I have ever eaten. George can grill a damn good burger as well."

George's mother is an incredible old southern style cook. I felt so left out and alone. I wanted to go so badly. I want to be able to go to parties, drink beer, and have fun like normal people.

"Want a sandwich?" I then asked Ferret, worried he was probably too full from lunch. He ate anyway -- a homeless man never turning down a free meal.

I had prepared some egg salad sandwiches for Rosa's and my lunch. I made some extra wax paper wrapped sandwiches to carry down to the shopping center to give out to Big S, Ferret, and Clara, or anyone who wanted any. I ate quite a few myself on the walk down there.

"George kept talking about you," Ferret said in between bites of his sandwich -- his mouth full as he talked. "Said it just wasn't the same without you there. He loves you to death."

I left Ferret talking to Clara and Big S and walked back down to the tracks and disappeared behind that grand old abandoned cotton mill. I was sulking. On the loading dock behind the mill, my cheap Wal-Mart tent still sat after all this time after my urban camping experiment down here months ago. I looked inside and it was still water free after all the rains we had recently. My magazines, a cheap flashlight, and an old pillow sat inside dry, safe, unused, and neglected. I was rather surprised all this hadn't been stolen or torn apart. It goes to show how isolated and unused this little area is, nestled in between that huge old mill building and the railroad tracks beyond the river. I crawled inside and sat Indian style upon the hard concrete for a long while listening to the wind whistle in the broken panes of glass in the windows of the cotton mill behind me. Frustrated tears began to roll down my cheeks, my cigarettes my only solace. I felt safe, isolated, and alone, and I let the tears flow freely knowing no one would ever know I broke down sobbing. I wanted a drink so badly. It has been a long and tough day.

I wiped the tears from my eyes and walked across the highway, past the service center, to my fortress of solitude -- that little park across the highway from the cotton mill. I sat on a bench as I pulled a bottle of Gatorade out of my backpack, taking long drinks between pulls of cigarette smoke. Pigeons scurried at my feet taking furtive drinks of water from the muddy and tepid puddles on the ground. Squirrels ran playfully up and down the big, old oaks that surrounded me. These are my true friends, I thought of my little feathered and furry companions. They don't encourage me to drink and bring true joy to my soul. It was then that I thought of just walking out of town to just disappear from life. I looked in my wallet to find two hundred dollars and some change -- just enough to feed me for a few weeks or to buy a bus ticket. I longingly looked down upon the highway running out past the city limits. Wanderlust called out to me.

I can't bring myself to ask for help -- to call out to Rosa or my family for aid. Which, I am sure, infuriates some of you that read. I know you all get tired of my rehashing the same old ideas about drinking and homelessness -- thoughts like a broken record. I can't bear the imagined glares I am getting from my readers about all this talk of alcoholism, the disdain. I dread what the future might hold now -- one step away from doing something rash and unthinkable. That is why I get so tired of fighting and wish to just be a drunkard of a homeless man -- my only worry being the next beer I am going to drink and where it will come from. A simple life filled with simple means and simple pleasures. I am constitutionally incapable of living life in a normal manner. My life feels like the proverbial square peg being forced into a round hole -- it just isn't working and doesn't fit.

I really need something to take. I want to call my father, the pharmacist, and ask for a few Xanax or Librium to calm my nerves -- anything to take away these urges of self destruction, this all encompassing will to drink. A few pills to make me sleep peacefully and restfully. To wake refreshed and anew. He will not give me any for fears of it causing me to want to drink with even more earnestness. It is maddeningly frustrating. They don't want me to drink, but no one wants to help me when I am trying to stay sober. My drinking will cause spurious activity, but nary a lifted finger when I am on the wagon.

Simple things I tell myself. I need simple pleasures tonight. I am going to treat myself to some brie, big long triangle of it, and some water crackers -- a gourmet cheese and cracker usually reserved for special occasions. I paid far too much for it and it has been calling out to me to eat it. Also, the warm comforting embrace of Rosa awaits me when she gets home tonight. I can't wait to hear about her day with her granddaughter -- their relationship growing more steadfast as each day passes. I sometimes wish I had children so my usual selfish inclinations would be turned outwards towards others.

