Dry Drunk, Part 2
Written by
Kevin Camp
April 2015
Written by
Kevin Camp
April 2015

Part 1 of "Dry Drunk" is posted here. This is Part 2.

A work of fiction.

You know you're out of control when everyone holds a combined sense of revulsion and pity around you. This could never be confused as genuine compassion. It is more fear than anything else, and a fervent prayer that the affliction does not someday affect them. That is how I was pushed out of a dentist's office, or rather without much politeness, escorted to the hallway and dropped there. A week or so later I ended up here.

I used to give a few of my things out in the beginning, but not anymore, she said. Her diagnosis was psychoaffective disorder, a mild form of schizophrenia that never really got better for anyone. I only remember the horrible state of her teeth, as though she'd gone ten years solid without brushing a single one. She was somewhat friendly, but guarded, and mostly kept to herself. 

Throwing together the addicts and the psych cases was a bad idea, but it was done anyway for budgetary reasons. The two were like oil and water. Neither liked, nor trusted the other. My roommate had learned that, especially in dangerous circumstances, nothing spooked a potentially violent adversary than playing crazy. The 'hood lent itself to paranoia easily without the need for mental illness, and he'd picked a pretty successful coping mechanism. 

But he never felt comfortable switching it off, and it often set off the addicts, who were already raw enough themselves from withdrawal. And legitimate, not feigned crazy could also be said to be an issue as well, especially when he danced in the day room between mealtimes with a cloth napkin on top of his head. Some of the other addicts weren't nearly as sympathetic as I was, even though I knew the guy really only wanted attention for himself. 

During group, I was a talker, who won the attention of a tiny young woman who sought me out a chair over for protection's sake. We were pulled from all social strata in that one freezing room, from an interpreter who spoke fluent French whose company was paying for this entire rehab stint, to a fireman who had lost a brother and sister-in-law in a horrific car accident and gained a son in the process, the sole survivor. He'd taken to the bottle to cope. 

I wanted to escape, and I suppose if I'd wanted it badly enough, fences could have been scaled. But I did want to get better. This wasn't my first time in rehab, and my employer had told me the first two times had been on their nickel, but that this time was on me. I at least had a job to return to at the end of the month, but I was on very thin ice. 

Sometimes I have to admit I never wanted a conventional life. I wanted to lie down covered by a blanket, viewing the grass and footpaths of an institution for hours, doing nothing. This had been true for my great-grandmother, but was no longer the case today. There were no more sanatoriums, just filthy bus people pushing shopping carts, in and out of jails and short-term facilities. I had nothing to do except try to live in this world and maybe not end up here again. 

There were too many bad examples present. That's what I didn't like about rehab. Some people built connection bases for the illegal stuff, once discharge arrived. I took the process seriously, avoiding the harder stuff whenever possible. My temptations were never far away and I'd stopped the narcotics and pills years before. And even if you didn't seek a pot dealer, you had to deal with the true believers in addiction, the ones who would never quit for any reason and saw this 28 day stint as a joke.

Some of them disguised their true intentions well, but I'd been around long enough to see who'd backslide within a few days to a week. The girl sitting next to me couldn't be anymore than one-hundred pounds and would not shock me if she was dealing with an eating disorder. I'd had a girlfriend about the same size who'd gotten beaten up after a conference, walking home nearby a deranged homeless man who physically attacked her. I saw the pictures and the paperwork of the legal proceedings. As for the boyfriends, they all looked like me. A full foot taller, big frames, broader shoulders, and big. Big guys.

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  • Kevin Camp

    There are Canada/American South parallels for sure. Another way we are similar is in the inferiority complex. Southerners feel that we're treated as uneducated rednecks by the rest of the country. I'm not sure about the population of the South, but the actual region probably only has a few more million inhabitants than Canada. Much of Florida is not really Southern anymore, so I don't count that part.

    I have never been to Ottawa before, but I'm told it's similar in some regards as Washington, DC. I've been to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Victoria. My last trip was to Montreal and I arrived late enough in the year that it had stopped snowing for the most part. 

