Many people think alcohol is the best thing man ever invented. Author Henry Lawson even said: “Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer.” And when I started drinking I felt the same way.
I wasn’t really sure if drinking beer was for me, it seemed like it was hard to drink enough, fast enough to be worth the trouble. Then I discovered Vodka and the whole game changed, although I still wasn’t sure I liked the feeling.
But I wanted to give it a fair chance so I drank heavily for the next twenty five years, just to be sure. Simply put, it didn’t work out well and after many tries I quit for good almost fifteen years ago.
Some people can drink a beer or two and stop, something I not only couldn’t do but will never understand. I was the same kind of drinker as the infamous Charles Bukowski who summed it up perfectly: “So where do you go? Back to the bottle And back to a tiny room somewhere. And wait. And wait, and wait. That’s all.”
“i am with the roots
sending up my passionate blossoms
as a flight of rockets
wine churls my throat,
feet walk upon my brain, monkies fall from the sky
of the planets,
but i seek only music
and the leisure
of my pain”
Charles Bukowski, The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems
“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” Charles Bukowski
One night when we were teenagers my friend Jeff jumped in front of a train because he thought it was the best way to handle things at the time. A group of us had gone to the movies and as usual Jeff was out of control drunk. After another argument with his mother, a recovering alcoholic, he made his way to the tracks and waited.
Somehow he didn’t die but only broke his pelvis, and he continued to drink as heavily as before. He had his problems: two alcoholic parents, one who shot himself playing Russian roulette and a couple of missing fingers from a homemade bomb explosion, but which one caused such deep depression? Maybe all of them or maybe something else.
I lost touch with Jeff in my late twenties and watched other friends attempt to handle their depression in various ways. Most drank and did drugs as I did, and as time went by several ended up dead. After a breakup with his girlfriend my friend Cary tied a bayonet to his steering wheel and drove into a bridge. Others overdosed or shot themselves, and a former boss chose hanging.
Forty years later I still continue to struggle with depression and see many in the same boat. A photographer I used to follow, Don Graham, often wrote about his battle with Bipolar disorder and several months ago took his own life. He was in therapy and on several medications.
Depression is a fight we have with ourselves, completely created by our thoughts and we get stuck there. Antidepressants will only take you so far and often the side effects are unbearable. Therapy may help, but unless they’ve been there themselves it can seem like just words they learned from a course in college.
I think of depression like a train: Sometimes you can see it objectively, and despite all the smoke and noise you can distance yourself from it and get through the day. Other times its headed right for you, and like my friend Jeff, you stand there as it runs you over.
My favorite author, Charles Bukowski wrote: “Nobody can save you but yourself and you’re worth saving. It’s a war not easily won but if anything is worth winning then this is it. Think about it. Think about saving your self.”