The First Time: It Should Have Been My Last

I sat this morning with Clara drinking milky cups of coffee from my thermos and smoking cigarettes. She kept pouring a small flask of liquor into her hot drink. Soon, her hands quit shaking and she was feeling no pain. She was dressed in a warm, teal green sweat suit. Her blonde hair was pulled up into a bun upon her head covered with a New York Yankees baseball cap. Old, tattered Nike tennis shoes adorned her feet covering light pink socks. She reminded me of Rosa when we first met. It was uncanny, the resemblance.

The sky was overcast, threatening rain -- the rising easterly sun obscured. It all felt rather dreary and dreamy. The first eager shoppers of the day were gracing the front doors of the shops in the shopping center. I watched as countless older black women came parading out of the Piggly Wiggly with carts of groceries – bags filled with big green bundles of turnip greens and bottom cart shelves harboring cheap Piggly Wiggly sodas. I musingly thought about the fact that soul food would be had for Sunday dinner. Cornbread. Creamed corn. Turnip greens and Ham hocks. Fried chicken. Green beans with fatback. My stomach growled in protest, longing for such a southern treat of a meal.

“Drink?” Clara asked me, thrusting the liquor flask towards me.

“No thanks,” I said, my stomach turning at the thought. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t tempting, though. I wanted to drink badly this morning.

“How did you get sober?” Clara then asked me as she sat smoking one of my cigarettes. She was already slurring her words.

“The hard way,” I replied, wincing at the thought. “Through sweat and tears. A.A. has given me a safe place to go every night. I couldn’t afford to go to rehab, nor would my insurance pay.”

“George says A.A. is a cult.”

“I used to think the same thing as well,” I replied. “I realized I had no other recourse. I needed help something terribly and gave in and went. If you can’t beat them, join them as they say. George shouldn’t be going around saying all that. He has tried A.A. as well. He just never gave it a chance.”

“What does A.A. teach you? How do you stop drinking?”

“Stopping drinking is just the beginning of the process,” I replied. “It teaches you a new way of living – that you only have to abstain for one day at a time. It also teaches you how to handle situations in life without getting drunk over them. The people of A.A. are always there to help you.”

A thoughtful look overcame Clara’s face as she sat and pondered what I had just told her. I didn't stop her from taking another drink, though. I left Clara to walk down to the rail yard to catch some trains. The long wail of a train’s horn could be heard far off down in the valley making me grow excited with anticipation.

The rail yard is full of old relics from railroading’s past – a rusting museum for us train lovers and fans. I climbed aboard an old Seaboard Coast Line caboose from the seventies, opening the unlocked door, and sat in the brakeman’s torn leather seat in the cupola. Looking out the square, small window, amid a peeling lime green interior, I watched as the train signal turned from green to yellow and then to red down the tracks. Excitement ensued. Soon, a ponderous freight came rolling down the tracks at a slow pace as if the engines were struggling to pull all that weight -- a perfect speed to jump aboard a hopper car and journey the rails, jumping off at the next town. Blaring it’s horn, it reminded me of all the times I spent down here as a child taking photographs, hopping freights, and sketching trains. It is times such as these that I wish I had Clara’s flask of whiskey to enjoy a few stiff drinks and lose myself in the moment. I am such an incorrigible old drunk. I shouldn't wax nostalgically about my addiction.

Last night I fell asleep dreaming of my childhood. Drunken dreams – the bane of an alcoholic’s existence. I dreamed of the first time I drank wine and got drunk. Shut in my bedroom and hiding in the crawlspace under the front steps of our house – the little wooden door leading to my secret place that hid all the Playboys and Penthouses I had taken from my father. Warm and laughing, that first feeling of alcohol enveloped me. It was the first time I had felt truly happy in all my childhood years. Inside my dresser drawer was hidden a pack of Winston Lights. I pulled out a cigarette, lit it, and sat in that crawl space, lit by candlelight, smoking, as that alcohol went coursing through my bloodstream. Soon, an empty, green wine bottle was sitting next to me upon the cold concrete floor as I smoked cigarette after cigarette. I was only thirteen or fourteen at the time. I started young.

