I decided against buying my usual six pack, plus a quart of Carta Blanca, and decided to tough at least one night out with no booze. At loose ends, I thought about that Times article, and a revelation came to me that I used alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes to help me cope with loneliness. I started cleaning up my apartment, and soon enough, I knew that I had stumbled onto something.
I decided to abstain from drugs (weed) and alcohol on those nights when I found myself by myself in my apartment. I found that I could totally do this. The insight I had about why I used under such a circumstance really helped me abstain under that same circumstance. I did this abstinence-on-nights-alone thing all into November, and I soon possessed enough confidence to make another stab at quitting my two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. I rejoined a support group I'd previously checked out after the American Lung Association told me where they met. I picked December 1st, 2001 as my quit date, bought some patches, got some gum, and started a year-long effort to stay off of cigarettes. I relapsed many, many times in 2002, kept going to meetings, got on Zyban, and I've not smoked as of December 1st, 2002.
My big push to abstain from drugs and alcohol began in late 2008. Whatever progress I'd gained in 2001 from my efforts to not drink and smoke dope alone lay years on the past by that time, and I realized that moderation could not do it for me. My therapist, a guy trained in counseling people with substance abuse issues, proved a major catalyst in helping me come to my decision to commit to abstinence in the first place. In the years that followed, I found a support group for people with both a mental illness diagnosis and substance abuse issues whenever I found myself needing that kind of help (I haven't had a therapist in years and years).
So, my efforts to find more constructive ways to deal with my loneliness hold strong to this day. I could not have taken care of my dad in his home for all those years following my decisions to quit those activities if I had never been able to shake those habits. My dad wound up falling in the bathroom, downstairs from me, in August of 2019, at about 8:15 AM. He'd collapsed on his walker, and his sensor on his emergency call button failed to register an impact that would have alerted the EMS. I heard him call me from his position over the bathtub as I tried to sleep upstairs. I wondered, "Oh god, what is it this time?" and came downstairs to find him that way. I had been out to breakfast that morning, and had coffee at a coffee shop, but I'd made it home in time to be there when he tried to go to the bathroom and fell. He's been in assisted living ever since.
I was so glad I was not out on some drug and alcohol binge that would have kept me away from the house that morning when he needed me, but, like I said, I couldn't have performed that job all those years prior if I'd been using that whole time anyway. My efforts to take better care of myself all those years ago prepared me for that moment.
I think about all of that stuff now that we all have this major event going on in the world. I've been preparing for nineteen years for this time without even realizing that my efforts to take better care of myself amounted to such preparation. And, this is all ME, Richard Alexander. Anyone who reads my latest series of books, "The Legend of Richy Vegas," knows that the central conceit of that story lies in the notion that I have undiagnosed Dissociative Identity Disorder and Dissociative Amnesia Disorder. That other part of myself that I, Richard Alexander, only experience through what a large percentage of people in the medical community would label hallucinations (not "recovered memories," as my conceit in those stories would have it); that supposed other side of myself has nothing to do with these efforts I initiated to take better care of myself starting in the Fall of 2001.
My reason for committing to abstinence from drugs and alcohol in the first place comes from a desire to improve my relationship with women. That has proven a tough slog without a lot of "success" to show for it. Then again, define success; I feel as if I've fought mightily against the efforts of emotionally abusive, controlling women to treat me shabbily, and I've enjoyed success after success in showing them the door. Again, that's all me, Richard Alexander, not Richy Vegas. The importance of that distinction resides in the notion that I can plug into the successes of Richard Alexander and expand upon them in these times, rather that pray for some miracle where Richy Vegas would appear and catch serial killers or thwart rapists or some such.