Hot summer nights illuminated by the full moon in Cancer. If it is Cancer. But the moon goes on ripening and glowing over the valley regardless of human definitions. Many farmers are staying up at night to keep watch this month because of the danger of veld fires. This morning it is hot and windy with a small leopard tortoise asleep on gravel under the salvia bushes. The dogs show no interest in it, to my relief.
Late night phone calls are amongst the most dreaded interruptions. A call last night at nearly midnight from an unsober friend, weepy and incoherent, enraged and throwing a pity party. I gave up trying to understand what was wrong after the first five minutes, gently suggested she get some sleep and ring me in the morning. A drama involving life, the universe and everything else, I suppose. Many of us have been there — one of the more unappealing dynamics of alcoholism is that exaggerated melodrama and misery lacking in focus. It’s all unfair, unbearable and getting worse by the minute.
A friend of mine who doesn’t drink sits aghast through the TV docu-drama Celebrity Rehab each week as the less-than-glamorous down-and-outers wail about their terrible childhoods and the traumas that ‘made’ them drink. What makes most of us drink ourselves into an early grave is alcoholism, nothing more, nothing less. I have sat in groups with incest survivors and the war wounded: many recently traumatised women, men or youngsters turn to alcohol and drugs for relief. But not everyone carries on drinking or drugging for the next two or three decades. Not everyone with PTSD carries on drinking despite painful and repeated evidence that drinking doesn’t help. That irrational spiral of addiction and denial remains a mystery — why some and not others? The question may not be ‘why me?’ or ‘how did this begin?’ but ‘how can I stop when I can’t seem to stop?’ A moment of genuine surrender.
And it was a heartfelt relief to me when the dramas and self-centredness receded in recovery. Whatever had been awful, indescribable and terrifying went back to being just another hiccup or stumble in an ordinary day. No need to wake up near-strangers late at night and let out my barbaric yawp, as Whitman called it.
Up in the Karoo Highlands the French fugitives nicknamed the ‘Doomsday couple’ were shot dead by police after an extensive manhunt. Their cult has disavowed them as it goes on preparing for the end of the world in 2012, along with George Lucas and various other Hollywood pundits. I’d rather carry on one day at a time and worry about apocalypse if and when it does arrive.