    DC is really weird. Everyone I know grew up somewhere else. It's very transient and many people only stay there for a few years before moving onward. You always know someone is going to stay around when they buy a house and start having kids. Until then, all bets are off. And to be honest, it does get old at times because half of my friends have left. I've been here seven years, and I've lost some really close friends who I wish I still had. Some people don't even bother to make friends here at all in order to not get annoyed or heartbroken later. But I'm not quite that cynical yet.

    The funny thing about House of Cards is really two things: a) most of it is shot in Baltimore, not DC, because it's cheaper that way.  b) the show only focuses on a very small part of the city. If you work on the Hill, it is your life. You live there, you walk to work, all of your friends work there, you go to parties there, you date there, you get married to someone else who works on the Hill, and it's your whole life. But most of the rest of this city is nothing like that. It's kind of like a cult. The White House and Capitol are a very small universe indeed.

    Explaining Quakerism briefly can be challenging. But I'll try. We believe that there is that of God in everyone. We're pacifists and neither support nor fight in wars. And the branch I'm a part of doesn't have a minister to lead Worship. Everyone has a right to speak. So I'll leave it at that for now.

    You won't upset me about making generalizations about Quakers. :) Most people think we dress like the guy on the box of oatmeal or that we died out a long time ago. But I get those a lot and it doesn't even phase me anymore. 

    I'm a feminist because I got involved with a particular collective of feminist writers. At first, I have to admit that I wasn't taken seriously, but I listened a lot and observed more than I did actively participate. So eventually I earned the trust of the writing staff and though as a man I am not allowed to publish there, I am read and appreciated, which is nice. Most people I've encountered are really supportive, but there are some super serious types called Journos, who are like the film Mean Girls. They act like the popular girls who are way cooler than you are and ever will be. So some of them can be really obnoxious, but I have at least won the respect of a few of them, who know I can actually write and understand feminism.

    You're right. I'm glad I have the audience I do. I try to let my writing speak for me. Sometimes I write political essays, sometimes religious essays, sometimes the short story fragments you've already read. I play guitar and sing and have made my own YouTube videos. I don't limit myself, but I do know that what goes up isn't necessarily going to be for every reader.

    I think you and I have a lot in common with the rock music and analysis. You mentioned Neil Young, who I love. I wrote music reviews for my college paper and went to every rock show that came through town. I have some good memories. I wish I'd been able to go see Nirvana the one time they went through Birmingham, but though I had the ticket, at 14 I was too young to go, according to my parents at least. Because I'm not necessarily blown away by new music, it's not as much of an interest of mine, but back in the day I was a total audiophile and still know a lot about a lot of groups.

    I've enjoyed getting to know you. Thanks for making the time to write lengthy replies.

    So interesting how similar the situation you describe with the one that exists here. Canada is the second largest country in the world by geographical standards, and yet we have 1/10th the population of the US. Most of that population is as far south as one can get without becoming an American. Here everyone flocks to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, and, to a lesser degree, Ottawa. I'm in Ottawa regularly, and really enjoy the mixed bag of languages and different colours of people and faiths. Our multiculturalism is one of my favourite things about being Canadian. But of course this dynamic would exist in the US too, as its a big country, size and population, and therefore distance and diversity are well at play. People flying their freak flags tend to stick out in non-metropolitan areas, and usually not in a comfortable way!

    You're in D.C.? That sounds like an interesting town. Should I be watching for you on House of Cards? ;-)

    I'm very intrigued by the Quaker faith, though I have very limited knowledge of it--pretty much all I know, which isn't much, comes from the final season of Six Feet Under. Please let me know if anything I say is offensive to you. Though I am a confirmed agnostic, I have deep respect for another person's faith, and am insatiably curious about ALL faiths. I live in a small town on the St. Lawrence River (I can see New York State from my living room window) and love to chat up my Iranian acupuncturist about his faith, Baha'i, and have had great visits with our local Imam (he's a character!), to say nothing of the general Christian varieties around here--we have a Catholic priest who is a bloody riot! He could've had a career in stand-up!

