Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens, by Ignacio Solares: When a drunk quits liquor cold, his brain panics. The poor brain, after being assaulted for years by alcohol’s neurotoxins, and having become chemically dependent, must now try to adapt to its suddenly alcohol-free environment. . .the liquored-up brain needs a little time to adjust to sobriety. . .unfortunately, during this adjustment period, the hungover brain functions a little erratically, hence the phenomenon known as delirium tremens, which boasts a myriad of symptoms including confusion, tremors, sweating, dehydration, unstable blood pressure, irregularities of the heart rate, and, most famously, auditory and visual hallucinations. This rummy’s manifesto is divided into twenty chapters. . .the odd-numbered chapters detail the delirium tremens experiences of ten nameless people. . .the even-numbered chapters present the story of Gabriel, an 80 proof prophet who allows the author to flesh out the harrowing DT experience and recovery process. Written by the Mexican novelist Ignacio Solares, this remarkable book is almost Christian in its repudiation of the world. The alcohol survivors we meet are closer to being *born again* in the spirit than the vast majority of those zombie *Christian* posers who warm the pews of our churches on Sunday morning.

One of the drunks we meet in the book asks: “Why can’t we stop in time?” (p. 134). All the drunks in the book come to realize their own powerlessness. Alcohol becomes the master, they become the slave. The greatness of this book is that Solares is able to expand the question *why can’t we stop in time?* so that it is clear this is the central question of the Age for everyone. . .for everyone is drunk on something.

These drunks hit *rock bottom,* as they say. . .they lose everything. . .their jobs, their families, their dignity, their will to live, and then even control of their own minds. . .they become tormented by the snakes, rats, bats, cockroaches, demons, monsters and phantoms of their delirium tremens:

“But when I got to the door, I knew that the man who was following me was just on the other side of it, waiting for me so that he could kill me. His killing me wasn’t my concern, however, it was the idea of seeing him, of finally meeting him. I ran to the window to jump out, but the curtain was closed and I knew when I opened it I would see that face I couldn’t withstand. I had the sensation that the only thing I couldn’t survive would be to see him. I desperately tried to figure out a way to kill myself before he could appear. I shouted out for help, and my mother came into my bedroom. I shook as I hugged her. I told her that he was there, near the door, and would be peeking in at any moment. She said no one was there and told me to lie down while she prepared an injection and called the doctor. Poor thing, she was crying and trembling as much as I was. She opened the curtains to show me that there was no one at the window, either, as I was insisting. From that moment on, I remember nothing. It’s as though my soul left my body. The window was open, and my mother says I yelled and jumped through it”(p. 67-68).

How do some drunks stop, who haven’t previously been able? Their sobriety is as mysterious as Christian salvation. . .it is unclear even to them. . .in the AA program, which most of the book’s drunks adhere to, one must acknowledge one’s own powerlessness, and the need for a higher power. . .as the Gabriel says:

“People who aren’t alcoholics will never be able to understand our return to life—and all its mysteries—when we stop drinking. Along with us, everything has a rebirth; for example, a flower we almost crush becomes a symbol of resurrection” (p. 166).

In Delirium Tremens, the recovering alcoholic stands above the mass of humanity, which many of Solares’ drunks rightly condemn as intoxicated as their former selves. As stated earlier, Solares is able to expand the question *why can’t we stop in time?*

Why can’t any of us stop in time? Why can’t the fat pig stop eating? Why can’t the pedophile stop molesting? Why can’t the credit card-carrying conspicuous consumer stop buying? Why can’t we stop lying, cheating, stealing, slandering, gossiping, etc., etc.? This extends from the individual level to the national level. Why can’t we stop bombing? The supposed enemy we attacked in Iraq is no more real than the bogeyman hiding behind the door in the hallucination quoted above.

“An ideal society is impossible, because of the inertia that drives us, an essential characteristic of the human condition. . .people don’t want to confront themselves, control their emotions. . .therefore, we don’t need a visionary to tell us that this is a society condemned, sooner or later, to self-destruct. It’s an alcoholized society, and you know that alcoholism is a progressive, deadly disease. . .we just go through life adrift, without really knowing ourselves or the world in which we live, guided by an absurd philosophy: let whatever has to happen, happen. . .it is just so easy to be swept away by the current” (p. 112-113).

“I don’t know why I started drinking. . .the problem is that suddenly, when we least expect it, our slaves become our lords and owners. That’s the way it is with everything, isn’t it? For years I’ve worked with computers. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they unplugged themselves, devoured the people who use them, and started to live their own lives. . .And barbituates? Tobacco? Television? We surrender life to things and then are surprised to have lost it” (p. 5).

What is the beginning of recovery for the drunk? The following revelation:

“Nothing is lost when we recognize that everything is lost and that we need to start over” (p. 175).

Almost Christian. These drunks are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. The rest of the alcoholized masses, the masses who have surrendered their lives to things, need a similar revelation. . .

Look around at our world. . .everything is lost, and we need to start over.

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