Rehabilitation Journal

Rehabilitation Journal – August 11 – 24, 2004

First edit: September 1 – 30, 2004

Second edit: July 8, 2016

This is the third incarnation of the things I wrote down while in rehab twelve years ago. In the weeks following my release in 2004 I pared the journal down to what I considered its essence in a form that made sense for others to read. Over the course of a month I went through my notebooks, posting the newly edited entries in a public forum. There they have remained for twelve years. I am re-posting them here, with minor changes, because I can never leave anything alone. It is more or less true – as much as anything created in the fog of illness and filtered through the fog of hindsight can be. It is by no means the entire story.

***

9/1/04

Last Tuesday I was discharged from the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, PA after a stay of thirteen days. I kept a notebook during this time, in which I attempted to adhere to the device of “journaling” which seems to be all the rage in such settings. As I was not entirely opposed to the idea, I merely told the counselor, “No, I don’t need you to tell me how to ‘journal,’ and please stop using it as a fucking verb.”

Maybe this will be interesting or informative to someone. I don’t know. I will not put it here in its entirety, nor will I be able to post it all at once. I have to decipher my atrocious handwriting, as well as my intentions.

***

8/11/04

Tenth floor. Dual diagnostics for depressed addicts.

Can’t see my roommate in the dark. Nine hours downstairs. Sleep and then bustling everyone about. Nasty.

It came to dad tracking me down. D__ helped. I am surprised it took him so long to find me. I was simply going about my business. I suppose that is just a sign of how not normal my business is. How I live always seems to push me to an edge, into the periphery.

“You’re 30 years old, Scott.” I have no concept of responsibility.

He promises to take care of everything. Is my cat safe? Where will he put my things? Is he going to ship me off to Florida? He’s always glancing down at my left arm. Doesn’t say a word. He’ll listen to D__, but will never ask for himself. Some things are inconceivable. Makes me laugh, what he might think. Cocaine? Violence to self? Clinically depressed? Lost his job? His apartment? Gave his his car and cell phone to a drug dealer?

All true. I put on a good show, but it wasn’t enough. The curtain closes eventually.

The most terrible thing is how trite this all seems now. I guess there is a lesson in that.

This place smells awful. Smells like people coming down.

I can hold the whole thing in my head like a giant wheel. I feel it, all the spokes of my experience, some recent, some going back decades… thousands of millions of paths taken and not taken, and taken not to take, the right and the wrong and the perversion of all my good intentions. I even perverted the bad ones. I can feel all of this, abstractly, acutely.

I like being prepared, but I hate being practical. This forced routine is going to bore me to death. Today has been one long well-ordered sequence of empty boxes with nothing to fill them with.

The “Chief” – no joke – who really is part American Indian, says, “I’m still here.” Pronounced dead three times after jumping off the Mckee’s Rocks bridge. “And I’m still here.” Has a video at home showing a surgeon holding his heart in his hand. “And I’m still here. Why are so many of the people who have helped me dead, and I’m still here? I asked my Creator that and he said, ‘There must be a reason.'”

Lunch. Cigarette break. Group. Sleep. Group again. Cigarette break. Dinner. Mom called. Sister called.

Amazing. The Chief has to ask his Creator to explain why he’s here, and this girl who lost her son in March turns to the Chief – not for human consolation, but for him to explain to her why she should believe.

I wanted to say to them both, “Look at you, sitting here asking each other about ‘a power greater than yourselves.’ What could be greater than this simple communion? What is it you’re really asking for? Don’t you already have it?”

But I kept my mouth shut. I can’t get over the sublime irony of being in a psychiatric hospital with a Native American named The Chief.

8/12/04

I have been thinking too much about other people.

Why am I here? To stop using. To regain some semblance of health. To have therapy. To possibly be medicated. Get my head straight. Start to, anyway. Got to think.

It’s too soon. I know that much. Can’t be about me yet.

Roommate has been throwing up into our trash can about once every hour for the past day.

People in hospital robes arguing about food. Hoarding. Clamoring for a smoke.

Sleeping a lot. Missed a few group sessions. Doing well though. Feeling up to it. Can’t get discouraged just because people are assholes.

The doc wants me on Wellbutrin. 150 mg. Says it will “rev me up.” But what about my manic episodes? The racing thoughts, the voice streams and impulsiveness? I’m afraid to talk openly with the doctors. There are other floors in this building, and they aren’t all as laid back as this one.

