Reminder to myself: in the kitchen I am simmering split peas and red lentils with fenugreek and turmeric for a North Indian dish. If I get absorbed in blogging and let the small pot run dry on the stove, it will burn and I shall have no lunch. The idea is to let the split peas and lentils soften and go creamy, then add tamarind, some lemon juice, some chopped onion, carrot and fresh mint.
When I got up this morning it was bitterly cold and grey. I dressed warmly and went down the road to a local farmers’ market, not a trendy upmarket place, very simple but with fresh ingredients. Along the thickly treed road there were Magnolia stellata trees in shimmering white bloom and clumps of leucojums, a kind of snow drop. Spring is drawing close.
Warning: TRIGGER for animal lovers
The farmers’ market is held to support an animal welfare group. The woman who organises the group, whom I shall call Jill, was standing there in tears. Her neighbour is a wealthy alcoholic, a lonely divorcee, who keeps buying puppies and kittens which she then neglects and starves. Jill takes the animals away and finds new homes for them, but the abuse goes on. I stood and listened and realised yet again how little control anyone can have over an active alcoholic. An alcoholic is unable to care for herself and therefore cannot care in a sustained and consistent manner for anyone else . Alcoholism is an illness, not an independent lifelong sociopathy. Many alcoholics try their hardest to ensure their alcoholism does not harm those around them, but most of us fail. Some alcoholics are unable to understand how much harm they cause. So, yes, there will be abused and neglected children and elderly dependants and domestic pets. Until the alcoholic sobers up, those cycles of abuse will continue. Because this alcoholic woman has the money to pay for new living toys, she will keep buying more puppies and kittens and mistreating them. There are no legal recourses out here to prevent that. This neighbour, this kind animal lover, must take care of herself. It is a terrible, heartbreaking situation.
So I listened and nodded and sympathised, then bought bought some spirng onions, muddy leeks, late winter potatoes and a new apron. As I was standing there, I felt the same inner anguish I feel when I see battered women with black eyes or frightened children. Could we not get her arrested? Could we not stop people selling little animals to her? Could we not have her locked up for her own good? I will talk to other neighbours, animal rights groups, law enforcement agencies and attempt to intervene, but deep down I doubt that the pattern can be halted. She may just move elsewhere and do the same thing again.
Pause: topped up the little pot of split peas and red lentils again. It smells wonderful, tastes harsh and incomplete.
Coming up out of a dip or slight depression has given me something to think about. What we come to realise about ourselves in the first few years of sobriety perhaps depends on what we do or change or decide to deal with. There are areas I have simply avoided looking at and they trip me up all the time. This isn’t apparent in blog posts because here I choose what I reveal or disclose and on the whole friends can’t ‘help’ with aspects of real-life avoidance I choose not to tackle. But this is one of the ongoing challenges in early sobriety — who am I capable of becoming? What will it take for me to change? What is the mysterious process that happens despite me, what alchemy is at work to keep me growing even when i would rather stay stuck?