Joyless, “A Cruel, Cold Salad at a Bitter Banquet”

Wednesday, Jan 21, 2015

Wednesday evening: Yes, that’s right; a span of some 50+ hours has passed. Did I behave in that absence? Well, the short answer is “no;” the long answer, a much more resounding “no!”

Sunday, before work, I struggled with the energy supplement problem, then the slow-pace leading to smoking, and finally, the touchy subject of an old drinking buddy coming to the fore. I never heard from my friend that night, so I never had to face those feelings and I could agree that it may be too early in the recovery process to tempt that.

But, even though that resolved peacefully, the day at work did drag on. I didn’t buy a pack of cigarettes, I’m happy to say. That’s my continued victory; the problem is with the caffeine.

I drank the energy shot, but found I developed a yawning problem. I now consider this to be two things – a tolerance to the energy supplement and my brain not getting enough oxygen. I don’t know which it might have been (or both!), but at the time, my addict-mind let me think it was BECAUSE I WAS TIRED! I know I don’t sleep well, but I certainly didn’t work myself to exhaustion, so now that the event has passed, I can see how flimsy the excuse was. I drank another energy shot and when the yawning remained, then convinced myself to have a cup of coffee because there was some made and I didn’t want it to go to waste.

I can’t believe I never thought twice about any of that. Even more impressive is with all that coffee, caffeine, and boredom I managed to avoid cigarettes. I had that fleeting thought, too, when I bought the second energy shot, that I was spending my cigarette money so I couldn’t buy any. That might’ve helped convince myself that I didn’t need to think about it anymore, because I didn’t.

I didn’t bounce off the walls, either; almost as if all that stimulation had an antipodal effect, which I would believe. Eating a ton still remains a concern. With nothing to curb my appetite (other than caffeine), it’s even more rampant than before. Being so-saturated with all that high-intensity nonsense saw me up until 3am again, (with the same yawning!), eating, eating, eating…

Monday I awoke, already sugar-crashed, heavy-lidded heavy-bodied, around 9am. I had the thought to forego any and all caffeine over my weekend off from work to make up for yesterday’s failure. I knew a headache was coming – it was unavoidable after yesterday. Knowing it was coming, I reasoned it would just be best to avoid stimulants the whole day and suffer through the whole thing.

Minutes later, I was out of bed; pottied, stretched, fed the cat, cup of coffee in hand, laundry ready to go, computer commandeered and flash-based video games in front of me.

I didn’t even have that “what?!” moment where I realized something had gone wrong for, maybe, two hours, which included the rest of my routine: the second cup of coffee, the vitamins, continued media use… I keep having this thought about how amazed I am that I can keep doing these things “unconsciously.” It’s the force of habit; it really is. It’s become muscle memory, and outside of certain food-prep, I really wish I had memory in my muscles for more practical purposes than this.

The headache never really hit me in full on Monday. As I expected it, I did nothing progressive; I played video games and I took a nap. I avoided television until the evening, which is a habit I already have. Already on the computer, I didn’t even need it on, but it had to be there for background, since the video games weren’t interesting enough.

And I kept trying to have that thought louder. That everything I was doing was boring and I needed to do something else. I never figured out what that something was so I never told myself what to do. It didn’t matter anyway; I was lost (fully) by the time I needed the television in the early evening. The really amazing thing is that I didn’t buy any cigarettes at the store, but I attribute that to still being “strong” at that time and then later unwilling to go to the store twice in one day. Saved by laziness, I guess.

Tuesday was just as bad. I even felt the creative itch try to force itself out of me, but as I was up long into the night looking at mindlessness and eating all the while, I couldn’t muster the strength. More, I didn’t want to have to admit to any of the bad behavior I had been involved in, even though the admission is just to my Self and I already know. It is depressing and I felt ashamed, guilty of betrayal against that Self, which I interpret more as my “future” since I will improve in no way until I overcome these things. How do you make amends there?

I never figured that out, either. Already in a bad mood, weak from constant abuse of media and metabolites the day before, Tuesday began with my cup of coffee in hand and the computer in my lap. This more than proved to me that if anything remains in my system, it will lead to further use; more than true for media.

I wiled away my time with flash games until I had that “snap” that signals further weakness. I had gone too long with the computer and no cigarette. I had seen too much, moused too much, solved too many tiny riddles without another constant friend that I had to have. But that wasn’t all.

I had been hooked by the gamesite to pay for one of the games, so my real plan was to go to the grocery store and get a prepaid debit card to use for internet gaming and throw in a pack of cigarettes for good luck. I mean, there had to be more use for a grocery store check-out lane than just a single item, right? I was really ready to renew all the damage completely and really “enjoy” myself. If I had even more forethought, I might have had a bottle of pinot grigio, too.

It bears mentioning that I saw my grandmother off to the airport early Tuesday morning, so she and her related responsibilities were out of my mind completely. For that reason, I should have been stress-free. I mean, it was the middle of the day and I had elected to remain in my bathrobe and sweats, there was no need for cigarettes or booze or pay-to-play video games. None.