I have a good view up Bigelow Blvd. The Soldiers and Sailors building, Masonic Temple, the church at the Cathedral of Learning, all the way up to Craig st. and Neville st., back and back ten years or more. What a view. I can’t help but feel both lost and certain of everything. This is so funny! Everything began there, in that house hidden behind that tree.

This and that. Real objects… people, places. But what is it? Displaced in time. Even me. I’ve gone too, and I knew all along. I sensed it happening, and that is why I am here. Because I was too aware of beginnings and endings, everything transitory, nothing really real. If it was, I didn’t see it.

I love this city. It has contained me. Right or wrong, it’s been mine. But after Tuesday? Everything is going to change. Every relationship, past present and future will exist in a different light, felt and known through a new paradigm.

This is progress.

Just this second I feel as though I’ve reached that right distance, that perfect place from where I might even stop hating J__. From this place all things look good. I know it’s only temporary, but let the sap run. Let it.

Through the vise and cypher of this past year things begin to make sense. Things of the past are crowding me.

Let them.

They don’t give me much time to myself here. Maybe I shouldn’t be left alone. They don’t want us thinking too long and hard in isolation.

Need to interact with the other “patients.”

8/13/04

Last night my roommate lost control of his bowels in the TV room. He tried to make it to the bathroom, but it was locked and then he just fell over.

There were two stains on the carpet. Staff was called in and soon arrived a man with a machine to clean it up. In fifteen minutes the carpet looked brand new.

Donald lay in bed, weak, tired, embarassed. He’s 60. We haven’t talked at all. Last night was the first time he’s been out of bed since I arrived. Now I’m afraid he’ll never get up again.

I think some of these people are hopeless. This is my first time in recovery, and I think I grasp the essential nature of this business better than some of the “regulars.”

I guess that’s why they keep coming back.

Do you think I want to hear about how high you got the hour before walking in here? Or how quickly you want to leave? How much you hate everything and everyone in this place just because you can’t get an extra box of Raison Bran?

Don’t you think I want a cigarette too? Know what else I want? Peace of mind. Health. Emotional, mental, and physical health… and for you to shut the fuck up. Leave me to my recovery, you goddamn fucking crack head.

***

I wouldn’t call what I am feeling right now joy, or happiness, but elation… elevated to a height, a vantage, a perspective. Every so often I go back into my room and stare out the window. The city looks clean, clear. Is it because I am? No… not out of the woods yet. That devil is still tapping me on the shoulder.

I wish I could talk to S__ right now. For the old times. I wish I could see D__ walk by from a distance. A quick look, just enough for us both to see and recognize and then go our own ways. Maybe that recognition would benefit us. Maybe we both need to attend to the scraps of our love affair. What a funny phrase.

I keep seeing these two words in my mind: Fulcrum. Pivot.

The architecture in Oakland is something else… Grecian, Egyptian, Oriental, plastic. A city of paradoxes, built just for me. Mahler in the halls, Foster in the ground.

IMG_7782-2

Photocopy of a sketch of Oakland. The view from my room. I gave the original to Donald before he left.

8/14/04

Dream:

This is important. J__ was pregnant and asking me to visit her. This was surprising in and of itself, but then I realized that I was the father. We hadn’t seen each other for so long, something about this didn’t make sense. I wasn’t angry, just concerned. I wanted to see her immediately.

We were in the house in Gibsonia. My mom and sister were there, more in essence than reality. J__ had a turtle neck on. Dark colors. Warm. She had already given birth, and it was twins. They were there, but I acted like they didn’t exist. It was J__ I came to see. We talked. It was comfortable. I remember being amazed at the whole scenario. It felt really good. I asked about the restaurant from my other dream. This too was amazing to me… there was lucidity in this dream.

“Do you have a particular restaurant that you like to go to?”

“Yes.”

“Is it…?”

“Yes.”

Etc.

She understood everything. There was real compassion, real affection. It was like when we first met, but even stronger. There is knowledge behind this love now. Maybe it only exists in my subconscious, but I can accept that.

A kid named Mark shows up this morning in a wheelchair. 21 years old. Shot twice in the back when he resisted a carjacking. Bullet in his spine. Talks his fool head off, but says he is in severe pain. Complains like everyone else about his cigarettes. I am torn between pity and loathing.

Visitors today. Dad will be here at 2. All I want to know is how the show went. He was cryptic on the phone. Apparently something sold.

And to think all I wanted to do was hold out until the weekend so I could go to that fucking opening.

