As I was reading my bashed-up copy of As Bill Sees It this morning (bashed-up because I dropped it into a bird bath in the garden, not bashed-up because I have read it to shreds, no indirect boasting here!) I suddenly remembered something. A random memory of a member telling us a story in one of the UK meetings.
One of those ravaged but forever attractive men with shaggy hair, sharp eyes and a lean wiry physique. Still in the habit of sniffing and rubbing his nose even though the coke habit was long gone. Writing scripts for movies, a tormented creative, happily married and sober four years. I’ll call him Bruce.
‘For years I had a favourite daydream,’ he said. ‘Whenever there was conflict or I had to fire an agent or confess something to my wife, I would go to my dream place.
‘My dream place was a rabbit hole, like the narrow deep rabbit hole at the beginning of Alice in Wonderland. I would crawl down into it. It didn’t pan out into some kind of brightly lit wonderland, it got darker and darker. I would crawl right to the bottom of the hole. Then I would curl up tightly into a foetal position cradling my bottle of Scotch and I would just stay there until I fell asleep. I didn’t have to drink the Scotch but I knew it was there.’
I knew what he was talking about, we all did. The desire for the womb, for darkness and oblivion. It is one of the most seductive and tragic aspects of alcoholism. That death wish. To go to sleep and never wake up. To clutch that poison as if it were the breast, the comforter, the cuddly teddy bear at bedtime. The chills run up and down my skin.
And the cardamom chicken last night was superb, everyone ate and ate. Buoyed up by compliments, I am tempted to do something of a culinary masterpiece with duckling or a slab of beef today, but have to get back to lentils and beans because of budget constraints. I am not really a good cook at all, in fact I stick to what I can do in a monotonous kind of way. No souffles or pastry confections or even a decent fried egg, but within my limited repertoire, when it works it works.
When I was drinking, my cooking had a great deal to do with drowning everything in alcohol. Me, drunk in hell’s kitchen. I had the sense not to try and flambe anything, I just decanted a few litres of brandy into the dish (as well as down my throat) and served it up with an inflamed imagination. The next morning I would feel depressed that so much of my food tasted overspiced and indigestibly rich.
Now I am amused to see the young celebrity chefs on television relying on liquor, cream or trendy herbs to mask their poor recipes. Cumin is not a staple of life. A clean vegetable stock has more flavour than half a bottle of red wine. A sprig of thyme has a haunting elusive flavour that a handful of thyme obliterates.
Conscious living is the way to go. I no longer feel I am missing out on my own life. In order to enjoy things deeply and sit outdoors under the stars of the Southern Cross laughing and appreciating my friends, I have to be able to tolerate the darkness within, the boredom and angst and difficulty of spending time with myself. Waiting for my damn inner child to grow up and get a life.
At least she can cook. One of these days she might even learn to clean up after herself, gracefully.