Sunday, February 28, 2010

Unparsable Path to Freedom - AA.

The below passage from the novel, Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace found on page 350-351 (of 1079 (including 388 footnotes)) about the process of recovery, in this case specifically through AA, but maybe it's also about Recovery more generally not just from Substances and maybe not just through AA meetings in Boston.

"The process is a neat reverse of what brought you down and In here: Substances start out being so magically great, so much the interior jigsaw's missing piece, that at the start you just know, deep in your gut, that they'll never let you down; you just know it. But they do. And then this goofy slapdash anarchic system of low-rent gatherings and corny slogans and saccharin grins and hideous coffee is so lame and you just know there's no way it could ever possibly work except for the utterest morons ... and then Gately seems to find out AA turns out to be the very loyal friend he thought he'd had and then lost, when you Came In. And so you Hang In and stay sober and straight, and out of sheer hand-burned-on-hot-stove-terror you heed the improbable-sounding warnings not to stop pounding out the nightly meetings even after the Substance-cravings have left and you feel like you've got a grip on the thing at last and can now go it alone, you still don't try to go it alone, you need the improbable warnings because by now you have no faith in your own sense of what's really improbable and what isn't, since AA seems, improbably enough, to be working, and with no faith in your own senses you're confused, flummoxed, and when people with AA time strongly advise you to keep coming you nod robotically and keep coming, and you sweep floors and scrub out ashtrays and fill stained steel urns with hideous coffee, and you keep getting ritually down on your big knees every morning and night asking for help from a sky that still seems a burnished shield against all who would ask aid of it - how can you pray to a "God" you believe only morons believe in, still? - but the old guys say it doesn't yet matter what you believe or don't believe, Just Do It they say, and like a shock trained organism, without any kind of independent human will you do exactly what you are told, you keep coming and coming, nightly, and now you take pains not to get booted out of the squalid halfway house you'd at first tried so hard to get discharged from, you Hang In and Hang In, meeting after meeting, warm day after cold...; and not only does the urge to get high stay more or less away, but more general life-quality-type-things -- just as improbably promised, at first, when you'd Come In -- things seem to get progressively somehow better, inside, for a while, then worse, then even better, then for a while worse in a way that's still somehow better, realer, you feel weirdly unblinded, which is good, even though a lot of the things you now see about yourself and how you've lived are horrible to have to see -- and by this time the whole thing is so improbable and unparsable that you're so flummoxed you've convinced you're maybe brain-damaged, still, at this point, from all the years of Substances, and you figure you'd better Hang In in this Boston AA where older guys who seem to be less damaged -- or at least less flummoxed by their damage -- will tell you in terse simple imperative clauses exactly what to do, and where and when to do it (though never How or Why); and at this point you've started to have an almost classic sort of Blind Faith in the older guys, a Blind Faith in them born not of zealotry or even belief but just of a chilled conviction that you have no faith whatsoever left in yourself; (foot note 135) and now if the older guys sat Jump you ask them to hold their hand at the desired height, and now they've got you, and you're free.

Footnote 135: A conviction common to all who Hang In with AA, after a while, and abstracted in the slogan "My Best Thinking Got Me Here.""

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