Friday, December 9, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: WIRE, U2

U2 have had a very long, storied, and accomplished career. Many of their songs have become iconic, and their body of work is so extensive that it spans two generations. But unless you were a teen or young adult in the first seven years of the 1980's, it's hard to remember that there was a time when U2 was not one of the biggest bands on the planet, but just another good band that got their start in the New Wave movement. This time of year, one sometimes sees the original Do They Know It's Christmas? video, from 1984, and although Bono is given a prominent place, he is just one of many stars contributing, not the featured attraction.
And the album that was out in 1984 is not generally remembered, even by U2 fans. Yes, Pride (In The Name of Love) was their first huge hit, but the rest of "The Unforgettable Fire" album has been more or less lost to history. Which is too bad, because it was perhaps the most adventurous album the band ever made. Brian Eno--a name that means little to contemporary music listeners, but who was a big-time producer in the 1970's and '80's, with a rather distinctive sound--produced the record, and it remains unlike anything else the band has ever done. Pride was a hit, and Bad became a staple of their live shows, but the rest of the album has faded into the mist.
Which is too bad, because Wire is one of those songs that people hear, even today, and ask, incredulously after a couple of minutes, "This is U2?" The band was always driven by its rhythm players, but this one is almost disco-like, with Bono's vocals blending in rather than leading or being separate from the music. The backing vocals are also very unique in the U2 canon, and the overall effect is somewhat trippy--something you really don't often hear about songs from this band.
The lyrics are tough to understand--an unfortunate and common complaint of Eno-produced work spanning many artists. But they are, when deciphered, a tale of a young man desperately trying to come to terms with a girlfriend's addiction, and trying almost every trick he can think of to get her to stop. And the views expressed are ones that anyone that has discovered that an addict's drugs mean more to them than human being does can identify with. And so are the agitated responses--"Throw your life away", "Watch you tear yourself apart," "In I come and out you go, "Here's the rope, now swing away."
I picked up enough through repeated listening to get a dim understanding of the song's meaning. But it wasn't until I got a copy of the lyrics, a few years after the album came out, that I fully understood it. And it's a masterpiece. It's really too bad that this song has not gained a bigger place of honor in the band's history, and hasn't been played often during any of their many tours. It deserves better.

The video:

And the lyrics:

Innocent, and in a sense I am
Guilty of the crime that's now in hand
Such a nice day
Throw your life away
Such a nice day
Let it go
Cold these eyes, I can't believe it
Cold, this heart is slow
Heart is slow
Call me
Such a cold heart
Such a cold man
Watch you tear your self apart
So lay me down
My soul to give
So lay me down
The longest sleep
Oh, the longest sleep
In I come and out you go you get
Here we are again now, place your bets
Is this the time
The time to win or lose
Is this the time
The time to choose
Cold these eyes, I can't believe it
So deep inside a cold fire
Cold, this heart is slow
Anytime you're only a kiss away
Won't you do it now
That's right, just keep me going
In some white track
You come the right track
Cartoon cutout
Cut throat bled out
I'm on your side
Be on the both side
I'm alright Jack
You get off my back
I'm no dope
I give you hope
Here's the rope
Here's the rope
Now swing away

Feeling At Home At The Thursday Meeting.

