Of Faust, Anniversaries, and Another Sober Night

Today is 366.

That marks the third time I can write that.  In fact, I’ve written it here before.  I haven’t read that post in some years now–I appreciate the hopefulness and the blush of reality.  And the McKagan quote, but that is practically a given.

My last drink, this time, I scarcely remember.  I mean, I remember the night (which is saying something for last year), and I know it was finishing off a bottle of Jameson, but that’s partially because I planned it that way, and it doesn’t have the sway and quality of the wine I mentioned in 2007 in my memory.  It was just another drink.   I couldn’t get drunk to save my life–despite polishing off several bottles of various types (it is a wonder I could move on the 28th, given the variety of the night before) before finishing the Jameson (and that was nearly half a bottle).

I went into the night knowing exactly what I intended to do. I felt nothing physically.  Emotionally, I was devastated.  I was once again at the same crossroad, only this time the threats (oh you Faustian bargains) were far more palpable.  I wasn’t going to live through this.  It wasn’t just a matter of sanity (though that was well in question too).  I was dying. If I may borrow from my favorite literary trope, I could hear Mephistopheles–and he was not wearing the poodle suit (what follows is from Historia):

And it came to pass between twelve and one 0′ clock in the night that a great blast of wind stormed against the house, blustering on all sides as if the inn and indeed the entire neighborhood would be torn down. The students fell into a great fear, got out of their beds and came together to comfort one another, but they did not stir out of their chamber. The innkeeper went running out of the house, however, and he found that there was no disturbance at all in any other place than his own. The students were lodged in a chamber close by the rooms of Doctor Faustus, and over the raging of the wind they heard a hideous music, as if snakes, adders and other serpents were in the house. Doctor Faustus’ door creaked open. There then arose a crying out of Murther! and Help! but the voice was weak and hollow, soon dying out entirely.

When it was day the students, who had not slept this entire night, went into the chamber where Doctor Faustus had lain, but they found no Faustus there. The parlor was full of blood. Brain clave unto the walls where the Fiend had dashed him from one to the other. Here lay his eyes, here a few teeth. O it was a hideous spectaculum. Then began the students to bewail and beweep him, seeking him in many places. When they came out to the dung heap, here they found his corpse. It was monstrous to behold, for head and limbs were still twitching.

Ah, to bewail and beweep.

For as much as I loved the taste of whiskey, I hated that night.  I hated it that night.  I hated that I couldn’t feel anything anymore.  I should have been in a blackout, but I wasn’t so blessed.  I packed off to bed and awoke with another ferocious hangover (that I felt) and went to work.  I hated myself. And wondered if anyone noticed.

Day 1 was just like normal, tinged though it was with a death’s anniversary (and, no, it didn’t escape my attention that December 28, 2010 was the one year anniversary of the Rev’s death.  It felt, actually, weirdly appropriate).  Except that I wouldn’t go home and drink that night.  Or the next. And one day (hour, minute) at a time, I put together 366 again.

I blogged on Day 2, sounding remarkably rational, quoting Knapp (whose book sits in my office now):

I sometimes think of alcoholics as people who’ve elevated [the search for a fix] to an art form or a religion, filling the emptiness with drink, chasing drink after drink, sometimes killing themselves in the effort.  They may give up liquor, but the chase is harder to stop. That’s why you hear people in AA meetings talk about thinking or acting alcoholically long after they’ve put down their last drink. The search for an external solution goes on: I want something.  I need something. “My husband is acting like an idiot,” a woman said at a meeting not long ago.  “I have to remember that the solution is not ‘Get a new husband’.” (61)

Did I mention the whole Faust parallel yet? Seeking.  Always seeking.

Day 366 was pretty normal too–at least this version of normal.  Awakened with no hangover (yeah!) and joint pain (not so yeah), went to work.  Annoyed colleagues and cleaned my office (hey, the network was down).  Came home and annoyed the dog.

Yep, this is certainly what passes for normal around here.

Save for this:  got honest with my boss.  I make no particular secret about me, my addictions, and my sobriety–my students link to this blog, and I talk openly, when appropriate, with some colleagues and students.  But not with my boss (well, one of them), though her assistant knows.  I owned up when showing off my new tattoo (in celebration of 365), and she asked if it was a Christmas present.  It seemed the right moment to be honest with her.  She’s perhaps the first person I’ve told who would really have been surprised (I guess–it felt that way), so that was…weird.

But, good.  One more step.  One more night the demons are kept at bay.

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3 responses to “Of Faust, Anniversaries, and Another Sober Night

  1. Well done, my friend.

  2. That’s extraordinarily brave of you. And although you’ve more than established your comptency there, it makes me happy that you work in an institution that for the most part gives you permission to not create the artifice of hyper-compartmentalization.
    What matters most is you have the natural talent of not just walking with your skeletons, but waltzing with them :).

    Thumbs up to you. Happy Holidays.

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