In high school, I learned that the hobos and vagrants that hung out down at the river, drinking cheap wine and fishing, would share their good fortune and wealth. I would ride my bike down to the woods behind the tracks to join these raggedy men -- the very same woods that Ferret now resides in homeless. I became their young mascot. “Pull up a seat and have a drink,” they would tell me. I fit in and felt a camaraderie I had never experienced before. I was accepted and welcomed. Bottles of Thunderbird wine would be passed around a campfire as these burly old men would fry fish, warm cans of pork and beans, and talk. Tales of riding the rails and journeying across the countryside would captivate me and entice me. I didn’t realize then that it was the start of a lifelong love affair with alcohol that would take almost everything I ever owned. At the time, I felt so grown up and adult. It was so sublime.

I just reminded myself that thinking of bad stuff can, well, make me feel bad. I thought of that sad and solemn soul sitting in A.A. last night looking so forlorn. He was a newcomer. We see them often and they never come back. Hands shaking. Sitting in the back of the room. Furtive glances at all those laughing and happy people gracing the A.A. meeting hall. I realize now that I should have reached out to him – to bring him a cup of coffee and welcome him for coming. “You are not alone in this,” I wanted to say after turning back time. It is in this service to others that our own all encompassing desire to drink and get drunk is quelled. I remind myself of that and try to focus on good things -- things that bring joy to this old soul. Times spent with Rosa. Wholesome meals cooked with loving care. Watching Maggie chase her tail or fetch a stick. Squirrels tussling in the big pine tree in my side yard. The call of a cicada on a hot southern day. The ever changing weather. All things that bring joy to my heart.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bags of Warmth, Lunches of Nourishment

Lunchtime found me and Rosa down at the shopping center. It was Rosa's idea. She insisted we go. She was bored, listless, and restless and wanted to be around others. There is always something going on down there -- a social panacea for us misfits and miscreants. The center was busy with patrons shopping and cars coming to and fro from the parking lot. You could feel a veritable electricity in the air. An excitement.

Clara was drinking beer and avoiding the police as she sat on a bench down near the nail salon. I walked over and asked her about where she slept and she was just drunk enough to reveal her slumber area. Her tongue loose from many a beer. Something you should never do when homeless. I guess she felt she could trust me.

"Behind the shopping center there is a hole in the fence," she said, quietly. "I crawl through and sleep on the old loading dock behind the dollar store. It is no longer used and is sheltered from the rain. Damn, it was so chilly this morning. I woke up cold and wrapped myself in my sleeping bag tightly. That concrete I sleep on can get damn hard and cold as well."

"Who bought you the sleeping bag?" I asked, curious.

"George got it for me. He said he wanted to talk to you about it since you camp all the time."

"I don't camp anything like I used to," I replied, much to my chagrin. "But I could have helped George pick a good bag."

I thought of George and his act of kindness. George can have his moments. I miss the old codger. I want to run off and spend days with George, drinking beer and raising hell like old times. I miss my dear friend even though he is a terrible influence upon me.

"You'll need a down sleeping bag for winter," I then told Clara. "It will keep you warm well below freezing. You just can't let it get wet. If it gets wet then it won't keep you warm."

"Can you get me one?"

"They're expensive," I replied. "I can order you one and you can pay me back. Sound like a deal?"

"Thank you," Clara said. "I will try and pay you back. You want a beer?"

It was all Clara had to offer. She reached into her backpack to pull out an amber 40 ounce bottle of Colt 45.

"No thanks," I replied, waving off her offer. "I appreciate the thought, though."

Clara unscrewed the cap and took a long drink of the tepid beer after looking all around to see if anyone was watching. It is illegal to drink in public here. A older lady walking into the grocery store saw Clara drinking and scowled with a menacing look upon her face.

I also saw my good friend, Ferret. He is back to his mouthwash drinking ways. The dollar store has mouthwash for $1.25 a bottle. They have gone up .25 cents, no doubt due to the amount Ferret purchases. One large bottle will get you completely blitzed. I am sad to report that I have drank it as well in the throes of my alcoholism -- an act of addictive desperation, so I cannot judge Ferret too harshly.