A little over four years ago, a new meeting of our fellowship was launched. Almost immediately, there was a lot of noise made about it, as it quickly proved popular among newcomers. It was (still is) held in a small building on property owned by a local motorcycle club chapter, and in warm weather met outside, which led to charges made by some members of the fellowship that it was attracting people by letting them smoke during the meeting. Several members of the bike club had extensive backgrounds in the other fellowship, which led to grumbling about "clarity of the NA message" being diluted. There wasn't much of a variety of formats there; every week, the topic is the daily meditation or whatever one needs to share on, which led to rumblings that there wasn't any "real" literature-based recovery taking place there. I was part of the Area Service Committee when the group was founded, and the group sent a representative for a few meetings--and he got grilled so mercilessly on each of the points I just listed, amid baldly stated charges that it was an AA meeting masquerading as an NA group,  that the group essentially told the ASC to go to hell. The meeting is held on a night that I hadn't attended meetings regularly in years, and so it kind of dropped off my radar a long time ago.
Until early this summer, when, in desperate need of a shot in the arm for my own recovery, I committed to a 90-in-90 and started to attend it. And I felt like Columbus must have--this was a whole new world. And the rejuvenation of my recovery is due, in large part, to this meeting and the people that frequent it. Over the last six months, I think I have missed two Thursdays--one of which was Thanksgiving. I love just about everything about it. Even in cold weather and after we have had to move inside, stuffing 50 people into a room the size of a mini-school bus is somehow charming and intimate, rather than stuffy and crowded. There is a beautiful mix of people there, both men and women, with clean time ranging from three decades to three days. There are no consistent hostage-takers, no drama kings or queens, no bullshit artists, no mean-spirited or holier-than-thou attitudes espoused.
It feels like home should feel.
I have not made it my home group, and I'm not sure I am going to. I still like the group I am a part of, although recent additions to the group have certainly caused me to question whether it is still the right place for me. There's a part of me that doesn't want to allow baleful influences to make these kind of decisions for me; on the other hand, there is no question that it really doesn't feel like much of a home anymore. I will stay through my good friend's celebration in a couple of weeks, and I will review how I feel at that time.
But I have to say this much. With one or two exceptions, an annoying malaise has taken over most of the "traditional" meetings. When I was new to the fellowship, I was instilled with the "come early, stay late" attitude, and even now I very rarely come late to a meeting, usually showing up at least 15 minutes early. My current home group and previous home group both have had major problems finding home group members to open up and set up the meeting. My current home group and a few other meetings I go to regularly or semi-regularly often have to have the same person read two or more of the six readings that are read at the beginning of NA meetings, because few of our members, both in the home group and not, can be bothered to show up on time. And an increasing peeve of mine is people that show up fifteen to thirty minutes late to a meeting, and then share almost as soon as they sit down (often at hostage-taking length). There have always been individuals that do that regularly, but in the last couple of years, the number of people indulging in the behavior has mushroomed, and there are few things more frustrating than sitting through a meeting and not getting a chance to share because several people that showed up well after the meeting started talked for ten minutes each about stuff that is a variation on their standard raps--if we're lucky.
And I can't help but contrast it with the meeting I went to tonight. I walked through the door at 6:43, seventeen minutes early--and there were at least thirty people there already. Every week, I get there 15 to 20 minutes early, and every week the coffee is done and most of the furniture is occupied. The home group members, and there are at least eight of them, are committed; almost all of them are there every single week, no matter what is happening in their lives.
That's the kind of group I want to be a part of. That's the kind of commitment to the program I envision and have always practiced over the years I've been here, and the kind of commitment I have in mind when I hear "home group." I like the fact that there are no speaker meetings to contend with each other over, that there are no selections of literature that are read that take up twenty minutes of the meeting, that there are no issues with who does what, that members do not feel like they get stuck with all the responsibility. Everyone pulls their weight; everyone participates. There really isn't any conscious pressure or gimmicks like bells and stopwatches--and yet no one ever talks for more than seven minutes at a time. I like the fact that the guys with the most clean time share responsibly, and never take the room hostage. For a meeting that draws the number of people it does, the crosstalk is minimal, and when it does occur and a call for decorum goes out, it is heeded without a murmur.
In short, this meeting has, in a few months, become the lynchpin of my recovery, and my recovery process is running as smooth as it has in many years. The renewed thirst and vigor for the process is directly a result of attending this meeting and the people I've connected with at it. My current sponsor is a home group member here. Several others that I barely knew or didn't know at all in March have become important parts of my life recently. I don't know if I could have been doing this years ago, or if I was just receptive to it more because I was struggling so much in the spring.
But whatever the reason, I can't conceive of not going to this meeting now. And I am profoundly happy and grateful that it is there and that it is what it is.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction and Recovery: HANDS IN THE AIR, Bob Seger