Since I had to take the extra step to get dressed, I was able to have this thought. It hit me before I put on my socks, the “What am I doing?!” And that was that. The cat was on the bed, so I woke him up and scratched his head and put my robe back on and made some lunch. I didn’t think anything of this at the time, other than the constant disgust that I almost undid everything, that after a week I was ready to be back to a destructively distractive routine.

That anger still couldn’t carry me away from media and it didn’t make me feel any more inclined in the want to admit that I had even gone through any of this, on paper or otherwise.

Last night ended earlier than usual, before 1am. I didn’t even think about caffeine; I don’t believe I even admonished myself for drinking it in the morning so focused was I on getting back on the computer.

When I woke up today, it was completely different mindset. Since I knew there was no time for anything before work, I only had time to shave and shower and obsess about everything that had gone wrong over my weekend.

But, for some reason, I called a friend of mine. I don’t know why this morning. I had been trying to get ahold of her for a while with no success, so I had entertained myself by leaving the most rambling (I tried to make them humorous…) messages I could on her voicemail. I was preparing my intro while the phone rang on her end. She picked up, shocking the hell out of me.

We had a nice exchange, about twenty minutes. In a fit of quickly-spoken frustration, I admitted to my horrible weekend of uselessness, my struggle to overcome my dependencies on pacifying myself and the tragic event where I almost ended up at the grocery store. Somehow, she saw the good in that and reminded me that stopping myself from doing that was a victory.

I don’t know why I needed someone else to say that in order for me to change my perspective on it, but I did. It worked. Granted, the rest of the weekend was flawed, but now that it’s over, I can concentrate on anything else.

I haven’t played any video games today, but I did watch some educational television – a small study in orbits and a detailed look at asteroids and comets and their (and our) future. I don’t know if this is better than video games or not, but since no program on orbits can be complete without black holes, I did have an “aha!” moment where I could apply the Multiverse Theory to our universe (something I was lacking before) in the form of the theoretical “white holes,” being openings that send forth all the swallowed matter on the other side of through the black hole (not around it). If each white hole is theorized to be the beginnings of another universe, of course the Multiverse Theory would also be true with so many estimated billions of black holes in our universe opening into so many estimated billions of theoretical universes.

I don’t know if that actually means anything, I think it’s more a desperate brain’s act of connection and thus closure on a matter it couldn’t resolve (that’s a pun) with bosonic physics, but that’s what I get for being uneducated.

I’ll also notice that not once did “reading anything” enter my mind, since video games provide every end to satisfy that need. I’m starting to realize how connected all my habits are and taking away one seems to make them all seem different somehow. I know that makes sense, because it isn’t the habit that I’ve developed, it’s the addiction I’ve developed. Cigarettes are engrained in my brain; they fight for control along that little instinctual pathway that is also probably stimulated by the far-reaching communicative properties of the internet, leading to its own addictive behavior. Naturally I would have been a sucker for the internet; I was born playing video games.

If I want to avoid video games, I’m going to have to replace them with books in my morning routine. There’s no two ways about that. That can be the time that I replace my morning coffee with tea, so that I already have something new going as a habit to replace the old. I don’t know how much healthier tea will be over coffee, but even weak coffee will drive me to want to try for a stronger cup. The end goal, eventually, nothing at all.

I can’t forget that this all has to happen in small stages, in small steps. This is the end of Week One. Even though I feel discouraged and unaccomplished in my change, maybe that is more the addiction trying to win me over so I run screaming back to that familiar numbness. It is too early to say I’ve given up anything, or that I’ve had my last anything, and despite my attitude, I think I’m doing some of these things right.

I’m collecting myself, but also some data on how I behave and think and I hope that will help arm me in the future when the cravings hit. Idle time is my downfall so I need some new, active habits. I don’t know what those can be, but if I spend my time wiling away then I’ll revert back to the same ol’ stimulatory-stupor and time-wasting.

There’s a lot of reading I need to do and thankfully, it’s in hard, non-digital book-form. I need to work on my sister’s map, although I have to be careful with that. It wasn’t solely responsible for Saturday’s lapse into the small liqueurs, but it probably does act as a trigger, too. Here’s where discipline comes in and I know I have it in me.

I have the extra help in the sense that I believe in something, too; but I think my cynicism may hinder that at times. When I can focus my thoughts a little, I’d like to try and rewrite that small article on luck and conviction. I don’t know how to connect the two yet, but there has to be something to that. And while I know I won’t change the world by divining the real answer behind “luck,” I’d like to think that I might!

Whatever goes on, the point remains that there are better uses of my time than distraction. I need to get some sticky-pads and write that in places all over the house so I’m forced to reaffirm it every time I see one. Bohr, Crichton, Einstein, Roberts – these were not men who gave themselves over to uselessness!


Justin Lehman

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