Part II: Excerpt: 'A Fractured Mind' by Robert B. Oxnam

I wanted everything to be just fine, all under control, but I had to acknowledge that I was still very sick, more sick than any other recovering alcholic I knew. The bulimia continued throughout the trip; I purposely got sick to my stomach at least once a day. The anger sometimes raged forth. Once, in port, I almost had a fistfight with a trawler captain who came so close to swiping the side of Renaissance that I pushed his boat off with all my might. I think I called him a "fucking drunken idiot" and had to leave the wharf that night for fear of retaliation. No, I wasn't refreshed by the Newfoundland journey, but rather I was totally drained by what I now knew was a classic escape. Coming ashore after almost two months at sea had its moments. The first night I awoke at two in the morning, the usual time to check my navigation, and when I looked out the window through sleepy eyes, I saw rocks and trees. I screamed out, "Oh, my God, we're going aground." For a few days, solid ground felt strange, my legs still poised for the rolling of the sea. Curiously, the unpredictable lurching of the subway train seemed more normal.

But the realities of returning to life as usual were much more chastening. As I walked from the Sixty-eighth Street subway stop to the Asia Society, my legs suddenly stopped working, as if held by some invisible giant, and I had to sit down for fifteen minutes before forcing myself to go on. As the weeks went on, it became a pattern, sitting down and mumbling to myself—"You've got to do it, keep moving." "No, I'm too tired. I'm just plain exhausted."—finally summoning enough willpower to make it to work. After a while, a ritual emerged as I would sit in a corner under some steps, staring blankly, muttering about myself in the third person: "Bob's too tired. He's exhausted. Bob's dying." Only once did someone notice me, a female student wearing a Hunter College sweatshirt, who must have thought I was a curiously overdressed homeless person: "Are you sick, sir? Anything I can do?" I quickly ran off, saying, "Oh, it's nothing, just a little tired."

Tired or not, I wasn't going to let it show in my work. The Asia Society Bob was like a tire, inflated and on a roll by day, deflated and immobile at night. There were meetings to chair, money to raise, events to attend, letters to write, calls to make. These I kept doing with some of the same zeal, and trying to feign the same energy, as when I had assumed the presidency a decade earlier.

But most nights were different. I returned to my recovery process without enthusiasm—daily AA meetings and twice-a-week sessions with Dr. Smith. The whole thing seemed a predictable, boring routine. Smith tried to keep my spirits up with comments like "Look, recovery is no fun and yet you are sticking with it. Right now recovery is the most important thing in your life." He refused to prescribe drugs in spite of my insistence that I needed antidepressants and sleeping pills. He argued that my history of addictions made many drugs too dangerous, and besides, he contended, "I think there's a lot more going on that you are resisting telling me."

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