booking it

I finished all three books I was discussing in my pre-beach post. Dry was utterly amazing. It might even be my favorite of Augusten's books, which I wasn't expecting. I have never been particularly interested in substance abuse/dependence. In fact, I have always been more interested in every other cateogry of DSM diagnoses than in the substance-related ones. They've always been at the very bottom of my list. They just never captivated me. Frankly, they even bored me a little. In my undergrad abnormal psychology class, I was assigned to take on the role of an alcohol abuser for a taped clinical interview, and I was fairly disgusted. I desperately wanted disorganized schizophrenia, and instead, was stuck with my very last choice. This assignment did nothing to change my lack of interest in substance abuse. Nor did the time I spent working in the local detox unit last summer. Or my psychopathology class last fall (granted, I was sick then, but still.) The point is that none of my academic work or clinical experience has brought alcoholism to life like this book. I get it now. I was completely fascinated by Augusten's illustrations of the way that for an alcoholic, everything revolves around alcohol. Every thought, regardless of content, is related to alcohol. Cases in point:

(1) In describing his desire for a new love interest, he writes, "I want more of him. In the same way that if he were a martini, I'd want a few more rounds."

(2) He refers to a passion-filled moment as, "one brief though ninety-proof instant."

(3) When asked to think of something calming, he envisions "an icy martini, single olive dead center at the bottom. There's a gentle quiver of the surface tension as the liquid threatens to--but doesn't--spill over the edges."

(4) In assessing the constant applause that occurs in AA meetings, he recognizes, "it's how we buy drinks for each other."

Etc. I just can't say enough about how wonderfully enlightening this book was. I look forward to being able to use my new understanding of the experience of addicts in my future therapy career. Because, as I've always begrudgingly admitted, I will be working with people who suffer from substance-related disorders, because they suffer from all sorts of other mental illnesses too. Comorbidity is the rule, as we say. I'm much more excited about this prospect now. I might even get my AA blue book (yeah, I'm enough of a nerd that I have my own) off the shelf and read it. Early on in Dry, in a moment of frustration, Augusten thinks to himself, "I hate people who don't drink. They understand so little." This assertion is quite true as it relates to me...or it was, before I read this book. I'm deeply thankful that Burroughs was brave enough to tell his own tragic story. I hope he knows the difference he's making.

The Glass Castle, on the other hand, was a bit disappointing. Walls's story is certainly shocking, and it is amazing that she overcame her childhood circumstances, but the writing itself just isn't up to par. Walls is a journalist now, and I think that her line of work comes across in her writing. She writes too much like a reporter--not enough like a human being with complex emotions. Not a bad read, but not a great one, either.

My opinion of Kerouac's On the Road is much the same. I liked it, but I didn't love it. And I really wanted to love it. In terms of plot, it reminded me a little too much of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, of which I'm not a fan. "We drank. We had sex with some girls. We went to another bar and drank some more. We slept. We were hungover. We drove to another place and did it all again." It just gets old. What kept me turning the pages, though, were Kerouac's beautifully poetic descriptions of the geography and the stream-of-consciousness philosophizing of the character Dean Moriarty. I can see why this book came to be regarded as "the testament to the Beat Generation," as the back of the book says, and I'm glad to have read it. I do feel slightly more cultured now. :) But I'm also ready to move on. To Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn, which I'm enjoying immensely and will discuss more when I finish.

My own life is infinitely less interesting that any of these books, but I suppose it should be covered here as well. :) Things are going well. I've been eating well and working out every day, and my muscle cramps have almost stopped, which is very good. I haven't lost any weight though, so I think that my Synthroid dose needs to be increased, which won't happen until my next appointment in August, so for now, I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best. I still feel tired a lot, but otherwise, I feel good. Better than I have for over a year. I'm in the process of weaning myself off of my antidepressants, which I don't think have done anything anyway. Because of the time line, I'm quite convinced that my emotional improvement has been a direct result of my thyroid treatment rather than my antidepressants. Technically, they really shouldn't have been prescribed in the first place, because technically I shouldn't have been diagnosed with clinical depression. (Nearly) every DSM criteria set includes a criterion that says, essentially, "rule out a general medical condition," and in my case, we certainly couldn't rule out Graves' disease as the cause of my depression symptoms. I think it was, in fact, the direct cause. This experience has certainly educated me about the way the medical field fails to act in accordance with the DSM. Anyway... hopefully I'm right about the cause of my symptoms, such that they won't come back even when I completely stop taking antidepressants. But if they do come back, at least I'll know what I'm dealing with, which is better than continuing to take medicine that probably isn't doing me any good.

Lots of things to look forward to in the coming week. Tomorrow I'm heading to Lexington to go to a midnight showing of the new Harry Potter movie with Alex and his crew. I'm definitely excited about the movie (and donning my Gryffindor tie for the first time in much too long.) I'm carpooling with our long-time friend, Tyler, and am anticipating some good car-ride discussion and catching up, which I'm looking forward to as well. This weekend, Alex, Jenny, Joe, Kevin, and Dallas (who just started a record label that you should check out!) will be here for a Nickel Creek concert that I've been looking forward to for months. I'm still very sad that they're breaking up (seriously, Why should the fire die?), but incredibly excited about seeing them one last time. It's hard to believe that they're coming to Ashland's very own Paramount. My very favorite band with some of my very favorite people. It doesn't get much better than that. :) I can't wait.