Bob Seger was a reliable money maker for his record company for nearly two decades. He wasn't quite held in contempt by those that viewed themselves as connoisseurs of fine music during his career, but he was never really taken seriously, either, as a quality artist, or thought of as someone creating music that would stand the test of time. As the twenty-first century progresses and his career moves further into the past, though, Seger actually looks and sounds better and better. His popular songs weren't really standard "pop," and almost all of his hits had a line or two, or evoked an image, that stayed with the listener long after the song ended.
Hands in the Air was not one of his major hits. It was released in 1995, in the twilight of Seger's period as culturally relevant, and by the standards of that time, he wasn't either edgy or young enough to garner a lot of attention. And I confess I did not pay a lot of attention to the song at the time, my addiction was just starting to take off, and although I played the CD occasionally in my car, I thought it was merely a standard take-stock-of-life-and-move-on-song.
And then it was 1999, and I was going to two meetings a day and hearing an incessant drone about the need to "surrender" in my program of recovery. And I remember driving one day and popping in Seger's CD, and this song came on--and suddenly, this song's true meaning hit me like a sledgehammer to the foot. I don't even really need to do an in-depth examination of the lyrics; anyone in recovery will instantly know what is meant but "put your hands in the air." It is a call to surrender, and some of the lines are powerfully reminiscent of actual vignettes of my own life. And more to the point, it isn't necessarily about the active addict, which is why it hit me as hard as it did.
This is a song about people engaging in addict behavior while abstinent--and a devastating indictment of them. The repeated relapsers who justify their actions by saying they never hit the depths others did. The people who hold off on identifying who is owed amends and making them. Those in "committed relationships" 13th-Stepping. And also those that do their best reaching the end of their rope when their character defects are serving as their Higher Power. The guy wondering whether the meetings and the fellowship can truly help him. The shady and the shifty that are reluctantly changing. The broken souls.
And the last two verses can be taken as excoriating those that prey on active addicts. But I honestly think they are directed at a special kind of scumbag, one with his or her own level of hell reserved just for them; the "clean" addict that sells drugs in recovery auspices to those that are struggling to keep it down.
As I said, it really does take being in recovery to fully understand this song. But if you are, you can see it as a masterpiece of its kind. This realization made me search for more information about Seger--and yes, he is in recovery himself. He never trumpeted it like Steven Tyler and a few others, but he has been, for some time now. And as time passes, he's one of the few famous people that I very much would like to meet and shoot the shit with. I have a feeling he would be as down to earth and open as the typical person in any 12-Step meeting I normally attend.

Here's the video:

And the lyrics:

I've seen two time losers running everywhere
Shouting and screamin', "I was never there!"
With their hands in the air
Hands in the air

I've seen bad news messengers avoiding kings
Cheating spouses twisting their rings
With their hands in the air
Oooh, got their hands in the air
As guilty as the wind out on the sea
Affecting who we are and who we'll be

There's a desperation, a real despair
Even the good people are starting to declare
I've got my hands in the air
Ah my hands are in the air

They're surrendering, they're giving in
They'll do anything not to go through this again
They've got their hands in the air
Ooh, their hands in the air

And they're sinking in the quicksand like a stone
Broken to the marrow of the bone, oh

The dealers are dividing up their tips
The gamblers, they're all cashin' in their chips

There's a man in the middle of a parking lot
Wondering which way he should go
There's a star on the horizon
Sinking low, low

All you death wish addicts, you corrupters of truth
You killers of the spirit, you marauders of youth
Get your hands in the air
I want to see your hands in the air

If you're selling these lies, these impossible dreams
You can keep on washin' but you'll never get clean
Get your hands in the air
Let me see your hands in the air

