Ice creeps up the windows. No snow in sight. The days start lengthening yet it is difficult for me to notice the difference.
One by one the Christmas decorations come off the houses. The nights seem longer than ever. This darkening of my mood is so familiar and yet it never ceases to immobilize me. I know it will pass.
I know it will pass. The problem is that the knowing is intellectual; the malaise is spiritual. All the voices of my past rise up to haunt me.
My father says, “You’ll never be a man.” How young was I the first time it rang in my ears? Just a child. And children believe their parents. At the age of ten or eleven I couldn’t just “process” the information and recognize how false it was.
When I turned thirteen and was Bar-Mitzvahed, in the Jewish tradition, I had become a man. Yet, on the inside, I was tormented. Suicide was constantly on my mind. All I desired was some relief from the burden of self.
I remember standing on the curb of Livingston Avenue trying to muster up the nerve to throw myself into the traffic flow. “Coward!” I thought to myself. “You can’t even kill yourself properly. You’ll never be a man.”
There is so much from my childhood I can’t recall. I have a deep sense of sadness rushing at me from the past and a cloud of dread looming over the future. I twist in agony in some dubious present I am hardly aware of due to the chatter of demons in my head.
I want to run to heroin for relief. The psych drugs they give me are like “the pills that mother give you that don’t do anything at all.” I have hit the iceberg of midwinter and, like the Titanic, I am going down, all souls lost.
I have just completed reading a great book called “You Can’t Win” by Jack Black. It was the book that influenced William Burroughs and, according to Bill’s own testimony, changed the course of his life. I was thrilled to find it at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, reprinted by AK Press/Nabat books. It was originally published in 1926.
This book interested me greatly for it was the book “Junky” by William Burroughs that changed the course of my life. Ironically, it gave me reason to hope. How perverse, one might exclaim, that a book about the underworld of heroin can be the shining light that altered my existence.
In the world of my childhood, in my own tortured spirit there was no room for any god. I trusted nothing, no one. I viewed the world through my fractured prism and saw people mistreat each other and their supposed loved ones. Nothing rang true to me. I knew the human species was not a rational animal by what they did to one another. The world, as I saw it, was mastered by a species gone insane.
One by one, the forests of my childhood were torn down. The rivers fouled by chemicals. There was war which seemed senseless to me, bodies torn and broken. There was always chatter about it all being ‘for the greater good’, yet I could not perceive how death by violence did anyone any good at all.
I learned the history of the recent Holocaust during World War II and knew for sure I had been thrust into a mad world.
All I wanted to do was to run from my existence. What I saw in heroin was a way to be in the world yet apart from what I felt. I laughed at a recent ad on television that said, “No one wanted to grow up to be a junkie.”
I did. I searched for the balm of the opiates and found them. For years heroin prevented my suicide and let me function in the world. Of course I was in an “alternate” society and I reveled in it.
Understand this. For many years of my addiction I thought I had found my answer. Your problem with my addiction to heroin was your problem, not mine. For me, heroin was an answer, a solution.
Today, I have found other solutions yet still, the heroin, the opiates talk to me. They still tempt me at times like this, when the darkness, the long suffocating night, the dead winter of my spirit engulfs me.
At times like this, I just don’t know what to do. So I read “You Can’t Win” and enjoy the journey through a world I never knew, yet it is so like a world I came from. I imagine what it was like to be a ‘yegg’, an underworld character in a time without fingerprints, police radios, in a time where, if you had a mind to, you might cross the state line and start a new life without your past following you.
Is this good? Is this bad? Like all things, I have to say — it depends. That is always the escape clause.
Jack Black began a new life. He became successful in “society”. He worked for a major newspaper. He travelled and gave talks on crime and prisons. Yet in the end, the shadow claimed him. He said to his friends that if life became too grim for him, he would attach weights to his shoes and drop himself into New York Harbor.
Soon after that his favorite watch was found in a pawn shop. He disappeared and was never seen again.
Did his addiction rear up after thirteen successful years? Maybe his own darkness swallowed him.
I can feel my darkness opening its mouth, the foul maw sucking me into it.
What can I do at times like this? I sit at my computer and write. I tell you this story so, if I disappear, you might know where I have gone.
“Chapter 20 — from my book called “Essays On Major Mental Illness with A Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorder or What Came First: The Chicken or The White Horse”.
Well fellow denizens of a world we made, in California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has made a decision to transfer prison inmates out of state because of overcrowding. The privately run prisons are in Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arizona.
Over 2000 inmates are scheduled to be transferred.
Imagine if your father or mother was in prison and you lived in California and visited them regularly. It would be a big problem to continue family ties if they moved so far away.
Recidivism is reduced by maintaining family ties.
Some of these prisoners will get out one day and they may be furious and bitter by what was done to them. You might meet one on a sweet summer night and winter will rapidly come to you.
Their prisons are overcrowded due to mandatory minimums and three-strikes and you’re out laws.
I just wanted to give you something else to think about before I bid you adieu.
One of the biggest companies that owns privatized prisons is Shearson-Leamon (sp) who also owns American Express. It’s a good card to take the scissors to. In the United States, one way to vote is with your money.
Spend it wisely.