Joyless, “The Bright Light of Civilization”

Wednesday, Jan 28, 2015

I behaved almost exceptionally yesterday. I can only fathom it being because I was so (still) upset about Sunday’s massive failure. Maybe that’s a feeling I can use somehow, to keep up with that “exceptional” trend.

I’m starting to come around, maybe even revive a little. There’s some hope and I need that on a frozen January morning at 7:51am. It is the early work shift and I don’t have any dread about the day. That part is unusual. Normally, I’d be thinking about how much I’m going to have to do, or how much I’m going to be “punished” for being absent the last two days. I guess I’ve finally resigned myself to the way it is.

My thoughts aren’t clear today, but they aren’t fuzzy. It’s almost as if I have NO thoughts at all! My grandmother and I watched Secondhand Lions last night. I began the showing with a headache, but I resolved that I’d get through some of the movie before I made a cup of tea. I managed to go the whole way.

That doesn’t sound like much, but that may mean the next caffeine headache won’t be so bad. Grandma and I, we even enjoyed the movie. I did, too; after the cynical nightmare that it became the last time.

It’s the second week of no cigarettes, at least. That’s probably the only thing I’ve managed to stay off, so far, but my habits are (painfully) changing. I cast about for some sugary foodstuffs to eat last night, during a small, slightly rabid episode, but the fridge and cabinets and drawers are bare. I settled for finishing up some multigrain snack crackers, then went to bed, just after 11:00pm.

In the throes of drunkenness on Sunday, I never took my generic energy supplement. I forgot about it (mostly) over my weekend, so there’s still a bottle hanging around for today. I may see if I can go without today, even though I’ll be single-handedly responsible for restocking the store, plus whatever business comes in that has to be done. It’s a four hour shift. I should be fine.

I guess I’ll see. It has been a really frustrating morning. I wonder why it is that everything seems worse in the morning than it really is; the same being true for things seeming scarier at night.

I need to focus on something positive today. That should be part of my mantra and/or daily affirmation. I want to write something positive today. I haven’t been a part of a truly positive experience in a while, perhaps writing an ultra-romantic scenario that ends in gladness for everyone is the kind of medicine I need. I just have no idea what that would be.

After two weeks, I’m still the addict. That’ll be true the rest of my life, so it’s probably best not to dwell on that. I do have to take note of my behavior, since just “feelin’ strong” has proven that it won’t get me through the day without slipping. I need to be more aware of what’s going on internally, so that when temptation comes, when the addict-brain immediately reanimates and vies for control, I am ready. That’s not to say I can’t feel strong, too, but that same “strength” is present in the addict-brain and to forget that is to be overwhelmed by it.

I’m fond of saying “I haven’t matured since I was five.” As incredulous as it seems, this is a true statement for two powerful reasons:

1.) When I began playing video games at the age of five, it may be that similar to alcohol, the type of and repeated exposure to the kind of stimulation that video games provide caused some parts of my brain to either never develop, poorly develop, or warp completely, frontal lobe included. Since I don’t know (and love to argue), it could have happened the other way around – being tasked with the job to save the world (or the princess), I had to go from a boy to a man rather fast and so whatever instillation of maturity I garnered from video games is the only instillation of maturity I ever underwent.

2.) For a while there, my parents were social creatures, too. I guess because I was so shy (meaning quiet and too petrified to move) it was alright to bring me along or have me present in some capacity. This meant that my first real exposure to human being behavior was a group of intoxicated adults behaving as children, the way I acted already, so I never changed. I was already there. And yes, this was something that I reasoned out for myself at that tender, young age. I imagine most kids can – a survival instinct that burns brightly in a young brain so the young’un can assimilate into its society seamlessly.

And this is also not to say that my alcoholism is my parents’, their parties’, and/or their friends’ fault. Given the saturation of the stuff in our society, I would have run into alcohol soon enough. The part that may have been harmful was that I didn’t understand what alcohol was until much later in life; the gravity of it lost on me even then because I had seen alcohol since the early days. This isn’t anyone’s fault, either.

I was a curious kid and reflecting on that, I can see how annoying that must have really been. I was in everything. By age seven, I was scaring myself silly reading the stash of Stephen King books, Misery still resounding today.* I remember after so many sleepless nights that I was forbidden to read these books, but I still found them. I’m sure my parents gave up. Why fight a useless fight?

* – It also bears mentioning that I probably became somewhat addicted to stress hormones. I mean, that’s heavy stimulant. I was more than capable of pumping these out myself in social settings, but in the safety of my home, I needed something terrifying to imagine to trigger the release. I believe I still do this today.

Strangely, in all the cabinets, drawers, closets, and shelves that I rifled through, the bottles of alcohol never meant a thing to me. I was interested more in stuff that I could use, like books, or change, or whatever. I knew that if it was hidden, it was important. After all, I hid things all the time.

My weird childhood aside, I have to confront this little problem, too. Now that I’m aware of it, I can start building on what, if any, maturity I have and retool some of that energy into discipline. As a stunted person, I love routine, as it no longer requires conscious thought; now the only problem is to begin the healthy routines over the destructive ones. How much of myself can be working against me?

I may have no discipline, but I do compensate by having a soaring sense of belief in something and then, you know, faith in that belief. This creates willpower. I know it does; I’ve been through some pretty excruciating Lenten seasons. I survived those!

I do have to admit to “little slips” during those times, but that’s no different than now. Using this strength that I find in my belief is what gave me the discipline to triumph and that’s what I need. I don’t really like suffering, who does? Thanks to Buddha, though, I know that suffering must end so there’s just the matter of surviving until then.

If I wasn’t so surrounded by people that desperately need my attention (work) all the time (and at home), I might be able to start using my imagination again… creatively.

The same uncle who complained that grandma’s coffee was too strong and recommended Secondhand Lions brought along the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, another inspiring film. To be perfectly honest, with so much electricity doing my imagining for me, I bloody well forgot that I could use that stuff myself to change the world around me. I guess that sounds a little crazy to type out, but if I was as well-versed in personal use of it as I was in any of my lovely substances, then maybe I could be using it to change the world inside me, too.

That’s the point for today. It goes along with finding something positive to think about. Something I can do and use and expand on creatively when I get home from work.


Justin Lehman

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