The Next Exit In View

I got a confirmation today that the transfer of programs is finally going to happen. Not for five weeks yet, which means I will still be working nights during the holidays, which I'm not real enthused about, but at least it makes it possible to start to plan ahead. The great thing about the position I am moving to is the flexible schedule, and going forward, with Lauren coming home about five weeks after I switch the jobs, it will make it easier for me to deal with all that is going to bring.
I honestly have mixed feelings about it now. I really like everyone that I am working with here; a couple of staff have moved on, and I like their replacements better than I liked the originals. Staff meetings here are raucous and fun; today featured so many moments of levity that I wish I had recorded it. The program I am moving to seems to have good people working for it, too--don't get me wrong on that count. But it's not like I can't stand where I am now. It was just the hours and the night shift, not the job or the people.
Or the kids. I can't really comment on anybody specific, for obvious reasons. But I will say that the tougher elements we had to deal with here in the summer are long gone, and the bunch we have now, although somewhat challenging for evening and day staff, have not been giving me a hard time on nights at all.
One development is that I am starting to shadow and become more familiar with the new position, and so there will be a few more days like this one--16 hours worked between 1 PM yesterday and 8:30 this morning. I will like the bigger paychecks, for certain. And the challenges of the new position are whetting my appetite a bit. I like when I get reports that the kids I met gave me positive reviews. I wasn't that worried that I wouldn't be successful at the new job, but all bits of positivity are welcome encouragement.
This journey I am on continues to pick up mile markers. I am probably closer to the end than the beginning--but I am nowhere near journey's end, either. And I'm happy that I am able to actually enjoy and meet new challenges as they arise. My memory of a lot of people I grew up around is that they were very rigid and resistant to any kind of change when they were my age I 'm glad I'm not that way.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction And Recovery: ANYTHING BUT DOWN, Sheryl Crow

The heyday of Sheryl Crow came and went in rather short time; she wasn't really young when she hit the big time, she hasn't adjusted well to the digital age, and I think her romance with Lance Armstrong sapped a lot of vitality out of here just when she needed the opposite, though. Or perhaps it had already been extracted, because in Crow's best period, the mid-to-late 90's, she put out a number of songs that were almost perfect expressions of the angst and existential pain of being in a relationship with someone who was in love with another--their drug of choice. And none were a better expression of this than Anything But Down. 
This song was new in the spring of 1999, when I had a few months clean. I was not anywhere near the level of insight and acceptance of my own role in the tortured drama that was my relationship with Sabrina's mother. But I remember hearing this a couple of times while I was still in the halfway house I was in--and being absolutely thunderstruck by how much I identified with Crow's lyrics. There are a couple of lines which hint that the song has different layers and perhaps may not be explicitly about addiction--but it sure is about someone completely self-centered, incapable of giving back affection received, and about what it is like to be involved with someone who wants to appear to be more than they are. All are characteristic of using addicts, and there are some lines of his song that I felt were lifted directly from my life story. "How quickly you forget" all things that were done for her; I can't tell you how many fights we had over how much of an ingrate I felt she was. "You say 'Won't you come find me' and yes is what I say." There were literally dozens of times when she left the house or otherwise disappeared, and I always went looking for her. "Maybe I'm not what you had in mind." It floored me that I wasn't, and I actually remember saying this more than once, wondering what it was going to take to make it work. "You with your steel beliefs, that don't match anything you do." The main bitch I had with MOTY in 1997 was that she was a flaming hypocrite, and the main bitch that I had with her right up until 2015 was that she was still a flaming hypocrite "Can't you make it easy on yourself?" Another question I actually asked, more than once--the worst part about all the nonsense and drama we went through was that it was so unnecessary, that she seemed unwilling or unable to learn from experience and we had to go through the same crap time and again.
But the kicker was the end of the song:
"I know you wish you were strong
And you wish you were never wrong
But I got some wishes of my own"
In a nutshell, that is the bald, naked, ugly truth about how deadening to the soul living with a narcissist on the level of a using addict. The image of strength was bullshit, and we both knew it. The self-image was so fragile that she could never admit that she was wrong about anything--indeed, that particular defect of character led to her relapse after nearly a decade's abstinence. And in the end, our relationship was doomed, because my wishes never, ever entered into her thought processes. Never once.
And the early identification became even more pronounced after she went through treatment and came home, and we tried to live together as a couple. "Life was so much easier before you became you" was another arrow to the bullseye of my psyche. Granted, I wanted to feel prominent and important in the our fellowship, too--but I was nowhere near as image-conscious and manipulative about how I presented myself among our peers as she was. The facade eventually collapsed, long before her relapse--but it didn't make it any easier to deal with her because of the false front she presented in those first few months she came home, because, only seeing her for an hour a day at most, many people bought into it, and the maintenance of that mask quickly became and remained her priority.
Even now, long after this song has ceased to be any kind of rotation in any radio format, I still get taken back to an emotional place I really don't like to revisit when I hear this. And sometimes I wonder if this is part of the reason Crow herself vanished off the pop radar not long after the album this song and a couple of others like it were on was released. It might just have been too damn painful for her to deal with repeatedly.

