Transcript of 9th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Thomas Darden, Friday, May 9, 1997 at 4:00 pm.

Dr. Balis: Tom, hello, come on in and...whoa! Steady now. Are you feeling okay? Here, sit down.
Mr. Darden: Sorry, I guess I'm feeling a little lightheaded.
Dr. Balis: Is it safe to assume you took the day off from work today?
Mr. Darden: Damn right. I have several million fucking personal and vacation days accom...accume...accum-ul-ated and I don't use them for anything else anyway. I deserve to call in sick once in a while.
Dr. Balis: How much alcohol have you had?
Mr. Darden: Enough. I don't really count them anymore. That's something you do in college--that and stack the beer cans on top of one another to make an aluminum pyramid.
Dr. Balis: Please don't tell me you drove here yourself.
Mr. Darden: Okay, I won't.
Dr. Balis: Tom!
Mr. Darden: Don't worry. I think I'm a better driver when I drink anyway. I stayed in the slow lane and even wore my seat belt this time, which I never do when I'm sober. I just wanted to make it to the session today and talk to someone other than myself. Besides, I called you earlier this week and told you I'd make it to this session, and I keep my promises.
Dr. Balis: All right, well, now that you're here, is there anything in particular you want to talk about?
Mr. Darden: Everything. Work, my drinking, my lack of a love-life, my lack of a life, period. I feel like I'm at my wit's end. Like there's no hope and everything's coming to a head. But all the shit that's tearing me apart inside isn't really what scares me the most.
Dr. Balis: What does scare you?
Mr. Darden: It's the fact that I actually enjoy it all, Charles. I think I'm attracted to negativity and pain and being depressed. Hell, maybe I'm addicted to it. Throughout my life, there's always been something traumatic to make me feel miserable, and I guess that over time I've gotten used to the misery. I mean, it's really the only thing I can truly count on to be there for me. Depression is like an old friend I've become close to and would feel empty without. I know it sounds horribly Pavlovian to you shrinks, but it's true. Someone starts crying and I suddenly get a hard-on. No, not really, Charles. But, do you know what I mean?
Dr. Balis: Yes, I do and considering your past, I don't find your reaction to be entirely out of the ordinary, especially since the negative events in your life have been pretty consistent for a number of years. It's good that you can at least still recognize negative emotion for what it is. We need to work on bringing some positive forces into your life.
Mr. Darden: "If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice."
Dr. Balis: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Darden: Nothing. Never mind.
Dr. Balis: All right.
Mr. Darden: I remember when Sharon broke up with me, how devastated I felt, how hopeless and futile my life and my future seemed to be. It was a deep, penetrating pain, Charles, unlike any kind of emotional distress I had ever experienced before. I was so very much in love with her. For once in my life, I could relate to that word and what it meant to care for someone and to want that person to remain in my life. Dad's death and my stepfather's abuse struck me in different places and with a kind of pain that was more dull and lingered over the course of a number of years, but when I lost Sharon, it hurt intensely and immediately. That whole night I spent sobbing uncontrollably. And yet at the same time, while all these horrifying sensations were knocking the wind out of me, I felt a distinct sense of rejoicing. When I left Sharon's campus that day, I recall looking forward to going home and listening to really depressing music and downing some beers for the first time in over a year. It was like, "Hooray! The old Tom is back! Hell has returned!" At times I wonder if my persistence in trying to get back together with her wasn't something I intentionally did to make myself feel worse, as if I allowed her continuous rejection to sting me as long as was possible. I was a junkie of pain, greedily and hungrily trying to squeeze every last drop of heartache I could out of the situation. It hurt greatly but it was also a very potent, very invigorating feeling, Charles. It made me feel more alive than when I was actually going out with the bitch. Does any of this make sense?
Dr. Balis: Most of it, yes. This sensation you hunger for, is it what drives you to drink? Is this why you're inebriated now?
Mr. Darden: All I know is that I have good days and bad days. Sometimes I go a whole week or two without drinking, then suddenly I feel overcome with depression and turn to the brew, not to make me feel better, but to accentuate the experience. When I'm on a binge, Charles, I try to determine in my head how fast I can drink to make me effectively suicidal by midnight. God, this sounds so strange to me when I'm describing it out loud.
Dr. Balis: How so?
Mr. Darden: It's just that I've never really admitted that to myself. I've never acknowledged that I aim to perpetuate and enhance my own sorrow. Maybe that's one of the reasons why I prefer to stay home by myself and drink instead of going out with friends or socializing. I like the pain.
Dr. Balis: On the other hand, when you do go out with friends, you still tend to drink heavily. Is this also because you want to enhance your negative sensations?
Mr. Darden: The people I hang out with tend to have their own set of personal problems, which means they all wallow in alcohol and complain and talk about what they should be doing in life and aren't. No one on the Help Desk wants to be on the Help Desk, Charles. We all ended up there because things basically didn't pan out for us in the technical world the way we had hoped. But, as Dave Torriello is fond of saying, "you are exactly where you're supposed to be based on the decisions you've made in life."
Dr. Balis: Do you believe that?
