(Still)An active participant in the divine comedy of life.
So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly.- Aldous Huxley
My friend Kim pleaded with me to go to an AA meeting in St Pauls Cathedral in the center of London. He is convinced I need a change of scenery. A true friend who rescued me on a few occasions when I was left stranded drunk as a skunk in the street or when I called him at all hours of the night to chat and pour out my heart.
“It’s time you changed your stomping ground, you’re getting too comfortable in Chelsea.”
I went because I felt inspired when I saw famous people. He was right it was the wrong reason to go. But I reasoned that if they could, I could. So we make a date for an icy cold winters night that only London knows how to do.
I dress in my black cashmere coat and my long brown, soft wool Sonia Rykiel skirt and a matching cashmere sweater. He cancels at the last moment. It’s a test I am convinced. I decide to go anyway.
It was no mean feat getting there by the underground system but I did. I enter the dark, damp, freezing bowels of the cathedral. I pull my coat around me tightly and I sit as far away as I can from the homeless people, tightly clutching my brown kid leather bag. There were no rock stars here in the dimly lit hall, and I wondered if that was why Kim had sent me to this meeting, he saw that it was time for a reality check.
At the end of the meeting I want to run out the door but something calls me to move slowly, linger and along with the homeless people I help to clean up after the meeting. Just as I was about to throw away a black plastic bag I assume contains rubbish, a woman dressed in layers of rags hurries up to me. She grabs the black bag out of my hand. I notice the wool gloves with no fingers and her long dirty finger nails. Her eyes that bore into mine are blue, and hard to find in the dirt that covers her wrinkled well worn face. But then I’d never looked a homeless person in the eyes.
“Oh sorry” I mutter and she holds my eyes. I can’t look away.
“Those are my belongings” Her voice is high and childlike.
She hurries away and I stand for a moment as though I have been zapped, and it occurs to me that the only difference between her and me is my black cashmere coat and designer clothes. I live in Chelsea she on the streets. We are both alcoholics, and If I did not stop drinking now, I would likely drink next month’s rent away, lose my job and find myself homeless as well. I had a choice, something that seems a new option in that moment, one that hadn’t occurred to me before.
On my way home that night I buy a bottle of brandy and a bottle of vodka, lock the door to my basement flat and put on all the music I had stopped listening to when Mitchell left. I drink both bottles of the brown and the white and pass out to Van Morrison’s song Brown Eyed Girl. (I think) It was the last cd I found in the cd player which was still on.
The next morning I awake with a headache that made me want to cut my head off for the smallest relief. When I see the empty bottles on the floor and the phone book lying by the phone, which is off the hook, my stomach turns with the same familiar sickness and churning of the intense fear of not remembering what I had done. My tounge is so dry I could grate carrots.
I look up at the ceiling and say quietly to no one in particular.
“ It’s today” and I did not drink again. Six months later another divine intervention occurs when in the same single bed with the lumpy mattress and the same ceiling, I look up, and say the magic words,
“Its today” and I quit a 30 a day nicotine habit, And I didn’t and haven’t smoked since. That was 25 years ago, and today I need to write about today.
After a few attempts at relationships over the years I decided the best way for me to stay sober was to live alone, and it saved my life, as I went seeking for that which is greater than me, rather than looking for it outside of myself. I found it mostly in the realm of ancestors and great spirit and the Dharma, that, also saved my life.
When my father died at the age of 24, I started drinking when my my mother died 20 years later I didn’t drink. I spoke to her and I healed years of unresolved feelings and unspoken words during her last days and for months afterwards, I healed by going to the ocean and speaking to Her there.
Now I live in South Africa my place of birth at the tender age of 67, I am fostering a young boy who came to me when he was 8 years old, and 2 years later I realize I am entering into addictive behaviour without the substance. Trauma some known some unknown surfaces in ways that are surpising ( I thought I had dealt with that) and I have entered some scary deep black holes recently. I still don’t want to drink or smoke, what I want is resolve. Twenty Five years ago, AA didn’t do it for me nor did therapy and now I am doing trauma therapy and considering re entering AA. What I realise now is that I created a reasonably stress free life by living alone for 16 years, what I now realise is that relationships are such perfect mirrors to our shit. My boy now 10 is a gift. In his way he shows me where I have unresolved stuff that I still need to deal with. What has also emerged is that trauma and addiction are inextricably linked and we have not paid enough attention to the little traumas and medium traumas. Fortunately not everyone has major traumas, and it’s time that the correlation of unhealed trauma and addiction is seen, acknowledged and heeded as worth looking into.
Gabor Mate a Vancouver Doctor says that before we ask how we handle something, we have to understand what are we handling.
“When we understand that the people who are addicted are traumatized people, now we have to take an approach that will help them heal that trauma, rather than make it worse,” Mate said.
I am grateful and I fully understand what I used to pooh pooh, I am an addict then and now, 25 years sober and I need a big booster of support. So I’m back to the one day at a time….. except its not drink it’s addictive behaviour, it helped me before. These days I prefer to get high from standing in rushing rivers that and falling to my my knees, surrendering to great spirit, again, and again.