    I'd be very interested in a man's point of view on feminism. I identify as a mostly left-wing feminist, but the brand of feminism I subscribe to is the one where women and men are equal, and men aren't objectified or vilified--instead I regard them much as women are in this world, products of internalizing the patriarchy. I believe its as damaging to men as it is to women. Did you see Ashley Judd's articles on this subject? Men aren't allowed to cry without being made fun of, so that alone combs my hair the wrong way! I'd like to move into blogging too, probably from my own website when I get around to sorting it out, find a way to make one that doesn't gross me out with that "ME! ME! ME!" thing you alluded to. I think they call it branding? Some of the pros on here talk about figuring out your brand and presenting that, so I see that as featuring the things you feel passionately about (for me that's politics, animal and human rights, environmentalism, feminism, mental health advocacy), but I just can't do the newsletter, or the bizarro book trailer (I can't believe that's where we've gone now!). 3000 readers is nothing to sniff at! You never know who could be reading...with a bit of luck, well, I'll just let the universe manage that one! :-)

    By the way, before I blather too long, I read the third instalment of Dry Drunk, and no surprise here, I really enjoyed it. Loved the Hank Williams line! Funny, I'm reading a bunch of rock bios for research, and this piece of yours really brought up a lot of what I've been reading--many parallels. I just finished one that made me want to go to rehab as it left me feeling like an addict by proxy!

  • Kevin Camp

    It's interesting how you describe Canadian publication. In some ways, it's similar to where I grew up, the American South. Southern literature has used the same tropes and subjects for decades. I personally find most of it formulaic and repetitive. But there is a strong tradition present, but I think trying to reinvent William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor is simply wasted effort.

    I'm not sure about how one publishes Southern Literature because I have tried to avoid it whenever possible. And yes, there is a brain drain here, too. That's why I left the South for Washington, DC, which is a strange mix of transplants from all over the country and sometimes the world.

    I'm all for finding new ways to publish, but I guess I'm not motivated enough (yet) to try to find a new system like you've described. But I'll be glad to entertain your suggestions. :-) I'm much too invested in this to stop now, but I do write more than just fiction. I write about feminism, politics, theology, and as a confirmed Quaker, much of my actually published work is for those publications. I rarely make much money, but on occasion I do.

    My audience is very strange. It is a mix of Quakers, young feminists, and liberal politicos. It's taken me years to build it up. I've gone from unknown to just very very obscure. I probably have 3000 regular readers, which is something, at least. I know how to boost my audience further, but I guess I just don't want to make my own vanity newsletter or self-promoting website or be that nakedly ambitious with self-promotion. People do too much of that already here in DC, and receiving another business card will make me scream.  

  • Kevin Camp

    Like you, I am an introvert and have no stomach for promoting my own self-published work or any work, for that matter. My day job is working with PR firms who want me to review self-published fiction and interview the authors. Some of them interview extremely well and some of them interview as well as the fiction they write. There is never any lack for work. And I also promote events, though I wish I could be truly honest about the kind of tripe that usually crosses my desktop. 

    I usually write short stories because I started off as a blogger first, and I wrote pieces that could be read at one sitting. The bits that you've seen I join together, eventually, into short stories. I don't have the patience and skill for novels and learned that the hard way. I've been writing in general for about ten years. I was a creative writing minor in college under the tutelage of a mentor who taught me the craft. In those days, I was a poet, but I recognized that being a poet is probably the most difficult way to publish anything and requires the kind of connections I simply do not have. Poetry is a niche audience and selling 400 copies of a chapbook seems like a waste of time to me.

    I was taught the art of revision in school and everything I put out to be read goes through several drafts, usually as I'm in the process of setting it down. But I've found that if I set six pages or so of a short story aside for a few days or a week, I can rely on a fresh pair of eyes and expand the document.

    I've written about five or six short stories of which I am pleased, and a score of others that were written by a much younger me. I think that publication is somewhat like playing the lottery, which is to say the odds are close to infinitesimal. Who you know is more important now than it ever used to be. A friend went to Barnard and found that her roommate's mother was a publishing magnate, which is how her first book found publication. I've never been that lucky.  

  • Kevin Camp

    And feel free to re-publish whatever I've put on here.

  • Kevin Camp

    I wish I could publish somewhere, Cate! Rest assured your words of praise are very flattering. I have one short story like this one that will be published in August, but I've had to do over a year's worth of revision to get there. Don't get me wrong, I am always writing new content and never cease submitting, but I haven't had much to show for it, sadly.

    Having a fan club is always appreciated. :)