It’s been a pretty drab week. Days of freezing rain have kept me inside, and I’ve spent most of it learning the ropes of my new University position. This place is SO MUCH BIGGER than the one I’m coming from, and the courseload is insane, so it’s not like it wasn’t necessary. Still, we’re all a little stir-crazy after being cooped up.
Realized this morning that I hadn’t been counting my days, and was surprised to see that I’m on Day 43 without a drink. That seems both huge and minuscule at the same time, as I sit here remembering what it felt like to be on days eight, nine, or twenty-three, and then think about people who have eight, nine, or twenty-three years behind them. I can’t imagine what that feels like, or that I’ll ever know, for that matter.
I’ve been reading Leslie Jamison’s The Recovering: Intoxication and its Aftermath, when I get a moment or two, and it’s tremendous, both in scope and quality. It’s part memoir and part ethnography, with lots of literary criticism scattered throughout. She’s doing a wonderful job telling the story of America’s convoluted relationship to addiction (is it an illness or a crime? no one seems too sure), especially honing in on the Writer-in-America’s relationship to alcohol. I think it, and my own use, can be summed up pretty well with this quote, below:
“Why do you drink?” [poet John] Berryman once asked himself in a note, then wrote: “(Don’t really answer).” But he answered anyway: to “animate boredom…calm down excitement…dull pain.” He listed other reasons:
“Insecure grandiosity self-destructive: I am just as great, and as desperate, as Dylan T., Poe etc etc.”
“Delusion: “I need it” for my art”
“Defiance: Fuck you. I can handle it.”(p. 120, paperback)
I like that the book isn’t telling me what to do, like some of the others I’ve read recently, though those had their place in the beginning. I like that, instead, it’s giving me something to think about. Something to occupy my jangled nerves and running mind. I feel like this is exactly what I need to be reading right now, and am glad to have found it.