big hole pit lake in south africa

Nobody Loves An Escapee: Rock Bottom

At the bottom of the pit we are all insects and beetles, missing our wings, crawling on our bellies, burrowing in deeper, perhaps crawling up the side, making little mounds of earth and dirt and shit, and failing to scan even a foot of sheer cliff face impossibility. The pit makes crawlers and creepers out of all of us.

The chattering classes talk of rock bottom as if it is some blessed, sacred ritual of purification. Those who peer through their windows from the outside look down at those in the gutter pits, and sidewalk holes and fail to fathom the reality of the scrambling down in the street for a way out of it all that doesn’t involve death, jail or rehab.

Of course it is easy enough to stare at the pit dwellers who always seem to find another inch deeper to slide after their failed and doomed attempts to reach the lip of the hole and haul themselves out to safety. There is a trick to it, there is a gotcha moment there, there is an unspoken truth about this sisyphean task, and I will let you into it right now: pulling yourself out of the whole mess is almost impossible. Nothing is totally impossible.

I regularly make like Alice and do at least a dozen impossible things before breakfast. Nevertheless, anyone who finds themselves peeking over the ledge at an Eden full of good things and people who do not detest you, holding on by the fingertips, will find that ultimate truth out for themselves pretty quickly. Here is another truth: if an Eden dweller sees a pit climber trying to haul themselves out of whatever sheol they have clambered from, that Eden Dweller will suspect most intensely, that allowing that person to exit their hole and walk around in the sunshine will cause them, the righteous and deserving and long term, never fallen, Eden Dweller, to lose some of their comfort and shine.

By allowing the sun to shine on the Climber, the average Eden Dweller suspects there will be a little less of it for themselves, and that can never be allowed. No. Climbing out of the hole must be done in private, in secret, in the dark. The average climber makes it to the top once, and finds there, smiling down at them, a Surface Dwelling Eden-ite, adorned with 8 hole jack boots and a 12 gauge, who will smile in their face and stamp on their fingertips, sending them hurtling back down into the pit they have expended energy and dedication to climb out from.

Once at the bottom it takes time and sheer bloody-minded determination to climb back up to the lip of the hole once more, and when it is reached, the climber, if they have any hope at all of success, must look around for the clear and present danger of Decent People. Good People. Settled, successful, never been down on the bottom, never fallen from grace or had to climb for their lives, kinda people. This kind of person will hit you with a Bible and cut off your oxygen supply whilst stamping on your hands, whilst those below try and drag you down back into the hole that they are in. Nobody loves an escapee.

It is possible, of course, though more possible if one of those people who have suffered and understand suffering on a deep and personal level, who have not fallen for the fallacy of the zero sum game, offer a helping hand out of the hole. There are even some intrepid brave souls who reach down into that hole and pluck out the unsuspecting Pit denizen from the depths. Sometimes it works, other times the rescued is just not ready to leave. It is a sad and constant fact that someone who does not want to stop doing what is keeping them in the hole cannot be forced or persuaded to quit. Moreover, those who want out, who have nothing keeping them down but society itself cannot be blamed for feeling somewhat untrustingly paranoid of a society and world which has tortured them for no good reason other than bad luck and the ability to do so. Help can feel like an attack on the soul, on freedom of choice and even upon safety itself. After all, when the bullets are flying and the predators are about, a nice deep hole is as good a shelter from ultimate destruction as any.

Sometimes the light above ground is just too bright. Sometimes the greens are too green, the air is too rich, and the world too pretty. There is little inspiration to be found in happiness, safety and comfort. That said, who can find the energy to do anything worthwhile when the entirety of existence is spent up trying to merely survive? Sometimes that dark is a comfort in itself. Sometimes silence is a boon. Sometimes isolation is not the worst thing in the world.

I am always teeter tottering on the edge of my own personal pit. I not only made it out, I am now standing up, not panting and holding on for dear life, my legs being grabbed at by those who wish to drag me back down, partly because it kills them to think that anybody gets to escape when they don’t have the balls to try it for themselves, partly because it gets lonely down there, and the thought of your best friends becoming one of the Eden-ites, one of the shiny people, one of the hand stamping, pit throwing judgemental sensible shoe wearing elite is just too much to bear. I suspect for each degree of safety and comfort a person achieves, their morality is in ever increasing spirals of peril, but that is just my paranoia speaking. I don’t trust capitalists.

There comes a point in every freaks life that they need a place to call home, an anchor to hold them still while they let rip with the creative juices. Every junkie for words, or art, or experience, or even those loud bangs and fast motor types, needs a front door. Everyone needs their place in the sun. It is not our addictions that keep us down, it is the struggle to fulfill them which is the kicker.

I suppose this is a call for benign non interference, coupled with laissez faire assistance. Help as much as is wanted, don’t tread on people’s fingers when they are trying to pull out of the pit. Without the help of my friends, in particular Ruth and Billy, I would not have made it out at all. One of them was insane enough to try and help, the other kind enough to put up with me. I can be intolerable at times.

My sobriety is now measured in years not days. Ok, so I get stoned, but this is California. Weed is no barrier to sobriety here. The hole I found myself in was built out of the abuse of my husband, not out of bottles and bags. In fact those struggles were always infinitely easier for me to deal with. I would eventually sigh and look around and realize that it was time to pay the piper, and I am one of those strange people that once they are done they are done. I might not be done forever, but while it lasts I am generally stoic, bloody minded, determined and pissed off enough at my perceived failings of the substance to console, numb or excite, that the battle takes on a personal quality. Sister Morphine and I remain on bad terms, though I reserve the right at the end of my life for some quality relief at some point as yet unknown. I don’t care to tangle with Brother Moonshine again. Hanging out with Mr Green and the Mushroom crew is not exactly the most dangerous depression in the land to play around in. I just hope my demise is far enough into the future that I can get done what needs to be done, secure what needs to be secured, and I don’t go falling down into any more unscalable pits.

I should be alright, as long as I can stay here, I suppose. It is just that nobody loves an escapee, not those they leave behind nor those who have been up there on top without taking a tumble. People just don’t trust someone who has seen both sides of the coin. The underworld and the overworld are meant to be sugar and salt, separate and not to be mixed. Those of us who walk between those worlds belong nowhere, but get everywhere. Is it really such a crime to get away, to escape and fight and live another day? Is it really such a crime to take a look around hell and mosey on back to heaven? Does it matter anyhow?

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