I was riding my bike with my daughter to the park today, just us two, as usual, with soccer ball and frisbee, and in the context of this outbreak, shelter in place order in Oakland and all the Bay Area, I was thinking it reminded me of my early days of sobriety. My first year or so, 1995, really getting sober and always, at least for the first few months, terrified of drinking or using. So I spent a lot of time alone, my wife was working, at a bar, which I could not go to, and there was not much human contact for me then in a small college town in Ohio. Working just a few hours a week at the Zephyr the small local vegetarian restaurant. Working as a “host” which may have been the owner’s way of giving me a job that was so simple I could do it, sortof. The people I knew from the bar were no longer an option and I had alienated all my family and friends. I was struggling but super focused on staying sober so I was being very careful but the early isolation, starting over with my life, was hard, before making new sober friends and other healthier people.
It got better. Then in 1997 I shattered my ankle rock climbing (falling) in West Virginia and was stuck at home with a walker for a few months. Four months in a solid cast. I had the VCR but also really lost it. Could not go running which had become one of my main things. So I really just read spiritual books, doubled down on that a lot. I really started to understand better, now that my head was clear, how I got sober and the best way for me to stay sober. Got a temp job as soon as I could drive a crappy car in my walking cast.
The years of isolation drinking and using were so much worse before 1995 when I got sober. Alone in my apartment in Philadelphia and Ohio, depressed, drinking, suicidal. Moving every few months trying to change my situation to try to change the way I felt. Going to Europe, which helped a bit. Writing in the belief that I was being ignored by publishers and feeling extremely sorry for myself. It was dark, pathetic, sad. From 1989 to 1995. Drinking etc. almost every day. Not a long time compared to many but I just hit bottom in 89 and stayed there.
Severe depression. In some ways my desire to be a famous writer, which I still have avoided, may have kept me alive — it was so important to me and I have stacks of notebooks of writing, journals, poetry etc. from that time. Reading Hegel and trying to write like Nietzsche which kept me alive although it was delusional. Reading and writing so much surrealist poetry.
Now that we are living in Covid-19-land and watching as of today businesses in California failing and NYC on the brink of their own escalation, I feel like it’s good to have gone through the positive experiences of being somewhat isolated, although in sobriety never feeling totally alone as I have so many friends and people that care about me. People move and lives don’t always sync up so it’s normal for me anyway to have times where I am not so social, looking to make new friends and try to be helpful. This period of relative isolation could last a few weeks or longer, but there are so many resources now beyond some books and a VCR I am optimistic that myself and others can get through this.