Back to White Knuckle Sobriety. The Duke Ellington Cure.

Duke Ellington and John Coltrane In A Sentimental Mood.

Moderate drinking finally proved too dangerous after five months successful harm reduction. So I’m back to white knuckle sobriety. (AA jargon for the no slogan, non-Zombie, no-crawl-to-the-cross method.) I never surrendered to their system although some of it once helped me through eight and half years abstinence.

It’s very risky for alcoholics to start drinking again but I managed five months very occasional, very moderate drinking – inspired by Smart Recovery and the abysmally low success rate of 12 step. Till two weeks ago.

I had a two beers maximum, with the occasional bottle of spirits. It never got out of hand because booze isn’t ketamine, what I really want. (It’s a year since I’ve had any dance club drugs, achieved by a failsafe method which will beat any addiction: poverty. And ketamine may be permanently unavailable now due to a crackdown in India. It’s too risky and expensive to import. Now that actually was a cure for depression, if a tad unpredictable.)

The final drink relapse came out of nowhere, on a whim, the sort of inexplicable snap decision I was supposed to be writing about last time. (How a relapse can kill heroin addicts, RIP Harris Wittels, a superb screenwriter and so much more. Which I either forgot about or realized there was nothing to say about a shadowy nemesis I will never understand.

An ABC impulse control strategy was recommended during my brief farcical entanglement with Rational Emotive Behaviorial Therapy. Yes, even the title contradicts itself. And why would you pay for anything invented by ‘Windy’ Dryden? (His actual name, the one he uses for professional purposes. I assumed it was a misprint and referred to him as Wendy Dryden during the first session.)
‘A’ was the impulse. You were meant to put something at ‘B’, (deep breaths? Soothing words?). This would prevent the impulse ‘A’ becoming uncontrolled anger at ‘C’. In those days ‘C’ arrived all too quickly. I might as well have had a magic spell to prevent lightning strikes. It was as much use as a water pistol against a flash fire. The rage kept on coming.

The slight improvement I’ve made recently may just be becoming more docile with age. Or I’m more conscious of mortality or failing health. Maybe I’m growing up, as I approach sixty? Fat chance. Whatever, somehow I managed five months of very careful occasional moderate drinking before I snapped.

I bought a bottle of rum and two bottles of 6.1% Bishops Finger – don’t like the taste or the name but it is the strongest good brew available locally. (They stopped the off licenses selling 10 % Viking death lager, which is harsh on us occasional headbangers who would like a significant consciousness alteration for a quid. Bloody do-gooders!)
Maybe this was the rare intoxication day you’re allowed in Smart Recovery? (As long as you keep counting the drinks and stay watchful as you return to moderate drinking.) Unfortunately I didn’t feel drunk or even remotely merry after a bottle of rum and two half litres of strong ale. Maybe it was over too long a time or I was on an upward bipolar energy surge but I didn’t feel a thing.
Money down the drain, for nothing, except a massive intake of useless calories, way too many brain cells torched and no exercise instead of the hundred press ups I’ve managed most days this year. Plus you age very quickly on such a regime. You look like your own ghost.

For once, miraculously, there were no psychotic internet posts – psychotic used correctly in the clinical sense, as recently insisted upon by the public school Bin Laden groupies at the Al Grauniad.

So, no death threats or ‘extremist’ ranting (ie anti-Marxist, counter Jihad). My armchair thug must be running out of testosterone. Perhaps he’s taking female hormones in preparation for gender reassignment. Maybe he’s taken up Buddhist meditation, like my hero Herbie Hancock. (Whose autobiography is highly recommended)
A mild trance did ease the pain of listening to England’s feeble cricket performance on Test Match Special (I know how to party…) but the only positive was the realization this was the abyss, ‘hitting bottom’, after which the only way is up.

Many abstinent months are needed before playing with fire again. Feeling very good two weeks in.

I read somewhere that Duke Ellington may have stopped drinking eventually upon realizing he was sober after the intake of what should have been a stupefying quantity of booze.
Enough is enough. This drug doesn’t work.

MAY 2018 More than three years sober now. Which buys a lot of green tea…


RIP Harris Wittels. Parks and Recreation writer. Wise and Funny. Enlightened Soul.

It’s harder to be funny without cruelty or snark, to be good-hearted without sentimentality. Harris Wittels helped create a charming, innovative show full of unique characters. His humblebrag concept was a popular twitter feed and book. Parks and Recreation in print was smarter and funnier than such tie in products generally are. He made some amusing cameo appearances in P & R, played in a band and he was consistently entertaining and inventive in podcasts, particularly this one

where he discusses his heroin use at length, coming over as a wise, enlightened soul.

Was his first extremely expensive rehab much more than a very fine hotel? Twelve steppers prefer a harsher regime for new recruits and, highly intelligent though he was, he was ultimately too laid back about a serious threat to anyone’s survival. It feels wrong criticizing someone who died far too young but too many good people have succumbed recently.

I dabbled a few years ago but the experience of meeting vile, odiferous thieves soon palled. His memories of street junkies awakened mine. Clean clothes, good trainers, all your own teeth? You must be a cop! Although I had some longstanding serious problems I was still a tourist who didn’t need to be there. Harris Wittels had even less reason to be plumbing the depths: much younger, a deserved critical and commercial success, he was an in demand party animal in the world capital of show business. New creative opportunities were opening up, he had a good relationship with his family. However, young men are often reckless, risking their lives in fast cars, dangerous sports or even enlisting as mercenaries. He may just have succumbed to curiosity. There has to be something better than what you know.

I hope this isn’t ‘karoake grief’ (coined by Rory Bremner for the mass emoting after the death of Diana Spencer and other tragedies). It may be inappropriate to write about someone I first heard of the day they died. Well, it probably can’t be said often enough: however experienced you are with drugs, you can’t control heroin.

I’ve been fortunate relapsing after long periods of drug and alcohol abstinence, there were injuries and arrests but an intravenous heroin user loses tolerance. (Just snorting heroin can be fatal, two visitors to Amsterdam recently died from a much purer form of the drug than their usual dose.)

Despite some mystical musing about reckless behaviour – roughly ‘what’s an extra fifty years compared to eternity’ he didn’t want to upset his family by dying young and had worked hard in recovery. He was on stage the night before he died, in a good place. Then a final snap decision…

So very sad but his work will live on, as will the love and affection he inspired in many people.

Harris Wittels 1984 -2015