They only come out at night.
When you first get sober, it is common to suffer sleeping disorders. For one thing, you're not used to going to sleep naturally. Addicts usually don't fall asleep as much as they pass out. So once you get clean and you try to go to sleep like normal people, it doesn't always work. That's why many addicts describe their first month clean as "thirty days and a thousand nights."
I'm happy to report that I am long past that stage and fall asleep quickly soon after my head hits the pillow. However, staying asleep is sometimes a challenge. Periodically, I'm plagued by nightmares about taking drugs. I often get high in my dreams, drinking alcohol and smoking crack, but always under circumstances which turn the dreams into something scary.
A reoccurring dream throughout my sobriety has been of me in what I first think is a crackhouse, but gradually realize is actually the Worcester Dining Commons at UMass. I also come to realize that the people I'm smoking with are not my friends but evil people intent on killing me. The dream always ends before I'm harmed but only because I suddenly come awake frightened and sometimes even sweaty.
I'm baffled by what the dream means, or why it takes place in a dining commons I haven't eaten in for decades. But the dream keeps coming back and ruining my sleep, so I asked one of my shrinks about it. He could offer no suggestions, except that the dream was probably rooted in something so deep in my psyche that I had no conscious understanding of it. I asked how I might come to such an understanding and he suggested to me I should go to the dining commons itself and walk around a little. Maybe something I saw or heard there would bring something bubbling up from my unconscious.
So I did. The next day after I got out of the Amherst Survival Center I went to the Worcester Dining Commons, where students were still going in and out for lunch.
When I went inside I realized I couldn't go past where you have to show some kind of ID in order to go to the place where food was served. Even though I stood well away from that area, a matronly woman behind a cash register kept scowling at me. I suppose people are always trying to sneak into the place just like in my day. You always had a visiting friend or relative you wanted to get in somehow.
But I ignored her disapproving stares and tried to take in some of the vibes. I had nothing in particular I was trying to tune into. I don't know what I expected to see or feel. What I really felt was nostalgia, to see this old place again, and to remember a younger more innocent me, a version of myself that could never have imagined my coming here, so many years later, and on such an errand. I thought of the students I ate here with, most of whom I never saw again after UMass, and a few others whom I know have died. I was nostalgic for who we were, who we hoped to be, and the unlimited possibilities we thought lay before us.
That lady behind the cash register was really starting to glare at me. And why shouldn't she? Who was this old guy just standing and staring into the commons? Some stalker? Some pervert? Someone criminally insane? I gave her my sweetest smile, which didn't melt her glare one bit, and then I shuffled out the door.
No enlightening insights into my psyche occurred at the dining commons, but you know what? Something must have happened on some level because I haven't had that scary drug dream in over a week. Instead I've had really erotic dreams, and that's cool. In one I made love to a person that's now dead. In another it was with a stranger. In a third dream I had sex with someone I know, and in a fourth with someone I now want to know better.
This is Gordon Daniels from the Daily Hampshire Gazette/Amherst Bulletin. He came to the Survival Center to take pictures for an article they are doing. He took my picture and wrote down my name, so maybe I'll be in it. Whatever. I asked to take his picture for my blog and he said yes.
We chatted and he told me that he probably wouldn't see the picture I took of him, since he wasn't a computer person. That's just as well, I don't think my picture of him came out that good. He told me he has worked for the Gazette/Bulletin since 1965.
Wow, that's a long time! Such lengthy careers in journalism at one venue specializing only in photography will not be possible in the New Media. Many writers today are expected to also be skilled in photography and to take their own pictures to accompany their stories. They're increasingly called upon to make their own video as well.
The Survival Center also put out a new brochure, and I'm in it, along with Ryan, a volunteer from Holyoke Community College.
A perfectly fine picture, but Ryan and I both felt we could do better. Here's Ryan:
Here's me wearing my Keith Haring t-shirt:
Keith Haring was an artist famous for his t-shirt designs. He died of AIDS.
Finally, I take you to a pub in Ireland.