I am midway into ten weeks of therapy. Today we have returned from Vegas again. This time from playing a private party for Vice Magazine. I begin to be more inspired by upcoming projects, and less focusing on discomforts and complaint. I took the shot the morning we left for Vegas, and really never gave it any thought thereafter. I still find it awkward to have to remember my evening medication every day. If I didn’t put the pills in little containers of two, I seriously would lose track of taking them. Now my theory is starting to be that with the big general inner quarrels in my life somewhat controlled, I can cope with the alterations to my metabolism less stressfully. So I accept getting up in the middle of the night to snack, I don’t worry about getting back to sleep, I feel good in my bed, and I am at home in myself. If I knew how to explain the path to that door, I would break the news for all to see and use.
I saw Bartley today. I saw a book on the table in his reception room that bore his name as the author. It was called “Beyond Fear” Isaac Anthony Bartley, MD. A week ago I gave a blood sample, and it was about 4 weeks since the first one which showed very little change in my white blood count. This time, however, I was experiencing a different sort of physical mood than I had before. When he told me that my white blood count was particularly low, I was not as much surprised as I was disappointed. Disappointed because what he told me next was that were my white blood cell count to get any lower, we would have to look at other options; i.e. discontinue treatment. These drugs can set up dangerous situations in the body, and we must remember, not everyone is able to successfully complete treatment. An option he spoke of was a blood-enhancing drug that is currently the center of the Lance Armstrong controversy. EXPENSIVE, EXPENSIVE, EXPENSIVE! If my cell count stabilizes, everything will be all right. We have decided to wait until the 14th week to check the virus. Damn, I was hoping for a miracle cure. Remember too, the entire treatment is a developing therapy, and as such, nothing is a given. Another thing Dr. Bartley stressed was to get off the sleeping pills! We don’t know if there are any sleep deprivation issues until we have a clean slate to examine. So, I’m going to do everything he asks me to do, and keep reporting on this blog, and keep the course until I can make a firmer report. That’s it for now.
LABOR DAY/ “The Summertime Blues”
Final official- end-of-the-summer comments and thoughts on this Labor Day Weekend, 2005. For three days, since I’ve seen Dr. Bartley, I have been struggling with my mind and body over the constraints I was given by Bartley to cease all forms of relief available (other than Tylenol or Ibuprofen) outside of my own physical resources. Specifically, to clean up the sleeping pill obsession. That’s when it hit me. This isn’t just about a virus. No, not just about a virus. This is about reversing a trend that I turned into a lifelong career of convenient retreat. If it doesn’t feel right, I, and many others like me, go running to the medicine cabinet, or the beer store, or whatever one can find in a bottle, container, or package that fixes the ill. All things can be avoided through magic substances that are readily available, legal or otherwise. Sometime in 1963 at the age of 20, I decided it was time to leave my father’s house and start living on my own. Immediately, I ceased a regular diet, or any regular form of maintenance, other than what was convenient and a quick fill. Beef jerky, Slim Jims, Hostess cakes, donuts, chips, burgers, pizza, soda, beer, cheese and crackers; get the picture? I smoked, drank, stayed up all night, and after a while, took drugs. Now, I was wrestling with the fact that a few paces away was a bottle of tranqs, or sleep aids, and I could slip over to the medicine cabinet, down one or two, and be asleep in 20 minutes. My head was wracked with fatigue, and my brain was becoming franticly obsessed. Angela was asleep, no one would know….except me. There it was, like a huge neon sign. I needed to undo 40+ years of lackadazical attitude, and entitlement. It’s like “cold turkey” from yourself. Three or four days, with each day a little easier, until a normal (?) state of being kicks in. Dr. Bartley said my body was confused by all the meds I was taking. I needed to get back to square one, and see what was the truth. At this point, a difficult thing to do, but I had to make it or be unfaithful to myself “because there ain’t no cure for the Summertime blues”.
I look at the drawn, clay-like face in the mirror. I see the new lines and dimness in the eyes. I’m back in the pit of self contempt. I think of all the people I’ve wounded over the years, some catastrophically. I think about the loss of a child to drug overdose. I think of the countless shameful acts that have shaped the character that I am. I look at my past, my reckless decisions, my blown opportunities, and I ask the universe; why do I deserve another chance? The answer is because it’s never too late to find that cure. It’s never too late to be worth the space you were given --to help someone else find that cure. It’s never too late to say please help me. What more can I say at the end of this long, cruel summer? I say this; I’ve heard it a million times. I’ve heard it at award ceremonies. I’ve heard it at induction to halls of fame, dinnertime toasts, press conferences, on TV and radio. Someone is always saying it. Someone is always saying it because it is the truth. I know. I have proven it over the course of 40+ years. I could do none of this or anything else, without the love, support, and trust of my wife, my partner, and my best friend, Angela L. Davis. She says the strength is really in there and she is merely holding my hand, but for me, that is the ticket. The challenge is more than a virus. The challenge is to be true to yourself.