Mr. Darden: Fuck no. Do I think people who live in the projects are there because they chose to be there? Or children whose parents molest them were put in that situation because they chose to have it happen to them? Of course not. It's just that all those people I work and go out with are misfits like me. It's a welcome environment. I don't feel out of place when we all hang out together. So I don't mind drinking with them. But these friends are also more gregarious than I am, which means they typically like to do things when we go out that I don't feel comfortable doing. They like parties, meeting people, dancing--that sort of thing. I can't deal with any of those things. So I get very uptight when they urge me to leave the bar and join them for more group-related activities. The times I'm thrust into those situations, I usually drink to feel more comfortable. So I guess when I'm out in public, I'm drinking for two reasons: to feel like shit but also to feel more at ease.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Darden: Contradictory, isn't it?
Dr. Balis: Yes, but from what you've said, we can determine a pattern of drinking influenced primarily by both your past experiences and outside social pressures. You've become accustomed to the emotional pain because you've encountered some traumatizing events in your life over a long period of time. Naturally, any other sensations--positive or otherwise--would be foreign to you. As for your drinking in response to uncomfortable social situations, I feel you may be unwittingly treating yourself for your affliction the only way you know how. We call it self-medicating.
Mr. Darden: On the contrary, I'm quite aware that beer's effects will make me feel more at ease. And at the same time I know it will also make me feel horrible about myself, which I'm pretty sure I'm attracted to. What I don't understand is, if being uncomfortable in a public place makes me feel horrible, why do I try to cure myself with beer? If I love the pain so much, why don't I take on the experience sober?
Dr. Balis: Perhaps it's more about control, Tom. Your father's death, your stepfather's abuse, the dissolution of your relationship with Sharon--these were events you could not control. But now, by remaining at home in a controlled environment and drinking large quantities of alcohol, you have the power over your emotions. You can dictate when you can and cannot feel miserable. You're doing it on your own terms.
Mr. Darden: And by going out in public, being with friends and around a bunch of people I don't know, I've lost that power, that control?
Dr. Balis: Precisely.
Mr. Darden: It's all terribly confusing to me. All I know is, I like beer. It makes me feel the way I want to feel sometimes, and no one can take that away from me, you know?
Dr. Balis: No one can take it away from you, but if you're not careful, the alcohol can very quickly assume control over you, Tom.
Mr. Darden: You think that's what's happening? That I've lost control over my drinking?
Dr. Balis: Have you?
Mr. Darden: No! Honest, Charles, I can stop! I know that sounds like denial to you, but I really can. I don't need booze. I don't wake up every morning shaking violently because I haven't had a drink in eight hours. There are just times when I want to feel a certain way and beer makes me feel pretty close to how I want to feel.
Dr. Balis: Do you want to experience positive feelings in your life, or are you content with the negativity?
Mr. Darden: I don't know if I could recognize a positive feeling. It's been a while since I've felt happy. Happiness is like a hollow word in the dictionary to me right now. But I do want to change. I don't want to be stuck at home all the time. I want to feel in control when I'm out there, on the other side of my apartment door. I just don't know how to get there.
Dr. Balis: I think that if you continue to thrust yourself into social settings, that's a good start. I would also like to again bring up the possibility that certain medications might have a positive effect on you.
Mr. Darden: I was skeptical when you first brought up the subject, but I'll have to admit I'm interested.
Dr. Balis: I'm pleased to hear that, Tom. I'd like to start you on a type of drug called Chlordiazepoxide. It's in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines and I think it may help you feel more at ease in social environments, among other things. It would mean, however, sacrificing the alcohol.
Mr. Darden: Completely?
Dr. Balis: Ideally, yes, I'd like for you to stay off it; an occasional beer--say one or two a week--wouldn't be harmful, but when I say one or two, I mean exactly that. Here's your prescription.
Mr. Darden: Understood. Wait a second, this says Librium.
Dr. Balis: Yes. That's the trade name.
Mr. Darden: Isn't Librium what schizophrenics take?
Dr. Balis: I think you mean Lithium.
Mr. Darden: Oh, but isn't this a tranquilizer?
Dr. Balis: It's more of an anti-anxiety agent. Here. I've got a sheet which will give you a lot more information about this drug. I really think that you'll see a very rapid change for the better. And I'd also like for you to continue our little project of visiting public places. The more often you elect to participate, the more comfortable you'll get. Libraries, shopping malls, crowded restaurants, a Giants game--all of these settings would be suitable for the exercise.
Mr. Darden: There's a book store I've been to before that has a coffee shop inside. It's usually packed full of artsy-fartsy types and I've usually felt those pangs of nervousness when I go there, which isn't often. Maybe I could try actually sitting down to a cup of tea and a book there from time to time.
Dr. Balis: That sounds appropriate. Pay close attention to the dosage, and I'll see you in one week.
Mr. Darden: All right, thanks, Charles.
Dr. Balis: Where do you think you're going?
Mr. Darden: Aren't we through?
Dr. Balis: We are, but you're not driving home. I'm calling you a cab.
Mr. Darden: Come on, Charles, I...
Dr. Balis: I insist, Tom.
Mr. Darden: All right. No sense in arguing. I'll be in the waiting room.
Dr. Balis: Take care, Tom. He should be here in about fifteen minutes.
Mr. Darden: Yeah, right. What planet are you from?
Arrow, Straight, Left, Earlier Arrow, Straight, Right, Later

Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

Button to Thomas Darden's Transcripts Transcripts of Thomas Darden's Communications
Button to Thomas Darden's Patient File Thomas Darden's Patient File

TCT Bottom Bar Links to Top of Page Pipsqueak Productions © 1997. All Rights Reserved.