"I'm broke," Ferret said when I asked him why he was back to drinking mouthwash. "I can drink for days off of just five bucks. Five bucks won't even buy you a good six pack of beer. You sure as hell can't get drunk off of a six pack. A bottle of that mouthwash will fuck your ass up."

I sighed, worried. Ferret is my friend and I hate to see him abusing his body in such a way.

"I'm starving and broke," Ferret finally told me rubbing his belly. "Could we walk down to the diner to get something to eat? I'll pay you back next week."

"You coming?" I asked as I turned to Rosa.

"You two go ahead," she said. "I am talking to Clara."

Ferret and me walked down to Merl's diner to get a burger and fries which is just across the parking lot from the shopping center. I was starving as well. We took our seats and I was amused when Ferret ordered two huge burgers.

"Honey, are you sure you can eat all that?" the perky waitress asked Ferret.

"I could eat three," Ferret replied, grinning furiously.

I worried that Merl would say something about Ferret's condition. He reeked of body odor and hadn't had a shower in weeks. A dirty, tattered t-shirt hung off his back and dirt stains adorned his khaki pants. He smelled of stale beer and mouthwash. He looked and smelled like your stereotypical homeless man -- like some wildman who emerged from the woods after being lost for months.

"We've got to find you a place to live," I told Ferret as we ate our delicious burgers, sitting at a back corner table.

"Don't worry about me," Ferret replied nonchalantly. "I actually like living in my tent by the river. I don't want a home. Fuck that shit."

"It's about to get cold, though," I said of winter, warning him. "You're going to freeze your ass off."

"I'm not going to go live back with Monte," Ferret said brusquely of George's cousin. "That nigger ain't tellin' me what to do any longer. He drove me crazy. Always wanting money from me."

Ferret and I finished eating and we parted ways as he headed across the highway back to his woods and his tent to take a nap, satiated. I can't help but envy my homeless friend sometimes. His life is so visceral and raw. So real. I feel like an imposter living my life with little hardships -- an easy life on easy street. I still feel a need to atone for the sins of my former way of living.

"You always get melancholy when you spend time with Ferret," Rosa told me as we rode our bikes home late in the afternoon.

"I envy him of his life," I said dodging traffic not wanting to say more knowing it would worry Rosa.

Rosa didn't say anything in return and it was a quiet ride up 5th avenue to home. Rosa wrapped me up in her arms on my couch as we watched The Weather Channel upon arriving. I talked to her about going camping to get this wanderlust and homelessness urge out of me.

"I don't know what I am going to do about Dad and my medications, though," I told her of my stumbling block to why I never go camping anymore.

"I will talk to him when he comes over tonight," Rosa replied.

I thanked her and held her close as we watched Mike Slidel talk of the disturbance in the gulf. I grew excited that we may get some interesting weather perfect to go camping in. The more adverse, the better as far as I am concerned. Rosa smiled and told me that I should have been a meteorologist. I agreed.

Alive like a Presence

The little park where I like to sit on my nightly walk has a heartbeat, I swear it does. When I walk at night restlessly, unable to sleep, the park calls out to me. I walk to calm myself -- to wait for my mind to grow calm and my heart to grow at ease. I can almost hear it -- there somewhere deep in the trees, a pulse, a vibration. It feels alive like a presence -- the stalwart old oaks guarding the park like some silent sentinels. Keepers to the gate of my fortress of solitude.

Early this morning found me sitting in that park -- the chilly early fall air causing me to bundle up in my fleece pullover. The heartbeat of these comforting surroundings could be felt as I drank a cup of hot and aromatic coffee and thought. Maybe my senses were heightened. I would like to think it is not my schizophrenia gilding me -- that my heightened senses have a tangible and real connection to this cherished place. A higher plane of existence. Maybe not everyone would be aware of it, maybe you have to be stripped of almost everything before you would be -- torn of your humanity by a mental illness and alcoholism to feel a tangible connection with something so esoteric.

I finally put a finger on my sadness and restlessness I have been experiencing of late. The dates of my ex-wife's birthday and our wedding anniversary are soon approaching. Haunting memories of those dark times dance in my head as I think of what could be and what could have been -- the deep gash that's there through everything. I knew all along, have just been trying to ignore it. It makes me feel old and tired as if I have already lived a full life -- a life full of memories and past regrets. That's probably what this huge, dragging tiredness is about too, trying to blot it all out. I just want to lay down and go to sleep -- to stop feeling, and to stop running, and to rest my weary heart and head.

