Below are the more pertinent entries documenting my quick descent into madness, up until the time I quit drinking and using drugs--specifically, August 13, 2001. I'm sifting through them here (after reading an interesting blog about "keeping your day pack on") in the interest of sharing my auto-psychoanalysis process. The addictive brain is truly a wonder to behold, building ramparts of denial as fast as logic and shame can tear them down. But there is something else that bubbles to the surface for me as I browse these old journals - and that's witnessing the tenderhearted seeker that I have always been. And how I had energy guiding me even when I was most forlorn and lonely in my addiction. These are old tags, snapshots of a heated brain to remind me what life was like for me back then, what sort of language I used and the thoughts I thought and the fears I feared and how uncomfortable I was, generally, in my own skin. It shows me how far I have come to being the man I always wished I could be, which unlocks the door of gratitude, which brings grace, which brings humility, and humility is, for me, the key to happiness.
Below is a photo of me from this era with my douchebag-dyed hair and hanging on to co-worker and friend Sarah who had a way of making those around her feel okay.
09 May 2000
@Snug Pub in Ottawa. A din. Noises in the street blocked by the discussion in here (computers, football, NHL playoffs, disappointment with the Leafs) reminds me that most everything is bullshit. Most people in here are speaking with Irish accents. I wish I was somewhere else, likely the same place where they came from.
29 May 2000
@Mellos, Ottawa. I wonder what it's like to sleep with a prostitute. Is it as sad as it would seem? All the whores have left but one. Must be early still. I'm hiding out here, filling my gut with 2 poached on rye, avoiding the novel. All the characters are strangers to me now.
I'm on alert for all sexual prospects; is the impetus for these lonely nights spent with women I barely know really just another way for me to deny my own death? It can't be that simple. Waiting for the skinny old Quebecoise make-up-caked face to do a quality check on my meal so I can order another pack of Player's Regular. Yes, I am a smoker once more, and have failed in my resistance to my penchant for Leffe Brun yet again. Need to keep the lung bolts to a minimum.
Am I listening to myself?
The servers keep shouting orders at the pasty-faced line cook, Sam. How he remembers all these different combinations on the traditional breakfast and can simultaneously poach, fry, and scramble dozens of eggs is miraculous. It comes with a price. Sam's dripping sweat over the flat-top, coughing on some dude's mashed/hashed. If I had the energy I'd write a play set right here.
I don't have the energy.
08 June 2000
On the submission kick, sealing every envelope with a kiss. Gotta watch my step @ the Blackthorn. Closed the bar last night with my head in another place and it was a mess this morning. Thankfully R_ seems to find my company slightly amusing, though my dwindling charm can only carry me so far. drinking Guinness out of a coffee cup while I tend bar. I need to write after I punch out, not drink.
05 August 2000
Finished the MS today. Beat. Time to get on the granola train for a while. Always night when it's time to purge.
06 October 2000
Been avoiding the blank pages for months. Reciting the Beta Band mantra: Gonna Be Alright, Gonna Be Alright. Fighting with the thesis and the bottle, what's new. Onna [sic] Stella heineken piss up virtually alone and thinking of the sex last night and how hungry I am for skin and warmth. The bar scene is as inappropriate as it is necessary.
15 October 2000
this time of night is clean
clean as the city
the silicon city
where the street bins
wear garbage bags inversed [sic]
blowing like plastic afros in the breeze
and the leaves are fine
and the trees are fine
but the concrete and brick seem stale tonight
the electricity humming
audibly above my head
and the innards of office buildings
belch forth: paper, metal, bolts
sawdust, old dreams
aborted by this mechanical womb
in a city knocked up
but there's still a breeze
on my flushed drunken face
I can feel a sweet breeze
and it's enough to know
they haven't won
13 December 2000
Have been thinking about my fatty bobalatti life while suffering under the Universal weights at the Pembroke Kinsmen Community Pool. Until recently I'd unconsciously surrounded myself with bodies that were pastier and flabbier than mine. It hasn't been hard to feel comfortable about myself. But lately I'm noticing changes, and ego relies on environment. Living with Phil is enough to make any man feel soft. Which I guess, is why I might have made the decision to move here. I'm getting my ass to the gym, after all.