They started me on the first med last night. I could feel my heart racing like a rabbit.

The Chief is sound asleep at a table, pen in hand, his head on his arm on chapter 8 of his anger management workbook.

J__ is at the core of things. The fulcrum and breaking point. The abortion is at the core of the core.

Why hadn’t I realized this earlier? It’s been a blind spot, a mote in my eye.

<much editing>

However it brought us to the end, it did end, and I lost the ability to feel and love. I had put too much in. I had wanted it too badly, and I had made the wrong decision. I have to live with that forever.

Nothing can be reconciled. Only in these crazy dreams. That’s where I lost touch with myself and everything else, on the inside. I became manic, everything brought to the surface and burned away in a moment. I was reactionary, not reflective. I became receptive to cocaine.

If we have made up in dreams, then there’s nothing to hate now. No one to forgive. Only things to remember.

This is what I should be telling the therapist, before it feels mundane to me again. He asks the same questions repeatedly. He is waiting like a hawk for me to make a move.

Dad gave me a letter from my landlord. I actually felt like I was going to fall over when I read it:

“Sometimes it feels like I live on the edge of a precipice. We never know when we may trip and fall.”

For weeks I had been hiding from her, as from everyone else. The object-reality of my life falling away as quickly as I was accumulating new baggage. I didn’t want friends, family, a boss, or a landlord. I didn’t even want my dealer anymore. Keep the car, man. Just stay the hell away from me.

And in this amazing letter from my landlord she tells me that she has lost 6 employees to crack. Lost them. They died.

We really do live on the edge of a precipice. It’s sinking in, and it scares the shit out of me.

It’s storming outside, but I can’t hear it at all through these windows.

Small things now. Small small small.

Sis says she knows people on this medication. Says it will help me quit smoking.

One painting did sell. Curious which one, and who bought it. Z__ took all four that were in my apartment, lousy son of a bitch. Two of those weren’t finished. He mentioned to dad again about these two girls with a gallery. The logistics is going to be a nightmare, but I want to do this.

Need to get in touch with Z__ about the New Yinzer, too.

Evidently everything is packed and ready to be moved. Dad and G__ did it all. He said he’s run into a lot of people that know me. Everyone asking abut me. The girl next door, of course. I owe her $20.

Sis has my cat.

I will go to Maryland first, and wait for mom to drive up from Florida. A nice little vacation…

Amazing how quickly the stuff of living can be stored away, shipped around, or lost forever.

My other sister is engaged.

Now, I don’t remember who I told about the abortion. Mom? My sisters? Certainly not dad. He is excited by the prospect of N__’s marriage and imminent mothering.

“I’ll be a grandfather at last,” he said, with that dry little sigh in his voice. How could I ever tell him about J__ and I? Maybe I am projecting, but is it worth finding out? Just to break his heart? It’s not something one can explain anyway. Nothing is cut and dry. It wasn’t a snap decision, though it was made in a day.

This is all mildly irritating, because I am finding it difficult to consider other people right now. What am I going to do when I leave the hospital? Other than Florida. There are so many things that have been lined up and coming into play, and now I am going to have to do the long-distance clown act.

It’s too kissy kissy around here. Trite, petty complaints followed by quick, easy replies. Everybody has the vocab down pat. Same old same old. Bad influences. Most people are changeable, supportive, positive, willing – then all of a sudden they are cracking jokes out one side of their mouth and bitching out the other. It’s the rare person who maintains his or herself, who isn’t swayed by all the baloney going around.

Whatever brought you in here, don’t you feel it serious enough to warrant an actual effort?

There is a man who came in last night. He lost everything… his business, his wife (she’s still out there somewhere), house, car(s), friends, self-respect. I could see that he was racked by guilt and hatred for himself. His voice was high and strained. He only started smoking crack this January.

*Snap* that fast.

This doesn’t scare the fuck out of everyone here? “Play the tape, people. All—the—way—through.”

This is the catch phrase. Patients running about saying it one another, then turning around and starting in with the war stories. It’s sick.

But can I blame them? Don’t I have the same thoughts? Haven’t I been dreaming about the drug? Can’t I feel the nerves in my hands begin to jangle and twitch? My body wants it. Every goddamn cell screaming for a hit. Sometimes I have to slap myself. I have to keep my mouth shut or I won’t win this thing.

I laugh now, remembering my Celinesque book idea with S__. I don’t know anymore. was Celine compassionate? Interesting question. I am filled with it right now, and my views on the things I wanted to write about have changed.

