The week rolling over, work on my desk, a large electrical technician dismantling the old stove so as to put in a new oven thermostat, so I don’t have to cook everything at furnace blast. Poor little dogs all yipping outside to come in and chew wires and sniff the intruder’s bum.
Someone I liked very much and who often posted to a mailing list I visit committed suicide and I am so sad about that. I keep wishing she had posted the day she felt the darkness gathering, had just posted and asked for support, had shared somthing of what was hard for her, and we might have said or done something, one of us might have made a difference. But she simply stopped posting and all of us have had experience of reaching out to those who don’t want to be found, so that was that –
Woke up worried and unhappy, a sore throat, recalling that someone in the village has colon cancer, fears of death and suffering and bleakness, I do tolerate these intense miserable moods, irrational as they are, better than I did four years ago or even two years ago. That is another great benefit of sobriety, the widening of the embrace that holds more of any colour of emotion, more heaviness, or joy, or darkness.
But sadness stays with me. I keep thinking about a sentence I found on a book blog, perceptive, but it jolted me. A skilled book reader writing about Raymond Carver and saying something that startled me because I have always known this without admitting it. The suspicion of deep layers of damage from alcoholism, a damage that can’t be defined or described, just the ways I have of missing things or distancing or blundering, something I recognised in Carver’s short stories but didn’t see or say to myself because I was stunned by his giftedness, the asurance of his writing, the moving dialogue.
Then this quote from the perceptive book reader who does not care for short stories: ‘Only Raymond Carver, perhaps, does it for me with his short stories, and his is the voice of someone so damaged that I also find them deeply upsetting.’
That those who are not alcoholic can occasionally see or hear the flaw in those of us who have recovered or hope we have recovered. When I first came across Carver’s fiction I was drinking very heavily in my early 30s. The short stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love and Will You Please be Quiet, Please? shocked me into the most unwelcome recognition. I couldn’t stay with Carver’s fiction and I couldn’t stay away. Couldn’t bear to read him because that stunted, frightening, obscure, unpredictable world he described was my reality.
The bitterness, blaming and dread of the everyday. Ordinary exchanges or objects taking on menace. What was me and what was the drinking? I was beginning to realise that the chaotic and fearful ways of thinking didn’t end when I woke the next day or when the hangover wore off, that I was internalising some of the craziness and despondency of drunkenness, that it had become part of me.
Impossible to write about this even now because it is too close, staring me in the face. How habituated drinking distorts our reality and sense of self over the years. We do recover, do heal, but for some of us, willing or not, it can take a very long time.