Day 4: Courage Before Drowning

I am, of late, wrung between a fugue of creative energy and a drizzly November of the soul (—Melville), and this is a dangerous place for me, I know.

I tried, yesterday, calling a close friend to unburden myself but couldn’t find the courage. I am a coward of words and feelings and it has often led me into shadow. I had him on the phone — he was out for groceries at the time — and we spoke for a few minutes, made plans for Sunday. Then, when I was supposed to speak, to say, “I need your ear,” I failed. It’s boggling how a man — heart racing, hands shaking but courage is to act in the face of fear — can rush into a fight but quail before a few simple words.

Today a different friend called and I tried unburdening myself to her. I was more courageous then but only because she took the conversation from me and let what was unsaid bear me on.

I don’t think I will be able to speak my heart here. Ha. Have you ever met a writer afraid to write before?

The truth is I found myself — unexpectedly, surprisingly — happy at that rehab. My former therapist told me I do well in those types of places because I need structure imposed. He was a fucking idiot. I am an elemental of chaos, the lambent drippings of primordial entropy made manifest, given sentience, and I do well amidst chaos. I wasn’t happy at the rehab because they woke me when I was supposed to be woken or herded me when I was supposed to be herded or set me out to graze when the pasture was green. I was happy there because I was among my own, because the halls teemed with elemental chaos going about on two legs, because a surfeit of wild, creative energy ran in those halls like a river in flood, because I touched minds with men and women and found that among them I belonged. In that rehab I was more than a man, I was a leader — first among equals — others looked to me and I served them gladly. I am no leader out here. The chaos is too strong in me.

There are, I’ve observed, many addicts like me. Addicts crushed under a torrent of creative, chaotic energy; unable to stopper that energy, having only the white-knuckle hope of shaping it, many of us fall to booze, drugs and other addictions. Many of us are brilliant, especially as artists, but consumed by a creative power — a creative curse! — greater than ourselves. We live, in sobriety, being torn apart at every moment, tattered, haunted, drowned. We can never master the torrential flow but only hope to ride its surge, which is no simple thing. We often fail to ride. That’s when I’ve turned to fear, despondency, isolation, depression, mundanity and eventually a needle.

That’s where I sit even now. Fraught in one extreme by that drizzly November where I miss those people inside; alone because I am bereft of an outer, sympathetic chaos. And in the other extreme I am struggling for air even as the storm-surge of creativity pulls me under. I sit and I think and it seems my heart will come asunder. I sit and I write and it seems my fingers will break. I sit still and I am threatened with drowning and I wish I were drowned. This sobriety shit ain’t easy.

When I began this blog I first posted on the Wasteland. That was the desert of the real (—Morpheus) through which I trudged this summer. It was empty and vast and cracked by a mud-sun. Today I can say, with pride, that I’ve found my way through and no longer make my nights under the starless skies, no longer drink sand from a canteen. I am reborn but no easier is this path now than that was then. No, on the contrary, the wasteland was an escape! I hid in the wasteland from the torture of chaos unchecked.

I am hiding no longer and the path now is far harder than it was in the wasteland. Here there is overgrown earth, little light, and a wood ranked close with trees that have no love for things that go on two legs. Here the starry sky has too many answers. Here the gloom before and behind fills your mind with the insecurity of specters past and ghosts to come. Here you can wish all you want and the wishing is never the thing itself and, unlike the wasteland, there is not even the consolation of delirium and madness.

Here even elemental chaos is filled with horrifying freedom.

What’s to be done? Just now I’m writing this missive, hoping that my fingers will work out on this keyboard the longing and the loss. Tomorrow I’ll make a meeting (AA). Tomorrow afternoon I’ll see friends and screw up my courage. But when I’m done here I can only imagine a quiet night with a troubled heart.

It won’t last; a smile leaps up to my face when I think that. I’ll make it through Sunday and then there will be people — chaoslings from the inside — to see in the days that follow. Here’s a post for today, there may be another for tomorrow, and every day I ride this surge just a bit better than the day before. Soon and very soon I’ll have the mastery to shape it to my will.

And in the meanwhile is the hard work of sobriety. A day at a time, like they keep telling me. One foot in front of the other. I beat one urge today, I’ll beat another tomorrow. The world turns, the moon revolves, the sun recedes, the waves of fate wash over us all, bobbing on the sea of time-space, flotsam in the dreams of the gods, and I go on.


About Ask Liesmith

All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken. From the shadows a light shall spring. Renewed shall be blade that was broken. The crownless again shall be king. (---J.R.R. Tolkien)
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