Tag Archive | alcoholism

THREE RANDOM REFLECTIONS ON TIME AND GRATITUDE

Three random reflections on the concepts of time and gratitude … But first, because those in the know advise that nobody reads a blog without photographs, here is a picture of my cat:

Reflections on the lost years

I am a recovering alcoholic. It did not happen overnight, but the progression from ‘normal’ consumption into active alcoholism was swift. It happened at the worst possible time for my child; just at the onset of adolescence. She coped by cutting me out of her life and I floated about the house like a wraith; an awful spectre to make her usher her friends quickly past my bedroom door. She is a girl of strong, strong character; she didn’t allow me to accompany her father when he took her to her first day of high school. She didn’t turn to me when she started her period. I learned second-hand of her first love and her first heartbreak. I wrote to her all the time; letters in vino veritas, letters from rehab, letters at each milestone: her birthday, Christmas, Mothers’ Day, the day my divorce from her father finally happened, and countless days of no particular significance. During my years in recovery, she began – with caution and an ill-disguised mistrust – to meet with me. Slowly, slowly, we drew close again until the most miraculous thing happened and she asked to come and live with me. And so it is with us now; we have a life together again. And it’s sweeter and stronger for the things we lost in those unhappy years. And so it happened that I began to believe in God. I know that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life and that I am only granted a daily reprieve. I understand that it will take much time before my daughter stops watching what I unpack after a trip to the grocery store; I understand and I accept it, with infinite gratitude.

Reflections on the short-lived romance

When I was 50-and-three-quarters-years-old; an age that, in my youth, I had regarded as middle-age; my brother died and I found romance with his best friend. It was, in hindsight, the whiplash of shared grief that we misconstrued as passion. It lasted three months and I was as dizzy as a teenager throughout. I’d not been kissed (the mwah-mwah air kisses from my gay brigade at social events aside) by a man for over a decade. A big, strong and sensitive man; he held me together and has remained a source of support and will be my friend for the rest of my life. And he made me feel desirable; for that I am grateful beyond words. Perhaps, one day, romance will sneak up on me again; for now it is enough to know that I am worthy of love. And I will, always, buy myself flowers …

And, if you’re still reading, here is an old picture I took of some potted roses on my balcony:

survived the hailstorm_edited

Reflections on being deemed too old and too pale

Shortly before we came back to work after the Christmas break, my boss took me to lunch and gently, as is her way, told me that it was time for me to ‘move on’. I’d come to work for her as her personal assistant at the beginning of 2014, when she moved her psychology practice to her home. It was a time when I was brittle in the aftermath of my divorce and we both agreed that it would be a temporary arrangement. She feels that it is now time for me to move back into ‘the real world’ and find a job which will utilise my experience and renew my sense of self now that I am so much stronger. I flew into an immediate panic and made an appointment with a personnel consultant who brutally informed me that I was on the wrong side of 50 and later sent me an article giving me news of the Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) Amendment Bill, which eliminates all white people including the disabled. (Read more about it here if you don’t believe me.) I fell into a stunned funk, from which I am just emerging. I will not accept this as the death knell for my future. I have too much to offer. For now I am safe where I am, working for someone who has become a stalwart friend, irrespective of where my future journey may lead. And, for the part she has played in my journey over the past year, I have boundless gratitude.

If you’ve read this far, thank you; here is a picture of some poached pears I cooked ever so long ago:

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GOODBYE SHAWN; MY BROTHER, MY FRIEND

Grief is a pervasive thing. It is a relentless companion, sometimes falling into shallow slumber, only to wake when least expected – at mundane times, like when one is making a cup of tea or eating a sandwich. It comes awake ruthlessly, hacking with icy fingers at the chambers of the heart and bringing one to one’s knees.

My brother died two weeks ago. It was a brutal death. He was in a coma for seven days and, at first, I prayed for his recovery, and then I prayed for his death and a merciful release for the tortured body that was being kept alive by machines. I held his hand, kissed his forehead and told him it was OK to let go. The end of his life was senseless, hope of recovery from the grotesque dance that his alcoholism had trod with him came, but it was too late.

