A dark and rainy Monday with gale-force winds pounding our coastline and warnings about flash floods here in the mountains. My housemate had another very painful and prolonged angina attack yesterday and is very pale and tired. I feel sick with worry. Health is a blessing we only appreciate when it isn’t there to be taken for granted.
A number of readers are turning up on my blog from the Orange Papers, that scourge of the naive in AA. I wonder if they see me as a secret heretic and One of Them, or if they pine for the cosy fellowship of a grubby church hall where everybody knows your first name? I’m also puzzled but pleased to see all the readers popping across from the Junky Wives Club, another cosy spot full of ambivalence, codependency and hothouse confessions. And then there are all those who hopefully Google ‘how many drinks before one passes out?‘, another unlikely source of readers. If you are counting your drinks, you just might have a little problem and I am not here to help with the sums.
And as rain pelts the window panes and tears rose petals off the Tradescantia, I have been sitting looking at the only known live footage of the young Anne Frank leaning out of a window in Amsterdam, on a summer’s day in 1941. She leans out to see a newly wed couple walk out of the house next door. Twenty seconds of Anne Frank leaning out of a window, a 12-year-old girl who is keeping a diary (Dear Kitty) that will carry her into history. Before the Nazis made her wear a five-pointed yellow star that stigmatised her as Jewish. Before her family went into hiding in the Secret Annexe. Before she was taken to Bergen-Belsen. I feel I am watching a ghost.
As Stefany Anne Golberg muses:
‘It’s funny how ghosts always appear at windows. They’re always trying to get in, peering out, or — seen from outside wandering back and forth — floating in and out of the window’s frame. Think Catherine in Wuthering Heights, Peter Quint in Turn of the Screw, the charming maiden in The Deserted House, Poe’s The Haunted Palace…the list is long. Nothing represents longing and loss like a window, especially a haunted one. It’s no wonder that the word “haunt” has its roots in the word “home.” Ghosts are always trying to find their way home, or find themselves lost in a home where they are unwanted. Even when they are in a home, they never feel “at home.” Ghosts are permanently homeless. They live in the space between inside and outside, between home and not home, like a window. Lurking about a window, the ghost hopes to see and be seen, aching to be free. But ghosts are by definition in limbo, and therefore never free.’
Hauntings. I have had an email from my friend Michael who is six and a half years sober. He writes:
‘The damage caused by drinking is vast, capillary, fascinating, and ultimately subjective. I don’t think there’s anything else quite like drinking, and that’s why analogies to, say, physical and mental illness or moral shortcomings fail.
The slow realization of the damage done I referred to is more like awaking than wallowing in the past. For example, I am at last acknowledging many efforts on others’ part to help that at the time I rejected out of hand. (Attempts to help often come from hated sources.)
But of course I am also concerned with real mental damage — and perhaps over-compensating now.’
How my friends make me think! And I shiver each time I read the word ‘damage’. And look at the slow awakening that in my case has also been a darkening despite the hopefulness and restitution. A time of taking stock and the descent into painful self-knowledge. Drinking takes us into the Underworld, that plutonic darkness and anomie, and how many of us shrink from the sunlight as we emerge!
Later. And then the storm broke and the electricity went off and I sat with books and a spiral-backed notebook drinking green tea and scribbling away. Thoughts on healing and haunting and what the word ‘recovery’ holds, a great treasure.