July 30, 2008

Going Dark

ptg is going into the dark for a while.
Updated: On crawling out from under the porch:

Thank you for your kindness and concern, everyone. I think things are clearing up here at my end. For reasons that must remain obscure, I felt that the time had come for me to leave town in a hurry. There wasn't time for a yard sale and I'm sure I'd be no good at arson, so hurried preparations seemed to preclude any fiddling around with blogging. This urgency has passed.

I'm trying to get things back on an even keel here at the feedlot, and will be taking it easy for a while. Sudden changes and haste are no good for what ails me. Since my liver failed me in the late 90's, I've been trying to create a quiet, peaceful home and to live in it at at measured pace. Because I don't actually deserve such a peaceful state, it isn't a stable one.

I guess what appear to be two different reasons for this instability are really one. My misspent life and my excessive consumption of whiskey are inextricably connected. I couldn't have done the things I did if I had been sober. At the same time, I wouldn't have done those things had I been sober.

I try not to whine about my situation. If men are in fact punished for their wrongs in this life, then I've gotten off easy so far. I'm reminded of an old National Geographic story about longevity. It included interviews with cats who had passed the 100 year mark. One of them, a South American lady, felt that the only reason for her long life was her youthful wickedness: "God will need a very long time to punish me."

Having established that there are two interconnected aspects to my knee-jerk reaction to this week's events, I'd like to share a bit more. I won't go into details about my misspent life, but I will say a few thing about my troubles with alcohol.

I never drank much until I was over 21. By the time I was 30, I was a heavy social drinker, but beginning to drink in solitude. Sometime in the 1970's, I made a conscious decision to become addicted to alcohol. From then on, I never had another hang-over. The habit required me to dose myself about every four hours. For the next twenty plus years I bashed my way through life while drinking a quart of whiskey or its equivalent every 24 hours.

During those 20 years, I was able to run my businesses (albeit poorly), travel extensively, get mixed up in all manner of odd, sometimes shady enterprises. Not only did I survive many dangerous scrapes relatively intact, but I also went to law school and passed the bar exam, all while drunk as a lord.

I suffered a few injuries, but I never incurred so much as a single drunk driving charge. I never had any real trouble with the law in those days, on the contrary, my criminal record actually got cleaner.

In my youth a crooked prosecutor had forced me to confess to a crime. First he had me beaten all night by the police to get me to confess to a murder. Then, when that didn't work, he hired a gunman to force me to confess to yet another crime. The sentence was a mandatory 2-5. Before I started drinking I was a convicted felon, but I got the conviction thrown out and was acquitted many years later, while I was a drunken law student.

In the mid 90's I decided to stop drinking. There were numerous reasons, but I had always known that my addiction would have to end eventually. I measured my daily intake of whiskey, looked up delirium tremens and made a withdrawal chart. It took only 10 days to taper off and quit. Not having been driven to drink by demons, I haven't had a drop of alcohol since then. But it was too late for my liver.

Some time later I got what I thought was a bad case of the flu. It got worse until most of my internal organs shut down and I swelled up like a toad. An emergency trip to the hospital saved my life. The doctor drained many liters of ascites from my abdomen, and after a long recuperation I was given the bad news: diagnosis: cirrhosis of the liver, prognosis: 5 years to live.

I naturally asked my gastroenterologist to pull no punches, and to tell me what to expect. What I remember him saying was that there were a number of ways for cirrhosis to kill a person.

First is sudden hemorrhage from esophageal or intestinal varices, a "dramatic, but quick" way to go, he said. It could also be the return of the jaundice and miserable organ failure that had brought me to the hospital in the first place. Another cheery prospect would be a form of fatal dementia not unlike Alzheimer's disease.

After five years passed without any of these things happening, I became severely depressed. The gastroenterologist said I might last another 10 or even 20 years. My continued abstinence from anything that could further damage my liver or cause internal bleeding plus strict adherence to a very low sodium diet seemed to be working. My diet is unexciting and I can't take any medications, not even an aspirin. He prescribed a tiny dose of Zoloft which seemed to help with the depression. Recent untoward developments in my condition have caused me to stop taking even that.

I know that the cirrhosis (what my doc euphemistically calls a "life limiting disease") will kill me if something else doesn't get me first. But we all must die and it would be a shame to die from nothing (Redd Foxx).

Thanks again for your concern and offers of help. Special thanks to DadGum and the Mickeys. These cats never question my crazy fears and dangerous impulses. I didn't realize I had so many friends.

Thus endeth the confession. Still, my impulse is to crawl under the porch like a dog when I feel the icy breath of the grim reaper on my neck.

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