14 December 2000
Not sure what made me believe I could do a version of talk therapy for anxiety, seeing as I am having panic attacks every fucking day. My thoughts are fast and heated and my brainpan is sizzling. When my mind races ahead like this--too quickly and far too far--I turn to alcohol and drugs (not exercise) to slow it down in a hurry. But it's getting less and less effective. But somehow I'm willing to keep paying the debt it draws from me. My poor body.
08 January 2001
They took the calendars out of Player's smokes and put in advisories from Health Canada. Half the pack face is a pictoral warning, the latest being
ESTIMATED DEATHS IN CANADA, 1986
Car accidents 2900
WARNING: each year the equivalent of a small city dies from tobacco use.
Who are these 3900 people ending their own lives?
Thankful to be back in Pemmy with a clean bed rather than the floor and all the privacy I could want. The last few months in Ottawa were a mindfuck of drugs and booze and sleep deprivation and unsanitory insanity.
Still, when Andy told me the story of stealing 40 airplane minis when visiting his mother in Toronto, my throat was scratchy. He displaced them all throughout the pockets of jeans and trenchcoat and clinked around town, nipping away at Wiser's and Crown Royal and Cuervo Silver, getting sideways on buses, subways, in malls and crazy streets surrounded by crazy people. Man about town until he ended up in Ottawa. Part of me was jealous.
19 January 2001
Insomniac ideas that keep me awake all night escape me as soon as I'm out of the fart sack. What kept me tossing and turning for hours is suddenly forgotten, meaningless.
I will quit smoking in the morning. At the present moment I have three cigarettes to smoke before I crawl back into the sleeping bag. I also have a bottle of stella and 1 pint of water.
Isaac [my nephew] just turned five.
The first cigarette tastes good. Toasted, an old friend. Halfway through I get curious about the latest manifestation of my anxiety: tingling in my left hand, left leg at times, and sometiems just in my left foot. It's worrisome. Though, it's not there at all when I'm thinking about something else.
I don't even wait 2 minutes after stubbing out the first butt before lighting my second cigarette. Tosh told me in Victoria that the key to not smoking is to be clever about tricking myself. I'm supposed to keep my mind and body occupied and not allow any space for my brain's plea for nicotine have sway. Almost every single cigarette leaves the aftertaste of guilt these days.
I'm trying to look squarely at how much of a jackass I've been lately, but it's difficult to do as I also love to preserve my image, even to myself--even when I know it's rubbish. I've now finished cigarette #2.
My third cigarette is just waiting, but I consider that I should probably wait for some sort of satori before lighting up. I also only have half a beer left and I hardly remember taking a sip. I think I fuckered the clock on the VCR. It says 10:21 but I guess the time to be 4:00 a.m.
Dealing with the residue of my conflicting self-image. It's as tarry as my lungs.
Waiting for the job that'll allow me to shop at Ikea. Is that really why I am here?
I'm on the third cigarette suddenly--without even having thought about it--and my beer is done.
No revelation. Sleep is nowhere near me; it refuses to come to me gently anymore. I'm going to watch Fight Club and hopefully drift off.
20 January 2001
Al this planning to quit, all this agonizing over quitting, and I never quit. There was hardly a break in my smoking before I was at mac's Milk buying a 20-pack.
Still fucking smoking. Am I full of shit? Do I lie to myself on a regular basis about other stuff, I wonder. How can I ever know? I need some kind of therapy.
I need the woods - rivers trees, hills and lakes. I need a week or three of clean camping. Fuck me, I need something.
04 March 2001
Ottawa. I'm at Toni & Ryan's waiting for the call of any friend, close or distant or new, who wants to play Thirsty Boy tonight.
Aslan the cat is playful - biting at my wrists and hands. I'll take this as a good sign.
I look for omens everywhere.
Concerned about money, trying to convince myself that I'm unconcerned. It amazes me that I dyed my hair. What am I thinking? I'm obsessed with what other people think.
While I drink alone here, Ryan's in his room, diligently studying for an engineering mid-term. He reminds me of myself at RMC. I was motivated to read McCluhan's "Understanding Media," but couldn't understand shit. He says that the spectator becomes the artist in Oriental art because he must supply all the connections. If that's true, wouldn't it be universally true? He also argues that the machine turned nature into an art form, where for the first time humans began to regard Nature as a source of aesthetic and spiritual values. I don't know about this. Maybe the machine just intensified the illusion of division, of separateness from Nature. Nature is us, too.