Tag Archives: addiction

The rest is not silence

The greatest jolt that one can bear is the sound of dirt
hitting the casket lid. It lingers long on the air,
echoing the heart’s crescendo and tripping the breath’s staccato.

Listen:
the melody of a life is never sung complete or only in one key,
the end beats are seldom, if ever, in rhythm
and the harmony can be discordant to a degree.
That is why it is left to the rest stops—those blessed little spaces,
those tiny, magical pauses between the major and minor shifts—
where a life beat is best measured and heard aright.
Music is about silence, as death is about life,
or at least, that is what I heard sung that day.

This poem was written for the daughter of very dear friends, who, after a long battle with addiction, lost that fight. She was a dear soul, a generous, kindhearted person and a loving mother, who, like many people caught in her situation, seemed unable to stop or dull an ache that just wouldn’t quit or be denied.

I remember her funeral well. Her mother had written a eulogy that she asked my wife to read on her behalf. It started off, “I remember the first time I looked into your eyes,” and a few minutes later, after recalling many happy and warm times, there was not a dry eye in the room. But when it got to the end and she recalled looking into her daughter’s eyes that very last time as she prepared the body for burial, everyone was bawling. When my wife got back to our seat I asked her how she got through it without breaking down, because I know I couldn’t have done it. “I have no idea,” she said, “Some power came over me to help me.” It was later when she cried.

Reading this you’d think that the entire day was pure tragedy, and I don’t deny that it was sad.  But after reflection it is a sense of redemption that I carry with me now, because that day was also heartwarming. A beloved child, a dear sister, a loving mother was dead; but she was also honored and loved, and that honor and love was poured out in such abundance that day that there was also—or at least there was for me—a sense of understanding, of closure and of letting go with dignity.

Thank you for reading The rest is not silence. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

– 2012.12.01

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Fix

I took the stuff that makes
the light fail around the edges
and causes sound to disappear,
sealed it in a package,
wrapped it with a hug,
and flew it out to the coast,
letting it go, all of it,
praying to God my tears
didn’t ruin the return address
so that he could find his way
back home.

Please, can you fix him
so that he can be what he can be,
and not the junkie he’s become?
Please?

Thank you so much for reading Fix. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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Recovery’s a bitch

Life is pain,
misery, choice.
Rhyme that, Sunshine!

Thank you for reading Recovery’s a bitch. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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The calculus of feeling

The integral part of the nerve flux is pain
when the curve stays mute no more,
and when it’s summed up for all that you’re out—
pay later, pay now, but pay—
it’s not supposed to matter, except that it does,
because now it’s not the instant, it’s the whole.

This is the way that the curve wends its way
through the range of emotions it finds,
and if it’s hard at the end it wasn’t at the start
when the twisting had just begun.
I recall at the time that the values were mine
and there was something to be said for that,
but that was then and this is now, and tomorrow,
it will all fall down upon me again.

One of the things that most struck me in trying to understand addiction is the mathematical nature of its roller coaster emotional curve.

What follows is a very readable and understandable short description of a mathematical subject. Even people who “don’t get math” will get this. You’ve been warned.

Calculus is a branch of mathematics co-developed in the mid 1600s by Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz. If you take a graph of the changing speed of an object, differentiating it at a point means finding out exactly what is happening at that instance: that is, either your acceleration, that “push you back into the seat” feeling, or your deceleration, the “push you against the safety belt straps” feeling that you get when an automobile starts off quickly or stops quickly. If, however, you integrate the graph, you are trying to determine how much area is underneath its shape; in the notion of speed, integrating it gives you the total distance that you have traveled.

It is as simple as that: the math of calculus and its two halves—differentiation and integration—tell you exactly what is happening in the part or in the whole.

What struck me, and was the impetus to this poem, was the parallel between these very physical activities and the emotions of addiction. If you think of a plot of a person’s emotional state over time, you can think of differentiating at any one spot as the degree of happiness (like acceleration) or suffering (like deceleration) experienced by that person at that moment; and integrating that emotional arc over some time period—that is, determining the area “under the emotional curve”—will tell you the amount of joy, if there was more happiness than suffering, or the amount of pain, if there had more suffering than happiness. An addict’s curve is assuredly negative and will have been that way for a long time.

A “flux” by the way, is a wave that moves through something. A current of electricity is a flux of energy moving through a wire. The “nerve flux” is the amount of emotional pain that can no longer be dulled or quieted through addiction. I was drawn to use it as “flux” was the word that Leibniz used when he first described his version of calculus.

Thank you for reading The calculus of emotion. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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That terrible lover

I hear it better now than ever I did before,
you did that. It howls now loud
in the quiet of every street;
anyone can hear it, anyone can have it,
anyone can see the ruin of every home—
that comfort, that love, that need.
God, how long?
It starts, they say, low and muted
a mere whisper, a softer caress, a first kiss: so kind.
And then it’s part of you,
closer than a heartbeat,
dearer than a lover,
and bound to you as you are to it, forever.

He’s here now, you know, in your poem—
at the table with the Scotch cookies and Polish cakes
and the tea to serve to friends.
And all the while he’s waiting,
itching to play with matches,
staring at the covered cage and snarling,
Sing, damn you, sing!
He’s here.

Few people realize how prevalent drug and alcohol addiction is. It truly is the “elephant in the room” that just doesn’t seem to get talked about enough.

The tragedy of addiction is like an onion: thickly layered from the inside out. The toll on the addict and everyone around them is heartbreaking. And what is doubly sad is that many addicts are, at their base, trying to self medicate their emotional pain away.

Thank you for reading Itching to play with matches. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.

john

© 2012 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2012 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.

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