Here's the video :


And the lyrics:

I light your cigarettes
I bring you apples from the vine
How quickly you forget
I run the bath and pour the wine
I bring you everything that floats into your mind

But you don't bring me anything but down
You don't bring me anything but down
You don't bring me anything but down
When you come 'round

You are a raging sea
I pull myself out everyday
I plea insanity
Cause I can't leave but I can't stay
You say, won't you come find me and yes is what I say

You don't bring me anything but down
You don't bring me anything but down
Everything is crashing to the ground

Maybe I'm not your perfect kind
Maybe I'm not what you had in mind
Maybe we're just killing time

You with your silky words
And your eyes of green and blue
You with your steel beliefs
That don't match anything you do
It was so much easier before you became you

You don't bring me anything but down
You don't bring me anything but down
Everything just crashes to the ground
When you come around
When you come around

No more playing seek and hide
No more long and wasted nights
Can't you make it easy on yourself

I know you wish you were strong
You wish you were never wrong
Well, I got some wishes of my own

Actual Christmas Shopping

I felt like a relic from a forgotten time yesterday. I went to four different actual retail stores, bought at least one thing in each of them, and succeeded in getting a good portion of my Christmas shopping done. I do not have to buy anything more for my children and three of my sister's kids, and I have very little left to get for my mother, my nephew, and my sister's fiance. I still have a few things to buy for Lauren, and I have to buy for my brother, both sisters, and my brother-in-law. But still, I didn't think I did bad for about three hours worth of shopping. The cost wasn't prohibitively expensive, either--less than a full paycheck, to be sure.
But more to the point, I felt like I was actually putting some thought into the gift-giving. I have gotten in the habit of buying gift cards in recent years, and honestly, it hardly feels like Christmas when I go over to my mom's house on Christmas Eve with one small bag with a dozen gift cards. I want to get my kids something they actually can use, that they can look at it and think, "Dad got me that." I want my siblings to know that they are not an afterthought or an obligation, but someone whose presence in my life I value, as much as I can get aggravated with them at times. I want my mother to know that in spite of the fullness of my life and the general busyness that doesn't allow me to see her as much as I used to, she still means a great deal to me. I want my in-laws to know that I appreciate that they have made positive differences in my sisters' lives.
And a 1-by-2 inch slab of plastic doesn't really say any of that as much as something I actually had to put some effort into finding an actual gift.
It is the thought that counts. Or the effort, to be more accurate. I was talking to a friend last night and this subject came up, and the friend was curious as to why I was buying Lauren's stuff now--"She's not going to be able to use any of it until February." Well, for two reasons: 1) It seems really hypocritical of me to tell someone how much they mean to me without including them, whatever their circumstances at the moment, in my Christmas, and 2) people who are not able to be home for Christmas need to know that they are loved and appreciated and cared about even more than those that are going to be present. When I saw her Saturday, we talked about this, and the one concession to her situation is that I don't have to wrap any of what I am getting her. But I am going to take pictures of what she is getting and mail them in plenty of time for her to see them by Christmas Eve, and although the 24th is not a visitation weekend, it is a phone weekend, and I will be able to include her, however much it won't be for long enough, for a period of time in our holiday.
And her situation was the catalyst, really, for the return to a traditional gift strategy. I hate to sound like Charlie Brown or any of those other fictional characters that populate our Christmas TV offerings, but the undeniable truth is that we have, as a society, not only over-commercialized Christmas, but we have allowed technological advances to depersonalize it, too. Gift cards, when they first started becoming popular a little over a decade ago, were a nice convenience and a bit of a novelty--but quickly, the inherent flexibility of the idea made it all too easy to simply take a shortcut on the investment of time and effort that I feel I should take to let my loved ones know how much they mean to me. And with rare exceptions, I'm not going to do it anymore. Or at least in years when my finances allow me to indulge a little, as is the case this year.
