The first thing I had to do was quit drinking. I’d left my job, moved to Europe and stopped doing yoga. There was no congruence between doing yoga and getting drunk. One was a union of body and mind, the other a dismemberment. Drinking every day, you become the drink and it becomes you. My therapist said that at some point you just have to decide if your life is worth living. It was in a sense and in another, not. A lifelong decline wasn’t so bad if I could still drink. On the other hand, reclaiming my former self meant I could write more clearly. That self saw the beauty in all things, saw art in the most banal. You didn’t have to imagine, you just had to see. Painters could evoke feeling out of anything, even shapes, Rothko had proven that. It just made you feel a certain way. As an artist you had to see the world clearly in order to convey it. If yoga sharpened the senses, drinking had the opposite effect. A way to not feel by way of removal.
But if you attach yourself to that pattern and keep removing yourself, parts of you disappear too. It’s like a form of erosion, it wears down the surface. Bathing myself in brandy at Christmas or the “November is Scotch month” tradition. Knowing every morning how the day would end and knowing that was wrong but not caring. The sideways glance in the mirror when an inner voice cried out for help, how easy it is to ignore when you’re the only one hearing it. The drinker’s death is slow and absolute, a soul death, drawing everyone around it into the same orbit.
Since I quit drinking my dreams are becoming clearer. Last night I dreamt about drinking for the first time since I quit. It was night, and I was at a street fair in Europe. I had a hot air balloon strapped to my back that buoyed me up into the air but I wasn’t sure how to maneuver it, I kept bouncing up and down, hitting people in the crowd. I realized I had a couple bottles of liquor I was trying to hold in one hand without dropping. When I took a swig it lifted me up, it made me fly! I felt that dream sense of flying and lifted higher above the crowd. And it carried me for a ways, then far away, where there were no people and it was getting light. I stopped on a raised platform and got off. I didn’t feel bad about drinking and didn’t crave for it. I just felt the exhilaration of flying. Maybe drinking was like that.
Since I cut my beard off and lost weight I’m cold all the time and have to wear layers. At dusk all the Christmas lights come on at the houses along the streets and sometimes fog forms, blurring the lights. I count the weeks I’ve been sober the way you might a newborn, until one day you stop tracking it like that. There is nothing to be sad about and nothing lost. There is yoga every morning and a slow sharpening of the senses, dead selves falling away in dreams.