Tag Archives: twelve step programs

Kill Your Darlings – Part 2

I’ve finished the latest draft of my next book. Not all the words I’ve written have made it into the next round. Instead of being in the book I’m turning my darlings into blog posts. Seems I can’t kill them after all.

cider bottles

My brother never thought he would die. When his doctor, and friend of many years, told him that if he kept drinking he only had two years to live, my brother said “Tosh” and promptly found himself another doctor. I took him to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting once. I was back in my home town on holiday and thought I should do my family duty. I was the one experienced in Twelve Step programs. He had tried AA but said it didn’t work for him. He had a number of justifications as to why but I thought we could hold them up to the light, to discover whether we could see through them to the truth on the other side. The meeting was full of people, mainly men, sitting in a close circle. They shared in sequence. When it was my brother’s turn he declined. It didn’t matter. Another man told my brother’s story, even though the experiences were his own.

As I listened it was as though a small miracle occurred. My brother’s excuse, that he couldn’t relate and didn’t belong in AA because he’d never been to jail, ceased to hold water when compared to the words of that man.

He had been a successful professional, like my brother, he had enjoyed drinking his entire adult life, his friends liked to drink, they enjoyed getting drunk together. It was a social thing, a professional thing, but for this man it was more, it became a must do thing, a compulsive thing, an out of control thing, a desperate thing, a rehab thing, an AA thing. My brother’s story. Oh, the injustice of it that his friends could still enjoy a drink whereas he was labelled a drunk, an alcoholic. But this man, with the help of AA, had stopped drinking, had found a way to live and love his life again, without the alcohol, one day at a time. I sat and listened and said a little prayer that my brother’s ears would be opened. And for a flicker, a glimmer, I thought they were. He spoke with the man afterwards and as we walked back to my brother’s little flat he said that he’d never heard a story in AA before that he’d related to as much. Hope. Such a fragile thing.

The next day I took his youngest daughter to the annual agricultural show. My brother wanted to come too. I don’t know why. He was weak and shabby from the drink, dithering and feeble, unable to walk the rounds of the exhibits and judging areas, incapable of surviving a wild ride at side-show alley. But he came and within minutes was exhausted. He told us he’d meet us on the grandstand at the grand arena. He would sit and watch the show jumping and other events happily until we were ready to go home. I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? He’d heard his story the night before. He knew he could recover now, as long as he didn’t drink.

Later my niece and I, laden with show bags, went to join her father. We couldn’t find him on the grandstand. “He’s probably inside,” she said. There was a glassed in area with seats and screens, where punters could watch proceedings in a more comfortable surroundings. We walked through the glass doors and I spotted him immediately, propping up the bar, glass in hand, chatting with an equally sozzled gent.

My heart cracked. I had convinced myself that he had seen the light. I was wrong.

There was not a trace of guilt or remorse in him. He was content. Dumb, alcohol-fucked, but content. His brain, beyond knowing what he was doing, had fallen into the crevasse of habit. I glared at his drinking companion. The whole town knew the perilous state of his health, knew he had a problem with the demon drink. Yet here was this man, a supposed friend, inviting my brother to partake of yet another round. And my brother sheep-like and woolly-minded trotted along the well-worn trail to the slaughter house.

 

I’m just an animal

Is it something innate? Something in all of us? This longing for home, this wanting to belong? Or is it just in those of us who never felt as though they had a home, never felt as Cowsthough they belonged?

The times I’ve felt a sense of belonging are few and far, scattered through this life, these many lives it feels like. A friend and I made a home in a small flat in Coogee. I loved her and I trusted her. Still do, though years and distance have passed between us. I asked her, as we sat together in our kitchen, our playground for cockroaches, if she ever felt as though she belonged. Her reply surprised me.

“All the time,” she said.”

“How?”

“Because home is in here.” She tapped her heart.

I loved her all the more, and admired her, but I didn’t feel the same. Instead I had a vague wavery sensation inside my chest, as if I could dissolve at any moment. My home was less substantial even than straw.

I played in bands. Bands can be like family. A substitute perhaps. We worked, rehearsed, toured and played together. We shared secrets and disappointments, dreams and realities, and grew a history that was ours alone. Like a family.  But bands break up. My sense of belonging shattered each time.

I spent many years in Twelve Step programs. A big sprawling dysfunctional family. I found like-minded souls, soul sisters if you like. I wedged my way into belonging by doing lots of meetings and hours of service. I was admired by some, befriended by others, and the true friendships endured beyond the realm of those rooms. But eventually I discovered that this adopted Twelve Step family was much like the family I’d left behind. I didn’t like it any better the second time around.

I see people attracted to movements and modalities, causes and committees, and I see them as craving the connection that a sense of belonging gives. Like family. I understand it. But I’m no longer a joiner.

I still have a vague wavery sensation in my chest but perhaps this is the way I am. Movement and energy, floating and free. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe my sense of home is beyond the realms of this body, this reality. A place I cannot yet understand even though it’s here with me, always.

My dog comes up for a pat. My husband is on his way home. A tray of mangoes on the dining table fill the room with their scent. Two magpie larks build a nest in the tree outside my window. The native bees return to their hive.

Guess that this must be the place.