And now some notes about the actual places I went. Walmart isn't really all that bad, if you go at eight in the morning, and I have to say that one of the main complaints about shopping there has been alleviated by the self-checkout lane, which is the greatest invention since the roof. The experience was dampened somewhat by the need to use the men's room there, which is something that really should not be undertaken unless under the influence of mild hallucinogens, but I survived, only a little worse for wear. I went years without shopping at Walmart, in a symbolic flip of the bird at corporate America, but in recent years, that's changed. I'd like to blame it all on shrinking budgetary resources or the increasing lack of alternatives--but honesty compels to admit that it's a mostly a matter of convenience; it's a three-minute drive from my house, and it's at least a fifteen-to-twenty minute drive to get to any store remotely comparable. And it's open 24 hours, which wasn't an issue yesterday, but has been at times like when the coffee pot shit the bed at 4 AM.
I grew to appreciate, if not necessarily like, Dick's when Sabrina was playing softball; you're going to pay more than you should, but anything sports-related, you can find there, and they offer enough coupons and specials that usually you don't get too butt-hurt shopping there. They also offer an extensive selection of brand-name clothing--and something I wasn't sure I was going to be able to find was there yesterday.. Unfortunately, it was more money than I wanted to pay, and so I will look other places and online before going back there.
I spent a lot of time and a fair amount of money in Tom's yesterday. Tom's is an old-fashioned gift shop, a sort of buffet line of arts/craft stuff, good-but-pricey food items, and clothing for the hippie/free-spirit types, of which there are a good number of around here due to the university. I've gone back and forth about Tom's over the years; some of their ads are misleading, and the employees aren't even remotely subtle about following you around the store in order to "prevent loss," which is a pain right in the ass at times. But they have a tremendous selection of coffees and teas, and a lot of other food items which are not found anywhere else in this area. The mustard I bought for myself there yesterday is absolute nirvana for those of us that like spicy brown mustard, even if it cost ten bucks. It was my Christmas present to myself; it's that good. And there's a lot of stuff like that in Tom's. If I made a hundred grand a year, I would be in there all the time.
And lastly, grocery stores often offer sneaky-good deals and carry items that you would never notice for eleven months out of the year. I used to split my grocery shopping between Price Chopper and Wegmans, but in the last couple of years, 1) Wegmans has gotten more expensive, and isn't a clear winner on price like it used to be. As a matter of fact, it's generally as expensive as Weis, although of better quality. PC is more expensive at list price than both--but half the store is usually on sale of one form or another, and I've adjusted my budget enough so that PC doesn't break me, and 2) the proximity thing again. Price Chopper is four blocks from my house; although I hardly ever do, I can walk there if I need to. It's convenient as hell, and I'm in there enough that I know where everything is. And they were the first place I remember with the self-checkout; the only time I have to wait for any length of time in Price Chopper is early in the morning or late at night when those lanes are shut down. Wegmans doesn't have self-checkouts, an issue that is exacerbated by 3) Wegmans is the de facto retirement home for the extensive elderly population in this area. I don't care what time of day or what day of the week you go there, Wegmans is full of old people. Not only old people, but old people with world-class entitlement complexes, that act like they're the only people in the store, whose locomotion setting is set on "glacial," and that act like, when they get to checkout, they are at some bazaar/market in Istanbul instead of a grocery store, often berating the clerks because their Boston Baked Beans are 98 cents instead of 89 cents like they think they saw back in the aisle. It's infuriating, honestly, and you just don't get that in Price Chopper.
So that was my day off, mixed in with a meeting with my sponsor and a meeting I usually don't attend in the evening. But with 18 days until Christmas, I am glad to report that most of the heavy lifting is done.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

