Conscience and the Law: Full Disclosure (a memoir)

This is update #1 for Tales of Mary Jane. As subscriptions go, a dollar of backing is quite a bargain, unless you hate me and/or my writing. Here we go.

I spend several hours online every day, exploring news sites I follow, or leads shared by friends in my social network who share my (some say) over-broad range of interest. I interact with many of these friends on Facebook, too.

I do email.

I research (a weasel-word for “looking shit up I’ve forgotten”).

I “like” and share.

I get lost wandering among my photographs and document files.

All of it together leads me to speculate on the condition of the world, and whether there is to be much of a human future in it.

Sometimes, as a result, I get an idea for something I might do in the hope of improving the prospects of that future, if completed, that would fit into this pattern of my daily life.

This project, The Tales of Mary Jane: the Children of Prohibition, is the latest one of those ideas. People who notice it will ask themselves what, exactly, is the axe I’m grinding with it? The answer is simple, and it’s inescapably personal.

By the time I reached the age of 30, I had lived half my life in a pattern recognized in the therapeutic sense of it, as alcoholism. I continued to deny it for half-a-dozen years after, in rare sober moments, I knew it either had to be true, or I was simply one of the great fuck-ups. An increasing tendency to get into fights while drinking finally brought me to ground; like any common bully or coward, I was afraid someone was likely to kick my ass really good one day and hurt me if I didn’t mend my ways. Deserving or not, I intended to avoid it any way I could.

I stopped drinking then, and haven’t started up again. If I said I haven’t thought about, don’t think about drinking any more, those who share the status with me would cry “Bullshit!” to the rafters; I’d be busted by it, and my already diminished credibility would vanish. It wasn’t easy to quit (and neither was tobacco); maybe the only thing that kept me from returning to the swig was the fear that, if I had, I wouldn’t be able to stop a second time. Saved, once again, by cowardice.

I can say I was a bully and a coward because the fear of getting battered led me to quit. Some explaining is required, because, after all. it’s unflattering, and It needn’t be said, so why admit it, even if true? The answer is simple enough. If I was insufficiently motivated to stop drinking as the result of losing nearly everything of importance to any normal person, aside from the ability to walk, talk and have sex, what would it take? Self-respect, concern for others, marriage, jobs, schooling, emotional stability, financial stability, belongings, all had been left in crumpled heaps behind the bent-wheeled wagon I could never quite get on.

It may seem strange to that rarest of readers with no personal experience of this kind, but bad as it was, it could have been a lot worse. While I have been jailed five times, directly or indirectly, as the result of drinking, it was never for longer than overnight. If it had happened twenty years later, when drunkenness was no longer an acceptable legal defense against prosecution for bad driving, I would have spent years behind bars, and that’s just for the times I was caught. If I had not been white, and from a “good” family, I might still be inside. If you’re not good, it’s good to be lucky.

So, I quit drinking. I’d have done it sooner but for a single fact: I had become a regular user of marijuana five years before. The combination was mellower than straight alcohol, and the trip was smoother. The weed wasn’t, like it is (I’m told) today so debilitatingly strong as to preclude being overpowered by the manic impulses unleashed by whisky, and so I could still provoke an altercation to regret upon sobering up.

Perspectives on substance abuse vary. Matters of opinion in the absence of solid research, and variations in the professional milieux of treatment and recovery are influential. I followed my own lights, and chose alcoholism from the menu of recovery options, ignoring the insistent nags, “What about those unresolved dependencies? What about honesty?” So give me an F, and boot me out of Sunday School. I never cared, and I don’t today. I’m a true believer in nothing but the power of love and kindness.

I tried once or twice to let others decide for me how to interpret what went on in my mind as a result of alterations I sent coursing through it. I came back always to the inkling that, smart as they sounded when they talked in general terms about what I was experiencing, it always came down to one conclusion, “Well, you don’t really know me, after all.” As it always among the self-indulgent, at the end of every encounter, I made it all about me, and never about those I hurt or damaged. In short, it was the way of bullies and cowards.

At this stage of my life, I can acknowledging these things, and I feel a needing to do so. It seems the most direct way for me to get to the more important, the all-important, business of making what remains of a meandering, maundering life useful to others not so lucky, in any way I can. That’s what I want to accomplish with the Tales of Mary Jane.



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