Maybe Celine was as compassionate as he was cruel… that is, not very. Just a little. There was only an emptiness that he filled with description.

Where is R__ in all of this? Maybe she isn’t. That will take time to sort out.

8/15/04

Another restaurant dream. That’s five in the past month.

A little congested this morning. Coughed up some stuff. Can’t smoke, lungs clearing out.

What has it been? Four days? It’s literally been years since I’ve remained this still and calm for an extended period of time. It is doing odd things to me. No, not odd. Just unexpected. I can feel parts of my personality coming back, picking their way through the rubble.

My roommate is feeling a lot better. He was up before me, making his bed, attending morning group. He used to play pro ball. Basketball. There are crazy stories in this old man.

I keep thinking that I will write a poem, but there isn’t one yet.

Sometimes there is a torrent, pages of furious scribbling, hard just trying to keep up. Then there are short clear passages. Ideas in solitude.

My roommate came into the room and said, “I don’t know what’s going on, but everyone out there wants to sing. It’s good, though. It’s good. That’s peace. That’s peace.”

He is walking, talking poetry. I want to picture him as he might have been years ago, on the court, all stealth and power and grace… at one with himself.

Just realized that it is Sunday. There is an abbreviated Catholic mass held in the gym that I will not be attending, even though it would mean getting off this floor for an hour.

I need some goddamn light. Pulled back the curtain and stared out into North Oakland. Everything is at a slightly more obtuse angle than I thought before. I did a sketch this morning. the light was dim and the air full of early mist. It’s a terrific vignette. So many church spires and towers. It’s the only thing my eyes like to see in this place, because it isn’t in this place.

Lunch has arrived. That magical *ding* of the service elevator and the carts roll out. I’m not even very hungry now… been stuffing myself since I arrived. A body could put on ten lbs. a week here. There isn’t much else to do. I suspect some people check in here just to eat decently for a few weeks.

My roommate is a very tall man, I now realize. He looked a lot smaller when he was in bed, shaking and puking all the time. 60 years, and he considers that old. He speaks of his recovery this time (this is his fourth rehab) in terms of defying his age.

“From the inside out, Scott. Got to get on terms with my higher power, my spirituality, and go from there. Exercise, church, groups, employment. I have to be concerned with only myself. I recognize that. I had a woman for 27 years, and she chose crack over me. That messed me up. I was ready to kill her, everyone. I stopped caring, didn’t want to feel, couldn’t feel. I was ready to die.”

He has a slow and powerful manner of speech. Persuasive. This last statement sounds genuinely final, immensely sad, resigned.

“I can’t think about her anymore. I’ve got to forget her and do this for myself. I’m ready to live with or without her.”

I can feel how hard this is for him to say… and yet it too is the truth. It has taken him five days of laying in bed, lost in sickness with nothing but his own thoughts, to reach this point. I now suddenly feel the remnants of the spiritual battle that went on in here, in our room, right under my nose.

What greater loss than of a life? For the living – love, and often they go hand and hand, the dead being a son, or husband, mother, or friend. We cannot tell ourselves it is ok. It needs to come from without, from that space left empty. John Donne was right. Though we rarely listen and can barely hear it when we do, the whole planet is exploding with the tolling of bells.

There is a woman here who recently lost a son to violence. His brother, aided by the father, is planning to avenge this death. This woman, who 21 years ago become clean so she could raise her sons well, is at her wit’s end. She has lost faith and hope, asking over and over, “Why? Why go on? Why not use? Why not grieve for the rest of my life? Why not end life?”

Mark wheels himself around in his chair, oblivious to any pain except his own. Sometimes I think this lack of empathy is what dooms us.

What else can we feel besides ourselves? One man can look inside and feel nothing, but when he looks beyond himself, into another, he may be touched. What is the point of that? Not what, but where does he finally see that there really is something inside of himself, as well as something other?

My roommate has a story. I listen closely, already knowing that it is pertinent to me somehow. At the end of it he says, “I wrote a book once. It took me eleven years. Damn bitch burned it.”

I stare at him, then out the window. Eventually I hear someone in the hall saying it’s time for group. I look back at Donald, sitting on his bed. He asks me if I am going.

“Yeah… hey. I think you should write that book again.”

He smiles and shuffles around, looking for a shirt to put on. He’s nodding his head, digging through his stuff distractedly. “I think I might do that,” he says finally.

