The dismemberment plan

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.



Categories: identity, writing

Tags: , ,

17 replies

  1. A lifelong decline wasn’t so bad if I could still drink. I know this one well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful piece, Bill. It kind of glows from within, even though some of the content is tough.

    Your therapist actually said that? Woah!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I can relate. Well done, sir. Keep on keepin’ on. I used to have terrible nightmares when I drank. I didn’t realize they were connected to the drinking until they stopped when the drinking stopped. Certain spiritual traditions say that drinking opens up the body/mind for evil spirits to enter. Hence the word “spirits.” Or so some say.

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    • Hey thanks for that! You’re an inspiration! I like that thing about the spirits. I think about some stuff you’ve said on this topic often, thank you for the encouragement.

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  4. Drinking dreams are weird. For me, I interpret them as a manifestation of guilt, just another bit of subconscious anxiety to deal with.
    I wish I could say I sleep better without drink. I think I do. But sleeping gets worse with age anyway. (Ditto being cold all the time.) Also: still have pets.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Drinking, ya that scene is bad news for some and I’d categorize myself in that bunch. I was never has productive as I could have been when I was drinking. I also found it to be such a waste of money. When I quit drinking (over 6 years ago now) I found a lot more clarity in my life and I am happier now then I was when I was drinking. I never even drank that much to be honest, but the times I did go out, I’d really get it going haha. Anyhow, I’m glad to hear you gave it up and I hope you find the happiness and clarity I know is coming your way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Feeling your senses sharpening actually sounds pretty great. I appreciate the clarity and honesty of your posts. I hear you on feeling cold all the damn time. Could have something to do with living near Lake Michigan in the winter I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Living near Lake Michigan eh? That will do it, is it frozen over yet? Does it freeze over? I bet. One year I was in Pittsburgh I swear the Monongahela River froze. Seems impossible but I think it did. Thanks for that kind note and happy the clarity and honesty resonates, truly appreciate your readership and friendship Robert. Be well…

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  7. Extraordinary dream, Bill and a truly thought provoking piece. Thank you.
    Of several thoughts I had, I’ll admit to two. First, the night when I said to my first wife during our drive home after drinking three bottles of wine each, plus some beer and Port, “If you don’t speed at this time of night, the Police will know you’ve been drinking” is probably the one that started me thinking about moderation, but only after years of basking in the clarity and audacity of that self-delusional justification. The other thought concerns smoking, when a little voice inside my head said, ‘You’ll never have to smoke again if you say “No” now’ upon being offered a cigarette by a drinking buddy after I had returned from a holiday that had involved no smoking for three weeks. I liked that – a sound decision maker emerging from the subconscious to assert its ascendancy at last.
    Deadly selves falling away slowly, if you will allow me to bend your extraordinary last line.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David! What a story, there! Wow! I get that twisted logic, for sure. Happy it resonated and thank you for bending the last line, I like that “twist,” so to speak…here’s to clarity! Bill

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  8. The writing is delicious and touching all the human senses. Absolutely amazing, Bill. When did you stop drinking? Dreams are so true and embedded in our sub consciousness for made several personal experiences with dreams right before my Dad passed away and the new job I got while being unemployed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Vishal, sorry to hear about your dad passing away…To answer your question, I quit drinking in early October. So it’s relatively new but a welcome change. Doing yoga every morning is really helping me focus better and I’ve lost a lot of weight in a short time! I’m happy you liked the writing, thanks for letting me know and for being such a loyal reader, I appreciate it. Bill

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