Content warning: The following story contains references to alcohol and alcoholism, which may be triggering for some readers.
“In the Darkness,” Tat Hatase
Eight years ago, I was wasted. In every sense of that word. Wasted. One particular day—August 27th to be exact—I believe I started out that afternoon by ordering two pints of beer and three shots of tequila for appetizers. Who knows what I ended up eating. I probably didn't. But I made sure to have a full serving of alcohol. Probably had some dessert too. And that was just the beginning.
The rest of the day was just dreadful just like my mindset was that summer. I had to drink to help me ignore the voice in my head. Or in my heart? Where does that voice even come from? My past, perhaps?
Anyway, I was spiraling out of control. I hated myself. I wasn't sure why this was happening to me. Why was my life doing this to me? Why must everything be so painful? That was pretty much how my thought process went around that time. Or for years and years leading up to that day.
I was so selfish.
Anyway, I kept on drinking that night. Well into the night, I drank. In the darkness, I drank.
Later that night, I came to realized that I had locked myself out and in at once. Literally and metaphorically. I got home, and I had the key in my hand, but I was not able to use it open the door. (Note: the house is a metaphor for my inner self.) A part of me was locked outside, and a part of me was locked inside. If I were a better writer, the whole metaphor would be worked out and presented in an amazing way, but revisiting that time of my life makes it difficult to concentrate, so you have to excuse me. The point is that I had lost control.
I don't know if I had hit the rock bottom, but I sure did not enjoy the way people were looking at me. I was being judged. I was being pitied. I was being a complete fucking idiot. But there was nobody watching me.
Eight years ago, I woke up and hated myself as usual. So... I said no more. I am stubborn enough to maintain that stance this entire time. It hasn't been easy, but it made sense. I had that logic thing on my side which is nice.
Am I a better person for it? I don't know. Probably not. I'm still not all that great. Still an asshole; that didn't really change. But I feel more functional. Even when I am pissed off and/or being an ass, I feel that I am doing those things with good reasons and some sense of purpose.
It was never about fun or anything like that with me and drinking. It was more about my past and memories and following the family tradition. Alcohol made me feel free from many of those things for a while, but the pain comes back. It comes back stronger, or maybe I was just weaker each time the pain came back to visit. And you can never trust the way you feel while you are drinking because... You are drunk! Either way, it was that whole downward spiral thing which was getting out of control.
It was the shitstorm tornado of fucking up.
So, you know, I quit.
Now, the pain hurts in the right way. Now, I get sad, and it feels awful. But it's real. It's all real, and I'm living with it. It feels like shit.
I really don't know what will happen to me in terms of drinking. There is a good chance I will go back to it. That's just statistic; we always go back. I am not going to deny that. I think it's dangerous to look away from what is basically a certainty. Know thy enemy or some shit.
But, for now, while I am clean, I will continue to... Yeah, I still don't know how to finish that sentence. After eight years, I still don't know where I am. I have a vague idea on where I am not, and I know where I don't want to be. The only things I feel certain about are not entirely in my control. Because life sucks like that, and I have to live in this real world and face all of that without giving myself excuses.
What goes up must come down... Is that really true? Sure, if you throw a rock, it will come down. Because of that gravity thing science likes. But if you blast the fuck out of something with enough momentum, it can leave this planet forever, right? We've done that. There are some stuff we've shot out into the space and that shit's never coming back. Things that go up do not necessarily have to come back down. It's just basic rocket science.
And I'm still going up. Going up strong, baby! (Doing my best George Costanza impression.)
Maybe I will come back down. Maybe I will head straight down to the bottom again. Stay tuned, because if that happens, it will be a great show. I guarantee it.
Or, you know, I will just keep going up.
And I didn't get this far on my own. I did most the work, but some people helped. There are always some people who care for reasons I have not yet fully understood.
About the art:
Tat is one of my best friends. We met a couple years into his reclamation of sobriety, so I never knew THIS Tat. But I know a Tat. And the Tat I know is exactly this contemplative, witty, and self-critical. I learned much of how to be self-critical from observing and interacting with Tat. The constant desire to do and be better than how you were actually performing as a human being.
And the Tat I know is pretty private, but I reached out to him in hopes he would be willing to share. I asked him to share his story because, 1. I knew his sobriety anniversary was coming up, 2. I know a few of his stories from when he used to drink, 3. I knew that he'd present his experience in an incredibly clever, artistic and reflective manner, and 4. I know how proud he is of himself for remaining sober - even if he doesn't say those exact words!
So for this piece, I wanted to combine two artistic aspects that I know are near to Tat's heart, as far as influences are concerned - Ralph Steadman's art and the gonzo writer himself, Hunter S. Thompson. So I tried some splatter and water colors as an homage to the great Ralph Steadman, and I used a Hunter S. Thompson quote, "Morality is temporary, wisdom is permanent." It's a quote that certainly reminds me of Tat's approach to life.
And while he might not understand why some people might have helped and cared about him during his journey to sobriety, I can at least say that on my end, it's because he's a dude that always looked out for me. Even after we first met, he treated me like someone he had known for years. And that's something I love about this man, he treats the people he truly cares about like they are family - a family of which I know he has had to create on his own since moving from Japan nearly two decades ago. That's no easy task, but he's definitely created a great life for himself over the past few years.
And while we aren't in the same state together anymore, I always know that he has my back when things get rough, and I KNOW that he is often the first to come up with a witty retort to any of my tweets or comments online. Because that's how he shows his love - with wit and humor.
I'm proud of Tat for sharing this piece. I'm so happy that he did. I think it will help a number of people understand what it's like to get sober and stay clean.