I Never Shut Up

Cleverly Disguised As A Responsible Adult

What Moves You ?

Posted by christ davis on December 9, 2007

A man in our recovery home came in a month ago half dead. This is not hyperbole; pancreatitis, liver damage, out of control blood sugar levels, ulcers. During a trip to hospital 5 liters of fluid were drained off. Last week he was drinking again.

Another man, 36 years old, died earlier this year. In the five years that I knew him he drank himself into intensive care 6 times, lost at least that many jobs and ravaged his body. He was sober for 2 1/2 years when he died, but had done so much damage that his body was unable to cope.

Another that I knew for nearly as long refused, ( or was unable ) to apply himself to changing his thinking and behavior. The first suicide attempt- disemboweling- failed. The second did not.

Another lived here for two years. Three days after he moved out, he was dead on his new living room floor.

Another, who had alternated between being a talented and respected drug counselor and a desperate crackhead, finally threw himself in the river one night because he could not do what he encouraged other addicts to do.

Another threw himself off of a bridge; he was a drug counselor, too.

All of these men also had a significant mental illness, which exacerbated their addictions and made it so much more difficult to stay clean. As so often happens with people with mental illnesses, their medications enabled them to stabilize, which state they often interpreted as permanent and no longer requiring the medications to maintain. I have done this myself more times than I remember.  The inevitable return to compulsive drug or alcohol abuse then reinforces the assumption that their problem is essentially out of their control.

I don’t want to give the impression that every man I have met with a significant mental illness  has failed. There are several who have stable lives now, including me. I wandered, I should say wallowed, in my internal nether-world for years. I knew that there was no alternative for me. Sleeping outside in sub-zero temperatures, eating out of restaurant dumpsters, gathering the dregs from fifty bottles in a tavern recycling bin, into one, in order to get drunk, stitches and/or staples, ennui of cosmic proportions. None of this was enough to make me want to break out of the trap. One day, after a 5 or 6 day meth run, I fell down for a couple hours on a sidewalk. When I sat up I looked around and saw that someone had made a halo of crumpled newspaper around my head and lit it. The paper was too damp ( San Francisco near the bay ) to catch. It was only singed around the halo. When I saw this I felt nothing- no fear, anger, nausea, amusement. The idea that someone tried to make my head a candle wick was only interesting for the lack of a response from me. That morning marked the beginning of my climb out of the Pit. About three months later I was sober.

Anyone with major depression knows that the medications merely suppress the darkness, and not always successfully. My days are often a trial. I have a purpose and enjoy my job, but any morning, meds or not I could wake up in the teeth of the black dogs, as a memoir I read called it. Whatever I accomplish on those days is done by rote, the result of habit and routine. I truly have no idea why I have kept at it all these years. As hard to understand is why others with much more desperate situations than I can’t seem to save themselves. Other than this brain of mine, I really did not have to contend with anything really desperate. I feel some nominal compassion for them, I empathize with their travail. But they are a deep mystery to me. I am too long an atheist to fool myself into belief at this stage, but I imagine that an inability to figure out what the fuck is going on in another’s mind, let alone in their own, is an impetus for people turning to gods.

I have no idea if this will make sense to anyone. I doubt it will be read by more than a few. It is more of an exercise for myself at this point. Writing for publication forces me to be honest. In our heads we convince ourselves of all sorts of high tech bullshit.


One Response to “What Moves You ?”

  1. stardust said

    What you have written makes sense to me. Though I put on a nice “facade” for everyone, I struggle with depression every day. I know what you mean when you say ” medications merely suppress the darkness, and not always successfully.”
    My writing keeps me going. My journals are who I talk to.

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