I’ve chosen to remember him happy, young and carefree. I hope he has found that place again. shawn

RIP SHAWN CHRISTOPHER PHILLIPS

6 MARCH 1968 – 9 SEPTEMBER 2014

I LOVE YOU. ALWAYS AND FOREVER.

(Photo credit: Peter Gerber)

And a repost of something I wrote long ago, about the day he came into my life:

GETTING A BROTHER

There were no children my age to play with; it was a brand new suburb; all red earth and building rubble. Both parties of most couples went out to work, walking together to catch busses. My mom and dad each had a car, which was quite unusual at the time. They misguidedly thought nursery school was a cruel business, an enclave for neglected children; only marginally less horrible than the orphanage they threatened to send me to if I didn’t eat my spinach.

There was, apart from the lovely, fat and funny Willemienah who cleaned and cooked; a nanny who’s sole purpose was to feed me, clean me and make sure that I didn’t engage in any activities that would lead to my needing stitches or the services of the Police Force. Her name was Martha and to this day I remember what it felt like when she wiped my face with a warm facecloth, sprinkled with 4711 cologne, after I cried because of a fall. I ate my meals with them, sitting on the concrete courtyard floor; tomato and onion gravy with stiff maize porridge. I’d have it for lunch any day, still. Only much later did it dawn that Sotho was not the only language on daytime radio.

I begged and pleaded for a brother and my parents kept telling me it was not the right time. I was six before I realised that I was lonely.

From time to time my paternal grandparents would come to take me to their farms, early on to Excelsior and later to Tweespruit. My Ganny Sue taught my to sew a neat stitch and my Gampy let me walk out with him after supper, ostensibly to make sure the cows were tucked in, but really to smoke his secret cigarettes. They allowed all the rules to be broken; I didn’t have to bath every day, especially not if I’d swum in the reservoir. We sometimes had stewed peaches and custard as our supper!

On returning from a long visit, I walked into our bathroom, where my mother was drying herself after a shower. She had become fat, something I hadn’t noticed during everyday contact and I told her so. My dad overheard and joined us in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub and pulling me onto his lap. He told me that my mom was growing a surprise for me in her tummy and could I guess what it was? I said ‘a bike?’, but they laughed and said I’d have to wait and see.

Perhaps a fortnight or so later, I’d taken my skipping rope and gone up the road to visit with an old lady whom I’d befriended and who allowed me to pretend that we were grand ladies taking high tea on a cruise ship. Her kettle had just boiled when Martha puffed in and said I should come home at once. She hoiked me onto her back and trotted down the block.

My parents were sitting in the lounge, my mom holding a soft parcel. They beckoned me to join them and my mom opened the parcel so that I could see the scrunched up little person they were giving me.

His name is Shawn and he is one of the best friends I have ever had; my little brother who grew to be bigger than me in every way conceivable.

I’m really quite fond of you, grumpy old codger. And so very proud.

LE DIVORCE AND A LOOK BACK AT 2010

I’m aware that a new blog post is long overdue, but I’ve had the most dreadful blogger’s block and a lingering bout of self-pity masquerading as depression. To get me back in the saddle, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to revisit a post I did back in early 2010, and see how many things have changed or are still the same.

I am: made up of my life experiences, but am constantly changing.
Update: I am also – as of 25th April, finally divorced.

I have: about 54 pairs of shoes, most of them red.
Update: When I moved out of my marital home two years ago, I culled my shoe collection. I now own about 30 pairs …

I know: that I am unique.
Update: Deep down inside, I still believe this, but the depression sends me many “What’s it all about, Alfie?” days.

I think: I should have put the fillet in marinade an hour ago.
Update: Ah, that was the good life. I now rarely eat red meat, but when my budget allows I do indulge in a good steak, like I did to commemorate my divorce.

I don’t think: the weekend is going the way I wanted it to.
Update: My weekends bear no resemblance to those of four years ago. Now they are quiet and contemplative, with none of the frenetic entertaining I used to do. I attend 12-Step recovery program meetings and read or watch a movie. With my cat. The past weekend was very bleak.

I want: to change some very important things soon.
Update: How prophetic that answer proved to be!

