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How Dostoevsky Cured My Alcoholism or: Pissing on Hunter Thompson's Grave

March 13, 2016

 

What you have to understand about my company’s recognition banquet is that it’s really a team building exercise by way of a massive group bender. The banquet is always on a Thursday. They let us out of work at 11:30. The doors of the hall open at noon and food is served at 12:30. Ostensibly this hour gap gives the fashion-conscious time to get prettied up. Tacitly, this hour is provided for smoking up, slamming beers in the parking lot, or quaffing whisky shots at one of the many taverns stationed between work and the hall. When you arrive at the banquet you’re handed two drink tickets by someone from HR. There are bars set up in the hall on the way to the main ball room. There is a nice buffet lunch and the management team rushes through a few acknowledgments and speeches and then it’s on to the main event: everyone piles into the main bar to ratchet up an already heady early-afternoon drunk.

 

The 2015 banquet was a memorable one for yours-truly. That’s in spite of large black-out gaps in the action that I had to rely on eye witness accounts to fill in. I decided to go with straight Jim Beam for 2015 and I was drunk before I even got to the venue. Peeking out of the bourbony blackness were some real personal highlights. At dinner I cornered the head of engineering and grilled him about the 3-D printer the company had bought, raving about "the future" and all the money to be made in organs on the black market. I interrogated the new girl on the I.S. team about the suspected company initiative to fit us all with computer chips. I judged a classy lower-back tattoo contest. I led the bar in a sing-along to The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald. I remember doing drugs with someone in a bathroom stall. It was a banner campaign indeed.

 

In the end, I was at least responsible enough to take advantage of the company’s “free ride home” program. I did, however, vomit in the cab. And now I suppose we’re getting to the non-humor oriented portion of this blog post. My daughter had a basketball game that Thursday night. I knew this, and all afternoon I held on to the hopeless notion that I would somehow get myself together enough to attend. Instead I spent the night passed out in my own puke. For the life of me, I don’t know what made me think I could pull off what Dennis Hopper’s Shooter could not. Wait . . . yes I do. That’s the point of this blog! Old Fyodor clued me in. I'll share in a moment.

 

When I came to the next day I decided it was time to quit drinking. I figured booze and I had had a good run; it was time to hang up the flask. This latest incident was the last straw. Maybe the "last straw" should have been the drunken vandalism spree that earned me six months in jail as a 19 year old. Maybe it should’ve been my second DUI or the time I punched out a window at the DMV and had to have my hand sewn back together. (They weren’t open; no DOT workers were terrorized.) So maybe I'm a slow learner, but at least I'm willing.

 

I happened to be rereading Dostoevsky’s Demons at this time. The early English translations of the book had it titled, “The Possessed”. Translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky made a small but important distinction. Dostoevsky’s subject was not the possessed, the people taken by bad ideas, but the ideas themselves. The demons that possess us. Essentially people are weak and not all that smart. We allow ideas, for any number of reasons, take on an outsized importance. We assign them substance that they don’t really have. Sometimes these ideas are central to the particular identity we have cultivated for ourselves. Often the belief in certain ideas is what connects us to our particular social set.

 

When I looked at the reality of my life of drinking, you know, the real brass tacks of cause and effect, cost/benefit and all that, I realized I had nothing to miss. When I looked at my motivations for drinking with a dispassionate eye, I realized I was simply enamored with an idea. The world is always trying to sell you something and I bit hard on Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Hunter Thompson, Bukowski, Kurt Cobain. The drunken, rebel artist. It’s all bullshit.

 

Fyodor used Luke 8:32-36 to illustrate this whole phenomenon of the illusory power of lousy ideas. I don’t think I could do much better.

 

Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned.

When those who fed them saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed.

 

 

I think the main idea here is if you see that you're heading for the edge of a cliff, pull the fuck back, stupid. Don't wreck yourself for some idea that isn't yours in the first place. Let it go. Let some other dumb pig go down with that ship. 

 

In retrospect, I think I had an inkling of this truth long ago, during one of my only other prolonged periods of sobriety - my stay at the Kewaunee County Jail. I remember seeing a cover of High Times featuring Hunter Thompson and being a little dissapointed. Hunter Posing for fucking High Times. I felt it cheapened his writing, pandering to the hippy crowd, buying into this rock star cult of hero worship. Hunter bet everything on the drug-crazed character he had created for himself, the character people expected him to play, and it quickly ruined him. He didn’t produce a tenth of the work he could have, in quantity or quality. Fuck him for that.

 

I'm just glad I figured out what's really important to me before I pickled my brain, alienated my family or died without reading Don Quixote.

 

So yes! This piece should get me the audience I’m after! Bible verses, teetotalism, and shitting on Dr. Thomson. Fuck me. Forward.

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