I had a dream last night that Rosa and I got married. It was a happy and joyous occasion. My family was supportive. A huge party was thrown afterwards with my brother and sister congratulating me and hugging me. Rosa looked so beautiful in her wedding dress -- the veil over her face as she told me, "I do." The dark memories of my own failed past marriage were assuaged by the happy memories of this comforting dream. An omen foretelling of what's to come? I do hope so to one day consecrate this living arrangement we have. To make it official that Rosa and I are an item and not just a common law occurrence. Dreams such as this are best cherished and held closely and dearly. Far too often nightmares inhabit my mentally ill addled brain. Just like that little park by the abandoned cotton mill, Rosa's heartbeat can be felt and calls out to me. I just have to reach out beyond my fears and let her in. I try harder everyday to be the man I know I can be -- a man she will love and cherish and spend a lifetime building happy memories with. It gives me hope for tomorrow.

I arrived home from my walk to fix breakfast, mouth watering, tormented with thoughts of food: scrambled eggs...crisp fried smoky bacon...slices of Colby, buttered toast...milky and sweet coffee...Saturdays, I eat like a king. Satiated, I curled up on the couch with my Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book -- the bible of A.A. "How to get sober is in these pages," an old timer had said holding up his copy of said book at last night's meeting. I sat glaring out the window wistfully in between passages as a squirrel tussled with a morsel and black birds on their migration route covered the yard like some black, teeming mass. I thought of all the things I have heard said in A.A. meetings about getting and staying sober. It made me feel tired -- too tired to carry on. I wanted a softer and easier way. Such thoughts would cause my A.A. friends to balk. It is just I have fought so long and hard and am battle weary and tired. I no longer want to struggle.

It was so cold this morning that I turned on the heat. It's comforting warmth soon enveloping me in it's embrace. Homeless thoughts entered my head -- thoughts of all those bone chillingly cold mornings I spent curled up in my tent in my down sleeping bag. I don't think my hands and feet were warm for six months straight. "Don't take these things for granted," I told myself of my good fortune as I looked in the mirror and shaved. I looked so tired and weary. I almost didn't recognize the man staring back at me. It was if I was staring at a stranger looking back with sad eyes and weathered lines upon his face -- each line telling a story. A storied past best not revisited today. I am off to find something positive to do and some past time to get lost in on this Saturday. No mental illnesses. No alcoholism. No failed marriages. I don't want to be defined by those things any longer.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Late but Present

I went running out the door with a sandwich and diet coke in hand. I was starving. "Your forgetting your wallet," Rosa called out after me. I had five minutes to make it to the 7 p.m. A.A. meeting. I walked in the door of the meeting hall just as the chairman opened up the floor for everyone to talk. I took my seat and settled in to listen ten minutes late. I didn't want to go to this meeting at all.

"I wanted to drink all day," a young lady said. "I kept telling myself one day at a time. I only have to go one day without drinking. I don't have to worry about tomorrow. Thank you all for being here for me."

The room erupted in "keep coming back" and "thanks for sharing". We went around the room until it was my time to share.

"Hi. I'm Andrew and I am an alcoholic," I started. "I wanted a drink all day as well. I struggled my ass off. So many times I almost drove down to Fat Albert's to buy a case of beer. I have so much free time on my hands that it drives me crazy. I get stir-crazy. I tell myself that a few drinks will make me feel better -- will pass the time. Anyways, I didn't want to come tonight and they say that is when you most need a meeting. So, here I am. Thanks for giving me a safe place to come to and I am sorry I was late."

Keep coming back and it works if you work it.

I left the meeting feeling one hundred percent better. A calm washed over me and I drove home content after struggling all damn day. I didn't want to go and my going saved my ass today. Just hearing other people share about their trials with alcohol seems to disarm your own urge to drink.

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is just twelve simple steps -- a guide for alcoholics to live by. Why then do they seem so daunting? I am still struggling with step one -- admitting we were powerless over alcohol. I will just continue to take it one day at time because that is all I have. Today.