I have: a tendency to cry easily.
Update: Yes, I still do. Takes very little to get the waterworks going.

I like: avocado pears.
Update: I like my boss. A lot.

I dislike: self-indulgent, egomaniac, me-me-me drug addicts.
Update: Renovations. We’ve recently had a lot of work done on my boss’s home (she practices from home) and – while the results are delightful – the inconvenience and mess were a hair-pulling experience.
I now have far more empathy with the drug addicts.

I hate: winter.
Update: Yep, no change there!

I dream: an impossible dream. But still I dream it.
Update: Ditto.

I fear: something so much that I don’t want to put it in writing.
Update: Again, ditto!

I am annoyed: quite often of late.
Update: By traffic-light beggars who swear at me when I have nothing to give them.

I crave: sunlight and starshine.
Update: Somebody with whom to share early-morning and late-night musings; someone to take turns with to make the morning coffee.

I usually: drink two cups of coffee a day and three glasses of wine a night.
Update: I usually have pot-noodles for lunch at work and drink far too much coffee. Those glasses of wine … oh, how much pain they ended up causing …

I search: for some good in everyone, often it is hard.
Update: For reconciliation with my daughter who has, once again, removed herself from my life. I’m told it’s quite common in the case of divorce for a child to become resentful to rebel against both parents if and when they try to present a united front in disciplining the child. Such is the case at the moment and my grief forms the backdrop to my daily life. I just have to keep the faith and keep praying that she returns to me soon.

I hide: my secret pair of Crocs away from everyone.
Update: See above re my daughter – I hide my pain daily and try my best to present a cheerful front.

I wonder: what Marthinus (my first boyfriend) eventually did with his life.
Update: What would have happened if I didn’t have all those glasses of wine every night …

I know: that madness is just a moment away for everyone. Some will evade that moment and others will succumb. Look at the survivors of the Holocaust.
Update: I will survive this period of my life.

I just can’t help: myself from reacting to bigots.
Update: Still guilty ….

I regret: a great many things. But looking in the rear view mirror may make me miss a signboard, so …
Update: The 2010 answer still makes sense …

I love: Quentin Crisp until my dying day.
Update: Spoiling myself with a bunch of fresh flowers once a week.

I can’t live without: writing.
Update: The 12-step recovery programme. I literally won’t be able to live without it.

I try to: deliver the best version of me. I really do try.
Update: Still trying …

I enjoy: swimming naked at night in summer.
Update: Getting into bed early, in warm pyjamas with a good book.

I don’t care: much for Chardonnay.
Update: I don’t care that I live in a ‘dodgy’ neighbourhood, I love my apartment.

I always: dry my feet first when I get out of the bath.
Update: Yes, still do.

I never want to: be misunderstood, but it happens all the time.
Update: I never want to be homeless.

I rely on: my husband, too much perhaps.
Update: And look where that got me ….

I believe: that there are things I cannot change.
Update: Yes, still, and God grant me the serenity to accept those things, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I dance: and it embarrasses people, so I try to only do it when I am alone.
Update: Far, far less than I used to.

I sing: and my family get very cross about it.
Update: On Sundays, when our local radio station plays golden oldies. My cat leaves the room when I do.

I argue: badly. I am non-confrontational and generally a pacifist.
Update: Ditto.

I write: constantly, without it I would die.
Update: Infrequently of late, which makes me sad.

I win: wine sometimes in competitions. I am lucky that way.
Update: I don’t enter competitions aymore.

I lose: my reading spectacles very frequently.
Update: No change there …

I wish: I could fix something I broke.
Update: I could turn back the clock …

I listen: to classic rock on DMX channel 119 almost all the time.
Update: More carefully to what people are saying than I used to.

I don’t understand: Swedish, but I am working on it.
Update: How my life changed so much in so few years. (And I still don’t understand Swedish … )

I’m scared of: again, I can’t write it down.
Update: Financial insecurity.

I forget: family birthdays. Always.
Update: No change there either … but Facebook has helped a lot.

I am happy: enough.
Update: Some days. On the rough days I just roll with the punches and know that things will surely get better.

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