Joyless, “A Map made in the Spirits of Ancestors”

Sunday, Jan 18, 2015

Sunday morning: Yesterday night was probably my least destructive and most destructive so far. Everything at work went smoothly; I was even able to decline the offered cigarette. However, when I arrived home, I went straight to my small stash of low-proof liqueurs, (most of them samples of new things), and downed two of the cream liqueur ounce-size bottles. Then it was video games until bed, which came at 11:30pm as church lurks in the early morning.

I don’t know what came over me. When I left work, I was in a decent mood; closing went well, no real aggravations on the five-minute trip home… But the very second I entered my house I was hell-bent on these activities. What caused that abrupt shift?

Outside of that, there was no television, food (at all!); I went to bed the instant that I felt that I had enough media, although soberly I would have shot for 11:00pm, since the 6:30am wake up alarm for church comes pretty quickly.

I can’t be too mad. I can’t expect to give up everything and hope it sticks and if I let my emotions run high, I’ll just remember all the times I used booze to quell them in the past, which will put me towards the want of whiskey again. I have some successes here, day-by-day; and it is only day five. It would be outrageous to find everything back in order that quickly.

On that note, the current problem is this: I’m about to go to the grocery store and get a few things, most notably the generic energy supplement. I don’t really need this. If one believes the hype, it is only a small dosage of caffeine so the headache that will follow the withdrawal of not having it will be small… or even  psychosomatic. The day at work should be the slowest of the week, with ample time to do any and all tasks, no extra energy needed. So why do I think that I do need this?

The simplest answer I can find (in my own example) is one fateful early Wednesday shift, I bought one after a long, sleepless night and the influx of vitamins was better than the coffee I was drinking. It must’ve felt good. I must have. Maybe the workload was small that day, so it seemed like I was doing everything faster… with power to spare! I can’t fully say how it started, but I’ve gotten used to that energy boost for the workday. Tomorrow on my off day, I won’t have the need for the supplement and I know that without taking it, by 8-9:00pm I’ll have a terrible headache.

This is another thing that must be overcome, another source of artificial stimulation. I did start with the “regular” strength, but I moved onto the “extra” when I found it at the grocery store.

I have to remember that all of this is moving in steps, baby steps at that. Trying too much and/or expecting too much is one of the many paths to complete failure, so the greater focus at this time should be on my sister’s map.

If I had to guess at the connection between the sudden urge to drink and whatever trigger(s), it would have to be my sister’s map. The map is a Christmas gift, now three weeks late; a custom-job of the Southern Indian Peninsula, circa 212-112BC. I can’t be totally sure why she asked for this, but the project has been a creative boost for me, though it is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, too.

The map has challenged some of the things that I was reasoning out on my own, mostly locations, so it has become a useful mechanism for checking my data and fixing those errors. That part is stressful enough, but the actual cartography is pretty tough, too. I’m using an old (1981) topographic map as a guideline, since the relief of mountains (important) and hills (mega-important) is well defined.

I’m drawing the map on glossy poster board, so I ruled out tracing anything. With free-hand, I think I did well, but the problem was that I was over-thinking. I would look at the topographic map then at the poster board; back to the map, then the board; back and forth, adding a line every 10 minutes. It was slow, excruciating work made all the more palpable by the fact that there is no well-lit work surface anywhere in the house. Or any work surface for that matter.

I don’t know how it began, but eventually I had the excuse to drink a shot of whiskey to relax. I may not have even been working on the map, just thinking about it. After the shot (or two), I was calm and just blundered through putting the landmass on the board. It still took a while – it’s a large project, but with a shot every forty minutes (on this particular day) I managed to accomplish a lot without over-thinking every step.

By the time I was copying the rivers, I had a glass of whiskey beside me to take cautious sips from. Originally, I knew that not all of the water bodies would have been carved out in the near-ancient past, so I was just going to focus on the main rivers that I had ancient accounts of.

I forgot this idea since I was drinking. Now, every body of water is present, whether existent in the past or not. I can’t say it doesn’t look better this way; it’ll somehow be a vague representation of the modern-day Southern Indian Peninsula (which won’t be so bad, since a lot of those structures and cities are still there to this day) and I’ll only label the stuff I have the records for. But, if you consider the scale, they all also have MILES of sandy beaches extending inland. I don’t think that’s correct, either.

To return to the problem, once I began drinking to work on the map, every time I worked on the map, I had to drink. If I didn’t have booze in the house, I wouldn’t even think of working on the map; instead intent on ignoring any other creative objective and then falling prey to media and making further flimsy excuses to disregard to whole day.

This is the danger that tomorrow brings. Without work to interrupt my day, I have the history of occupying my time with every leisure activity in the world, but that isn’t really what I want to do. Boredom and frustration will play a large role in this, but there’s no liquor in the house and I can’t obtain any on a Sunday. Even with that solved, I have to overcome that a slow-pace day at work will want to see me outside with a fresh pack of cigarettes. Sunday’s have been notorious for picking the habit back up because there’s just nothing else to do.

It’s easy to ignore the temptation if you’re so busy you can’t leave to smoke anyway.

That bored feeling, if I overcome it today, will be present in duplicate tomorrow. There isn’t much to offer myself by way of distraction, either. Just this logbook of madness, the map, or any other creative thing I should be doing. Or something new that doesn’t have to have any of my addictions tied to it. I’d believe that’s what the “experts” would recommend, some sort of new hobby or goal outside of recovery and/or writing/drawing under the influence.

I don’t know. The slow day at work is still ahead of me. I’ve taken to just not carrying any money so I can’t buy a pack of cigarettes even if I start foaming at the mouth. It helps to think about that instead of the fact that my credit is good enough that I could pay for it at work the next day. I’ll have to see. What’s worse, I’ve made tentative plans with an old drinking buddy, though on the grounds that we’ve both given up alcohol. Boy, change is in the air!

Sarcasm aside, it will be interesting to see how badly it stirs up the feelings to drink when I see him and whether or not he’s off the sauce, too. If not, then I can probably guarantee that I’ll have a shot or two; since I know this, I’m going to try to steel myself against it, perhaps using the dull drudgery of tedium as a means of distraction (…;).


Justin Lehman

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