8/16/04

Dream.

R__and I are driving G__’s truck, running errands of some sort. We pull into the driveway of a strange house. Milling about… we seem unsure of ourselves. G__ shows up with a license plate in his hand, accusing us of driving illegally. Later on there seems to be some sort of agreement.

These dreams all seem to have something in common – a process of reconciliation.

Donald walks into the room in a towel. He says to me, “when I’m in the shower I think of James Bond.”

We sit and talk for awhile. He tells me that clothing is his second habit. “Furs, shoes, jewelery, you know… pimped out.” I look at him and laugh, but it’s not hard to imagine this 60 year old, graying ex-basketball star pimped out in gold and furs. He is so proud.

He tells me the story about how his ex-lover and her daughter tried to steal his money. “I knew they would come for it. So I lay on the couch and went to sleep with the cash between my legs. They tore the place apart – never looked there, though. One time I was in jail, and she sells all my stuff: the car, my clothes, watches, rings. Then she says we were robbed… but all her stuff is still there!” He laughs loudly.

“I was sleeping on a park bench in Homewood when a man told me about this place. I thought it over for awhile then started walking. Took me four hours.”

Food is here. People are noisy. Chaos again. I wish Donald and I had more time. Listening to this man is wonderful in and of itself, but it also takes my mind off of all the other distractions here, including myself.

Spoke with dad on the phone. He read me a caption from a cartoon in the New Yorker. Said it reminded him of me:  “There’s one thing you need to know about me, and that is that I don’t like anyone knowing anything about me.”

Again, this issue of communication and expression. Family knows nothing. Sometimes I wonder who these people are, how they came to be my parents.

Most of the people that were here when I arrived are either gone or leaving today, including the best and worst of the group.

Therapy session – in that freezing, little room I finally said everything.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I’ve never discussed this with anyone before…”

And there it was. My entire relationship with J__ from beginning to end, with the abortion-pivot. that see-saw of emotion. Everything laid out as clearly as I could manage in front of my 23 year old med student intern-therapist.

I had the realization, again, that it all comes down to choices. Not as obvious as it sounds. A year and a half ago I didn’t feel I had any choices. I felt I had been played.

I’ve made a lot of bad choices, but more than that I have let a lot of bad choices be made for me. I’ve been apathetic. In truth, that was her issue with me all along. Who was I? She wanted to know. Be real. Be you. Be more of you. Let fucking go.

She wasn’t real either, I found out later. But this is about me now. I can tell her these things as I tell myself, in my sleep, to this therapist, or to a friend or stranger… but I don’t have to tell her, and she never has to know me.

“What do you want to get out of the program?” my therapist asks.

“Life. I don’t mean to be short, but that’s it, really. That’s the big one.”

Monday night group. AA meeting. This amazing man who reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut: funny and wise and a little bit crude. I shook his hand afterwards and said, “Thank you.” He looked me right in the eye and his expression was, well… I don’t know.

A few moments later I saw Allan walk up to the dry erase board – after also thanking the speaker – and correct the spelling of his name. It’s been up there for four days as allen. I guess he discovered a little self-respect over the course of the last hour.

8/17/04

Dream:

In a large house, almost a castle, with a woman. Details gone. Had sex with her… overpowering, irresistable, as if I had been trying to resist her. I actually had an orgasm. A wet dream! Woke me right up, in total shock. When was the last time that happened? 30 years old… must be the meds. Made me laugh.

They want to start me on a second pill, a mood stabilizer. The woman today has been the 4th doctor I’ve seen. She doesn’t want me to leave yet. I was hoping to be out of here in a week. I don’t like her at all. Very short with me. Damn… isn’t 7 days enough?

Need to talk to Elizabeth, my social worker. Evidently my dad told her about my story in the New Yinzer. They want to ask my permission to read it. Nice of them to ask, but it is online after all. I guess my dad thought it would give them some insight.

Have a headache… my forehead feels dry and sensitive. If I just lightly run my fingernail across my skin it leaves scratch marks. Not great.

Pico Iyer, a travel writer interviewed by Bethanne Kelly Patrick:

In some ways, the journey into mystery, or the journey inward, is what’s fascinated me all along… the only real movement is the inward one, I think. What we cherish from journeys is that inward shift that takes place in us.

Yes, I think so too.

Visit with dad today… nothing extraordinary. Gave him my drawing. He gave me some magazines.

