When Alcoholism Leaves You Nude and Reading Nietzsche
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Nudity and Nietzsche are probably a bit better than Nietzsche alone.
I wound up under a bridge after being unceremoniously booted from a residential treatment facility in Asheville, North Carolina, following the revelation that male staff members and administrators were regularly fucking the female clients with absolutely no repercussions, while the male clients were relentlessly and loudly told to “KEEP AWAY FROM DA WIMMINZ!”
The staff using the female clients as their private harem curdled my stomach. That fact also added a thick layer of bullshit icing to an already towering cake of crap, pushing me over the edge. And, as an alcoholic of literally staggering proportions, that meant nosediving hard and fast toward the bottom of a bottle of booze.
Background? I’m an alcoholic with 35 years of experience on the job. An honest-to-god professional. I’d discovered liquor, drugs and Arthur Rimbaud all in my 15th year, and this trifecta provided me with the formula by which I was to live from that point onward.
“The Poet makes himself a seer by a long, immense and reasoned derangement of all the senses. All forms of love, suffering and madness. He searches himself. He exhausts all poisons in himself and keeps only their quintessences.” That dictum from a long dead and deeply embittered 16-year-old French poet cut through centuries of white noise like a laser and swiftly became my operative principle.
Before very long at all, it was reflexive. Or, dare I say, habitual.
So, in this particular instance, I managed to get my paws on a liter of vodka, drank it and then sought out the administrators and railed drunkenly and angrily at them for their reprehensible violations of every therapeutic ethical standard they could possibly manage to violate, endangering the recovery of their clients and being fucking hypocrites of the worst kind.
I’m an alcoholic with 35 years of experience on the job. An honest-to-god professional. I’d discovered liquor, drugs and Arthur Rimbaud all in my 15th year …
Next thing I knew, I was deposited on a street corner in Asheville with nothing but the clothes on my back and a small bag of belongings. Torrential spring rains were cascading down and promptly soaked me through.
I found a bridge that crossed a narrow stream just north of downtown. Its name was Reed Creek. Clearly this was my new home, and I spent the next two weeks — and the last of my money — turning my body into 70 percent alcohol. Then the money ran out. Something had to change. But what? I already had next to nothing, so it only made sense to go the final mile: I stripped off all of my clothes and tossed them into Reed Creek. Then, since it was a lovely spring day with the sun softly glazing everything in warm gold, I decided to take a walk.
It took about three minutes before I was picked up by a deputy as I strolled down Merrimon Avenue with just a copy of Nietzsche in my hands and dreams of Diogenes dancing in my head.
As I was getting booked, another deputy asked me, “Whut were ya carryin’ the book fer?”
“Because I love philosophy.”
“Well,” he said, his expression becoming disdainful, “bet you shore as hell don’t feel too smart now, do ya, smart guy?”
After little less than a heartbeat, I looked him directly in the eyes and said, “It’s still better than being some third-rate deputy in a two-bit mountain town.”
Things got a little blurry after that, beating wise. Two days later I was released with time served. But, in a final act of spite, the only clothes they gave me to wear outside were a pair of boxer briefs and a soiled trench coat.
As the doors of the jailhouse closed behind me, I stood blinking in the brilliant mountain sunlight with my bare feet beginning to cook on the asphalt. Not far away, I heard the sound of children playing and laughing.
I find few things in life as joyous as the laughter of children. But standing outside the jail dressed in nothing but a trench coat and a pair of boxers, I anticipated getting trapped in an infinite carceral loop: back into jail for being dressed like a predator, out of the jailhouse because I am not one and back in again because next time the only clothes they’ll give me will be a cum-stained jockstrap and a floral print scarf.
I quickly turned down a side street and wound my way toward a thrift store on the south side of town where I might be able to beg a pair of pants. I came across a single raggedy-ass guy with nicotine-stained fingers and a thousand miles etched into the inches of his face, sitting on a stoop. I asked if he might have a pair of old pants he could give me.
He laughed. And laughed. And laughed.
It was clear he took a malicious joy that so many addicts have in the suffering of their kin: I may be going down, but you’re going down faster, fucker.
And I can’t fault that simian quality: We love to fling feces. It’s what we do, especially when some asshat dressed like Aqualung comes begging for a pair of pants.
I flipped him off and continued onward.
Next thing I knew, an SUV whipped around and some guy said: “Get in!”
Whuthefuck. Sure. I got in.
He drove me directly to the thrift store I’d been slouching toward, slapped a 20 on the counter and said, “Give him whatever he needs.” Then he left. Period. A good man. Solid guy.
I exited with pleated pants, a pressed white shirt and a pair of shoes. I was a motherfucking king.
Striding down the street, the sun beating on my head like a crown of gold, I decided to celebrate my freshly restored humanity by stealing a bottle of wine from a downtown store. I then sat in a vacant lot behind some John Deere tractors and raised a toast to the wonders of recovery communities. Well, that and the courageous service of our men in blue.