Recently I was put into a position where I had to make a choice. To be fair, I probably put myself in that position, but nevertheless a choice I had to make. Without going into too much detail, it basically boils down to this: Fully back myself and my book or go for the government recommended route of debt help and give up on any book related endeavors. If option B felt like a guarantee, it might be an easy choice. If option A had an above 50% chance of success things would be simple as well. But you guessed it. Neither is the case.
In my mind these two options are not mutually exclusive, but the people holding the money and help decided that it is, so what the fuck do I have to say about it.
So. Book or safety?
My answer? Drink.
Drink, smoke, feel sorry for myself and write. Like a true tormented author.
I started writing about my darkness because I saw it as a possible addition to my way out. Whilst I was going to sort my shit out, I could add to solving my problem by selling my book. Turns out that my book is now becoming part of the problem.
I had it all figured out. Don’t give in to darkness, find and accept help and don’t do it alone. Don’t romanticize the darkness, don’t become ‘that guy’ who prides himself on being defeated and truly believe in the support of others and the fact that there is a normal way out of this. Don’t follow in the footsteps of the ones who accept a shitty fate, don’t glorify self-destructing behavior. I was going to do this right. I was going to ignore my darkness and do it my way.
With a slight optimistic skip in my step, I set out on my new journey of joy, hope and problem solving with help from external sources. But as I have proved time and time again over the past decade, my way is never the right way. Within a matter or weeks, I was informed that doing it my way was not allowed or possible and very quickly my perspective started to shift. My way was no way at all and the suggested way to go made me very, very dark, and hopeless. As bottle caps and beer cans started to open, I was increasingly drawn to a route I want to avoid.
Fuck everything, give up on sensible hope and become a notorious, brilliant, alcoholic author. I do not want to pretend that life is fun or that I am happy or excited for the solution presented to me, so why not make a little party out of failing? Embrace my destiny of the struggling writer. I do not want to wake up early and breathe fresh morning air, I want to stay up late and smoke the darkest hours of the night away. I don’t want to look at my life with 20/20 vision, I’d like it to be blurry, slurry and a bit too drunk to worry. After all… I’m a failed writer, am I not?
So, if my way doesn’t count then why shouldn’t I become a whiskey soaked, nicotine overloaded depressed writer? That is not rhetorical by the way, why the ever-loving fuck shouldn’t I? It saddens me to say that over the past month I’ve found more happiness at the bottom of my glass than I’ve found in my sober hours. And contrary to popular belief (sound like a lot but I’m probably referring to about seven people) I don’t even drink that much. Mainly because my waking hours are spent on resisting urges like this. But oh my, how strong the pull to the dark side is. Every time I convince myself not to do a stupid thing like drink, gamble, or smoke I feel kind of proud of myself. With this much trouble, this much stress and all those problems I am able to withstand the temping, shiny promising vices of the world. That’s usually at around nine at night. At seven in the morning I’m still awake, stressing the fuck out over what might happen in a few short hours and I start feeling stupid for not drinking myself to sleep. Even more annoying than that is that I usually get proven right. The next day I do receive some shitty news and the cycle starts up again.
So let me try to answer my own non-rhetorical question from earlier. Why shouldn’t I drown myself in liquor?
First of all, in a vain and melodramatic sense: Writers who are famous for drinking a lot, never really drank that much.
You can find a host of amazing Hemingway quotes on drinking and, with a little confirmation bias, you could make a case for the heavy drinking genius with quotes like:
“I have drunk since I was fifteen and few things have given me more pleasure.” or “Modern life, too, is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.” and my favorite: “I drink to make other people more interesting.”
Words surely spoken a day after drinking in order to make it sound profound and intelligible.
But delve a little deeper and you’ll find that his view on the glory of being a depressed drunk is very different than what we’ve (or I’ve) come to think of these masters of writing:
“Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
When asked about drinking while writing he said:
“Jesus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes—and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one.” (This might make sense for my own book as well)
And it doesn’t stop with him. Notorious for getting absolutely smashed was the master of darkness and ravens himself. Mr. Edgar Allen Poe. In a time of gothic writing and freely flowing absinth Mr. Poe was a perfect specimen to adhere to this idea of the drunk writer. But Poe had a few issues with drinking. One of them was that he couldn’t. After a drink or two, due to a medical condition, Poe would be off his face within no time. Still, a lightweight in drinking doesn’t discount him from being a drunk, but it turns out that he would only drink in short bursts and then abstain for weeks, months or years at a time. Especially when writing.
So far, all I can find is sober writers who drink on their downtime but do not try to escape in it. So that leaves me and Hank Moody who seek solace in the booze, I guess.
Beyond this vain, comparing myself to writers or the fictional persona of David Duchovny there is a far more important reason for me not to drink.
The second to last sip of alcohol is always my happiest. But within that last sip might lie the deepest darkness that is in me. And if it hits just right, that gets unleashed. I’ve done so many stupid things when drunk and dark, made so many mistakes and hated myself and the world so much. It’s just not worth it.
So what do I do? My way is not possible, the Hemingway doesn’t exist, but I’m still sat here hoping that I have enough beer in my fridge, smokes in my pack and strength in my body to keep on going. Also not rhetorical by the way. Maybe I’m just being melodramatic, maybe I just can’t see further than tomorrow, but being stuck in this fucking situation is really frustrating. And when I’m frustrated, I want to drink. But if I drink, I feel like I’m giving in. I’m sure you see how annoying this is.
To be honest, when I set out to write this piece, I thought I would find a clever way to turn this into a story that would take you on a journey. It was supposed to be: State the problem, list effects, jam in some clever wordplay, chuck in some quotes, go dark for a bit and then come out on the other side with a nice, inspiring message about how great life can be and how this should be solved. But I just can’t find my way out of the maze this time. Maybe life is just shit for a bit sometimes and all you can do is hang in there. Don’t look for a way, not mine, not Heming, but just keep on sailing towards the horizon, hoping for better weather and still water.
Until next time,
With regards, The 30-year-old man and the sea.