The doc handed me some photocopied pages in the smoke room… print outs describing two drugs – mood stabilizers. Scary stuff: Olanzapine and Valporic acid. I don’t like the sounds of either of them.

My teeth and jaw are beginning to hurt. They are going to draw blood tomorrow morning for a liver function test. We are going with the Valporic acid, or Depakote.

Talked to Elizabeth. Where do people like her come from? Her care, compassion, attention, and – most astonishingly – her active interest in aspects of my case that do not fall within her job description. She is sweet to the point of flirtatiousness, and I wonder if she is aware of that. Maybe it is a tactic.

She asked about my recovery, especially on the psych end of things: my thoughts, how I think, relationships, interests and goals – things totally irrelevant to her job. I think the doc told her to corner me somewhere and pry more information out of me.

She said something odd. Well, not odd – except that she observed it somehow – read it on my face, or in my manner – this, that I seem to have a lot going on in my thoughts… many threads going at once, constantly tangling and being untangled.

I was nervous around her. That’s odd too. Maybe it isn’t. My eyes wandered, and she saw. I fidgeted, and she saw. I know how I look… eyes moving one way as I speak, then shifting just slightly when another thought appears in the middle of the last one, and so on… trying to keep the flow going, keep it all organized somehow. But then I start inter-splicing thoughts, combining variant threads into a single speech…

My eyes just wander about… left, right, down at my hands, up at the side of her face, waiting… blah blah blah.

I looked at the extreme white of her legs where her skirt was open. She fixed it self-consciously. How cliche and how very real!

She gave me a look… the same look as that man who spoke yesterday. What was it…? Startled? I don’t know what they see, but I see that they do actually see something. It isn’t just looking, but a recognition of sorts.

God, what are they watching out there? On the tv, a man asking questions, a woman answering:

“What was in the box?”

“… A body part.”

“That’s hard for you to say, isn’t it?”

“… It looked like a big thumb, a finger…”

“But it wasn’t a finger, was it?”

“No.”

“What was it?”

“A penis.”

Elizabeth said that talking is my meta-issue. That’s just brilliant. I never would have come up with that. I responded, “Yes, it subsumes all the other issues.” Shit. Subsumes? I couldn’t even tell in that moment if it was a word, let alone the right word. She seemed to understand, anyway. We laughed, perhaps at our shared pretentiousness.

8/18/04

Dreams: Another restaurant! A house converted into a bed and breakfast. Business wasn’t doing well. A girl I liked lived there with her parents. She and I kept trying to escape so we could be alone. Another girl showed up and was rude, so we kicked her out. She returned later and behaved herself. A second dream: Z__ and some other guys wanting to start a band. I wanted to play the drums, but they already had a drummer. There was a lot of waiting around. I remember saying that I could play a 47 note piece on the piano… or a 21 note prelude, if they preferred. They looked at me like I was insane, then someone else started fiddling about and played a scale. It was awful for some reason. I just looked at them like, “See? I told you.”

Everything just gets more confusing.

Blood work this morning, then shower, breakfast, people milling about being bitchy.

Talked to my team about symptoms and side-effects. They were particularly interested in the “rash” on my forehead.

They asked about my conversation with Elizabeth. Of course they were interested in my “static” “floating” and “crowd of voices” moments. Why did I open my mouth? I can see the gears turning. Elizabeth is an excellent spy. I wonder how much they pay her.

“They be all in your business. What? I was in there for what? 45 minutes. Digging deep.”

“Who were you talking to?”

“That girl, E__. Getting in it. Make me sleepy!”

Mark is a trip. One of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Confined to a wheelchair, he’s a pop trivia machine on wheels. He’s got a little afro with a blue pick comb stuck in it.

There is a discussion of the Wizard of Oz going on. I wonder how many times this topic has come up in here… field of poppies, opiates, sleeping, false courage, brains and heart…

“I never knew what children got out of that movie. It scared the hell out of me. Flying monkeys and shit. Stealing brooms. They was breaking and entering, melting that ugly old woman… they was clapping and cheering as she was melting! Being chased through the woods. Scared the hell out of me.”

My roommate has left. I will miss him.

They want me to stay here until Monday – 5 more days, at least. Elizabeth talked to my dad. Evidently he is going to be out of town this weekend. I think he has a fear, and the doctors have a fear. My dad’s is that I will walk out of here and stay with G__ for a few days and start using again. He doesn’t trust me, and wants to control me. The doctor’s fear is that I am a little more screwed up than they originally thought.