25 Songs About Addiction (and Recovery): MEMORIES CAN'T WAIT, Talking Heads

There doesn't seem to be a lot of current love out there for the Talking Heads, possibly because they is not any way possible that they could ever get airplay in any current radio format today, even alternative. Even people of my generation tend to recall the period in the 1980's when they were more or less a pop band, when David Byrne had taken over (or hogged, depending on your view) the spotlight and there was a three-year string of quirky songs that were better than standard pop but were also quite a distance removed from their New Wave roots in the late 1970's. Memories Can't Wait definitely belongs to the early period. The first few Heads albums were known more for songs with somewhat bouncy rhythms with odd lyrical subjects, interspersed with the occasional Psycho Killer foray into the darker areas of Byrne's soul. Memories was several years into the band's career, and the lyrics are a rather pointed look at the drug scene that had already wreaked havoc among their peers in the New York punk/New Wave scene.
The beginning of the song is a pretty straightforward description of someone that is high pretty much out of their mind--or is it? The first two lines seem to be spoken to the singer, and he admits to being out of it, lost in the "party in his mind." But as the song progresses, there are disturbing hints that the singer may be, in fact, dead. "Never woke up, had no regrets." "Other people can go home/...I'll be here all the time." And even if the singer isn't dead, he's stuck, in the thrall of something he can't control. "There's a party in my mind, and I hope it never stops"
What makes this song a real ambiguous classic is the second set of verses, which can be taken as 1) an indictment of a bad trip, 2) an acknowledgement of the horrid truth every addict faces, when their drug of choice no longer is having the effect on the user that it used to, or 3) something that hit me hard in early recovery, as an indictment of getting clean, a mocking of someone who has walked away from the "party." Judge for yourself:

Take a walk through the land of shadows
Take a walk through the peaceful meadows
Don't look so disappointed
It isn't what you hoped for, is it?

The language is evocative of the 23rd Psalm--"The valley of the shadow of death." "He maketh me lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me to still waters." And every addict, at some point, in early recovery, has felt a sense of emptiness and disappointment at how dull their life seems to have become after they get clean. It doesn't last, but it does happen. Often.
And the change in the second chorus--"I'm stuck here in this seat; I might not ever stand up" again seems to be a reference to getting so messed up that death is on the table, and the plaintative "I can never stop, I can never quit" is a cry that every active and recovering addict can sorely identify with.
And the end verses, with the singer wide awake while everyone else is sleeping "on memories" that can't wait, is another thing very familiar to addicts in early recovery--but also possibly to the addict that cannot just stop when the money runs out or when it's time to be a responsible citizen again. Addiction, on a very simple level, is the inability to let go of the memory of how good it felt to get high. And a huge factor in relapses is the memory of the high overwhelming all the logical reasons that you shouldn't start again.
I've been hearing this song for nearly 40 years. I've been hearing clean for nearly 20 now. And I still am not sure whether it is about someone caught in the grips of addiction, or someone trying to keep it down and not relapse. The original Talking Heads version is harder-edged than most Heads songs--but it's soft rock compared to the cover by Living Color that came ten years after the original. The Living Color version is an absolute assault on the senses, and I have believed for years that that band's take on the song was that it was a song of the active addict--and they play it that way, with the pauses and fade out like that which occurs as the high fades.
And it's possible that all the interpretations are correct. A great work of literature appeals to the readers on many different levels, and great songs also can arouse differing perspectives. This song was never widely known, but it should be; it's actually one of the better songs about this aspect of life that exists. I'm including videos of both versions that I wrote of , and also the full lyrics after the videos:




And the link to the Living Color version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoOvbNv-XxU


And the lyrics:

Do you remember anyone here?
No you don't remember anything at all
I'm sleeping, I'm flat on my back
Never woke up, had no regrets
There's a party in my mind
And I hope it never stops
There's a party up there all the time
And they'll party till they drop
Other people can go home
Everybody else can split
I'll be here all the time
No, I can never quit
Take a walk through the land of shadows
Take a walk through the peaceful meadows
Don't look so disappointed
It isn't what you hoped for, is it?
There's a party in my mind
And I hope it never stops
I'm stuck here in this seat
I might not stand up
Other people can go home
Other people they will split
I'll be here all the time
No, I can never quit
Everything is very quiet
Everyone has gone to sleep
I'm wide awake on memories
These memories can't wait
These memories can't wait
These memories can't wait
These memories can't wait
These memories can't wait
These memories can't wait
These memories can't wait