In group we talked about writing a goodbye letter to your drug, or to someone you are angry with. You’re not supposed to send it. It’s just a way to release frustrations. I said, “I wrote one of those letters once, but I made the mistake of actually giving it to the person.”

J__ was my lover, my perfect, irresistible lover. I can conjure her up and feel the butterflies in my stomach. Hypnotized… just like with crack.

What a strange path, a chemical drip plugged into just the right circuit. A mystery – not the mystery of the physical act of sex – not the mystery of affection and love – but the mystery of indescribable, irresistible attraction, need – real desire. Unknown, out of the blue. No – it is the blue. The sky falling. Total, complete. So powerful it’s scary. You end up depending on it. You need it. You are addicted to it.

Then to have it taken away? To betray it, or have it betray you?

To give up caring cold turkey… that’s hard. It can kill you.

I don’t hate J__ anymore. I am still angry, but not at her. I am angry at how it all happened, and at how I handled it, or didn’t handle it.

There’s been a change in my writing. I’m not writing about anything. What I am saying is the thing itself. I am doing this from somewhere above my depression, elevated.

Further and further back in time, to the summer I left R__. How not to laugh at it now? I go back even further to the summer I met R__. What a difference. Four bright-eyed years struggling to work with and love that woman. Four years trying to imagine myself as an artist. I handled things as best I could. She wouldn’t disagree. Somehow, I failed anyway.

This is the hardest thing of all – I wanted to fail. I’ve been wanting to fail all along. Give up let go forget it forget me please just leave just go…

What does it mean?

It’s raining. Wish I was out in it.

8/19/04

Dream: It’s raining in this dream, too. Moving, packing, cleaning. I’m arguing with the anarchists about materialism. I am worried about my things. There are four rats in my room. The walls are falling down on one side. Wet dirt, slime. Living room in Wexford. Grandfather clock. Piano. Green carpet.

The scheduled team member didn’t show up. John was called in. Things off to a slow start.

New roommate. He sighs and moans a lot in bed. Talks to himself. Says things to me, like, “Well, Scott. We’re going to enter the realm of dark for awhile.” Then he shuts the curtains and goes to sleep.

Another new doctor. Appears to be a bit more level-headed than the last one. “Steady as she goes,” he says.

Slept after lunch until the doc woke me up to talk. All groggy and creased. Completely out of it. Talked about art and productivity and how they suffer at the hands of my addiction. Talked about relationships, loss of identity… blah blah blah.

I tossed phrases out at him… “Live for myself… get grounded… start at square one… build myself up.”

What bullshit. Serves him right, waking me up like that. I wonder if that’s how those zombies who walk around babbling that nonsense feel all the time? Like they just woke up, their brains dulled, on autopilot.

I feel dirty now.

No one ever said that desire was guided by any particular intelligence.

I was jobless when I met A, who was also jobless, and married. I was not over A when B and I hooked up. I broke up with C to be with D, who didn’t even live in this country. E and I were just too different. Single mothers, young waifs, too old, too married… what was I thinking?

I can’t deny that I had fallen in love with them all for some reason. Maybe I should feel blessed. Maybe I should stop kicking myself around over this. Maybe someday I will understand why I went through it all… and then do something that makes it all worthwhile.

Moody. Feeling irritable. Tired of myself… tired of talking about myself, being myself. I want out of this place. Beginning to get a little stir crazy.

A lot of the people on the floor now can only be described as assholes… bragging and swaggering about like they are still out on the streets. They don’t want to stop using – just want to detox for a few days. Playing this place. It’s discouraging and annoying. I’d love to haul off and deck a few of them.

Maybe it’s the weather. There is a nice thunderstorm brewing over Oakland right now – 6:00… Nothing but memories now. So many storms to think about. I’ll never understand it. I can’t describe it. I love this fucking world.

Found out that I missed (slept through) a good group in which ___ opened up. I like this guy… 25 years old, crippled in a car accident at 16, one half of his body paralyzed, drags one leg around. He’s got a sharp tongue, and a decent attitude, at least as far as I can see. He talked about being passive-aggressive, swallowing his anger, cutting himself. Another intelligent, talented kid who is also incredibly angry at the world. Somehow he comes across straight. No swagger. No excess of pride. I showed him my sketches and talked art. He ties paint brushes into his bad hand… I told him about Matisse. “It doesn’t matter how you do it. It’s all here,” I said, tapping my chest.

Every one of us possesses something to make living worthwhile.

The rain has stopped. Talked to my sister on the phone. These days just drag on forever.

8/20/04

Dreams: There were a lot of them. Can’t remember the story lines… broken sunglasses, shopping, washing the carpet… and a really powerful crack dream that I woke up to. Damn nerves. I feel like a thin, hollow form wrapped in a network of taut wires with tiny bells and nails tied along…

Blood pressure was 134/84 this morning. It was 120/64 when I first got here. The medication brings it up. I can still feel it in my heart, especially at night.

I’ve been trying to write poetry. No, I’ve just been thinking about trying. There is too much going on.

My energy destroys before it creates. Selfish disrupter.

Cocaine narrows the blood vessels. Now they are opening up again, like collapsed straws. This drug cuts me off at the pass. Snuffs passion, the will to live. Steals my blood, my oxygen.

It’s all coming back though. I can feel a million tiny fuses being lit beneath my skin… what if I swing too much the other way?

Every hour I remain here now is torture.

Requested a new notebook. This one has larger pages. Hard to let loose on a 4 x 6 page. So tired of small scale. Larger scale requires greater distance. Have to see the trees and the forest. Everything at once. The macro and micro, the above and the below, the abstract and the details… simultaneously, not sequentially.

It’s not that the world is so small but that people are so big. We span every valley and plain, every line and barrier, floating up and above the wires we think connect us to the vibes that really do.

What a view! A life big and small, all the ups and downs flattened, hills seen only by their shadows and the opposing light… the bright beginning of my time with J__ which made such a dark shadow at the other end. Now the light is diffused. The dark is diffused.

I feel like a balloon cut loose from an anvil… light separated from Lucifer. I can light a candle and piece the darkness together in the form of bat that flies unseen overhead.

Karma is not an eye for an eye. It’s a lesson for a mistake. It’s a candle in a windstorm. Protect that flame, huddle over it…

8/21/04

Arguments, yelling, tantrums and fits all morning. The people who work here are saints. A diminutive red-haired guy came in during the night. I call him Dostoevsky. Fucking lunatic, bouncing off the walls screaming himself blind. Finger nails dug into the carpet as security took him away… and here he is this morning, smirking. They keep him in isolation, constant watch. Has to smoke alone. I think he is enjoying himself.

Went to the gym last night… “special privileges.” What a relief to get off the floor for an hour and actually move around. Hopefully I can go tonight as well.

Dreamed last night. Watching Roman Holiday with G__. The movie ends and the room fills with static. She is asleep, settled into a gentle, accommodating s curve. I tried – I tried to fall asleep, but when I closed my eyes the tactile sense of her lying next to me was heightened. Hot skin, repetition of breathing. So I stared at the ceiling… the room full of static.

8/22/04

New nurse this morning. She asks, “Can I take your vitals, guys?” We all reply, “You certainly may.” As my roommate (who I call The Black Jack Nicholson) says, “She is pleasant to look at.”

This list – I was making a list of defining moments in my life – is no good. Every time I put one down I become aware that there are several more that I can’t put my finger on… as though every moment has been vital, and now forgotten.

Why can’t I just look at myself, here and now, and see it all? Why does the person writing this not feel like the person who did all of these things? Where does it all go?

I’m tired. I think I’ve been in here too long.

***

9/30/04

The journal becomes sporadic after this. There are a few more entries, mainly relating dreams and random thoughts. Here are a few:

1. We talk about our lives as though we were not the ones living them. I look in on something I call “myself” and try to describe it. How is that even possible? What is this separation? Where is it? How can I look upon myself, fractured and endlessly repeating, spiraling out in a jetty towards past and future. The rift is here, now. It is consciousness itself.

2. A rich fantasy life is essential to heal (or fill in) the decay of memory.

3. Yes, you were the girl with the half-closed heart. Yet no one has cared as much as you. I know that went against your instincts.

4. Cocaine is what brought me here. Right? A crack pipe. A friend and a hot tub. A self-destructive design. A hatred, a fear. A drug to leverage the destructive force. Just saying I am an addict isn’t enough. Some people say there is no reason other than the chemical one, but that’s only true after the fact.

5. There are a few people here I will miss. Part of me thinks I should get their phone numbers or addresses, but most of them don’t have either. Another part of me doesn’t want to talk to them again anyway.

6. Sometimes I feel as though I am wasting myself, writing all this down. Does that make sense? I don’t know. What else can I do?

SM

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