The Lostings – April.

Step 4: We made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.

Image MYRIAM’S STORY – APRIL

 

And then, true to the old saying ‘April Showers’ it did just that – and then some.  Now, I don’t want to come over all Michael Fish and Weather forecaster like, but to say it rained could be an understatement. 

To my recollection, I don’t think there was one solitary dry non-rainy day in April.  When I thought back to how April used to be – normally all Easter eggs and bright days, then this was just one more thing I blamed on The Lostings. 

Over the time I had been here I had gradually moved away from ‘It’s my family’s fault I’m here’ to ‘It’s The Lostings fault’ instead. 

Maybe it’s just me, but there is something very comforting about placing the blame of your entire life on a place, a set of buildings, some staff and endless group meetings. 

It was easier, I guess, than blaming my own blood – to my thinking it was easier than having to look at the cold, stark facts – which were my family couldn’t be bothered with me – that my lifestyle – the things I liked doing were so abhorrent to them that they had reached a point where the only choice they felt they had was to dump me on someone else’s doorstep, let someone else have the worry, the anxiety, the never-knowing, the sleepless nights. 

And, as shocking as it was – that was exactly what they had done – dumped me and run.  Now, if we’re gonna continue getting up close and personal at this point – we might as well go the whole hog and the natural progression to that realization.

And the next step was just as simple, just as depressing – not only had my so-called ‘loving family’ given up on me and elected to pay someone else to do the worrying, but my friends, as well, had done the dirty on me – turned their backs on me – colluded with my Mum, my big sister, my people.

Now, I’ve never really been religious – it’s hard to be when the amount of nutters out there doing nutty things – all for their belief – their Gods seems to get more and more as the days go by – honestly, you only have to watch the News or read the paper to see what religion can do to people. 

I’m not saying it’s wrong for everyone – that it makes everyone ‘mad as a box of frogs’ – it’s just there are some people out there, preaching their God is a gentle God, a kind and forgiving God for everyone to hear and then going and blowing people up. 

What with that and ever mounting cases of priests doing what they shouldn’t with kids and then reckoning it’s alright – should be understood and forgiven – just because they confessed. 

Sorry, if that’s religion, then you can stuff it, with all its PR and hype. 

So, enough of my ranting, and back to what I was saying.

I’ve never been religious (and now you know why) but I could understand how that Jesus bloke felt – turned on by his so-called mates, denied, stitched up and sold out. 

Okay, okay, it’s not like they are going to hang me up on a cross and finish me off – but you get the gist of it.

 

So, April came in rainy and went out wet and to me, who had started counting the most insignificant things as highlights, the only things that really stuck in my head were the Easter meeting and the Easter Egg hunt.

On Good Friday there were a few relatives and friends milling about, come to do their duty visit – early, I guess, so they could spend Easter Sunday sprawled out on their settees, watching the big film (whatever family rated dross they had decided to re-show from the previous Christmas) and eating their own body weight in over-priced over-packaged and over calorific chocolate – I mean, nothing wrong with a lot of chocolate, the odd Twix, the sneaky Crunchie, but I’ve never really got the whole concept of eat-as-much-chocolate-as-you-can-until-you-are-flirting-with-a-coronary-to-celebrate-the-death-of-our-Lord Jesus Christ.

What is it all about?

Buggered if I know.

So, that was Good Friday –less staff than usual in but I guess they were honing down to skeleton staff starting for the long weekend.

 

The next day, Saturday, was even wetter and more dismal than Good Friday, so I made an executive decision to stay in my room and sleep the day away. 

It made a nice change because normally when the staffing contingent is fully bodied, the buggers won’t leave you alone, let alone let you lie in your bed and just do nothing.

 

Evidently the first few weeks and months are the most crucial – and during that time you should be up and about, doing group, walking the grounds, contemplating why you are here (easy – my family hate me and don’t want me to have any fun in life!) and seeing your visitors when they turn up.

 

So to get a day off from this enforced ‘in your face’ therapy was a treat – not as much of a treat than a lovely big secret stash of wine gums, a bottle of JD and the papers – but – hey! Beggars can’t be choosers.

 

And then Easter Sunday came – and guess what? 

It was raining – again – just for a change.

 In the morning I think the staff must have put on an Easter Egg hunt for the sick kids over the other wing of The Lostings and for the kids of the visitors who had to make the wet, muddy visit to say inane things they didn’t mean, to people they had stopped wanting home, for a designated period of time – normally long enough to voice the normal vaguely heart-felt things, admire or tut-tut over the state of the individual’s room, bring a little gift and then make noises about staying longer next time.

 

Since I’ve been here – I’d heard the odd child’s cry or voice, but it always came from over the other side of the grounds – from the children’s’ wing. 

I couldn’t believe kids could be here for the same reasons I was, or Bez was, or Petey was, or even Emily for that matter or for any of the reasons all the others who sat in on group were.  But over a period of time I figured that whilst this part of the hospital dealt with those that liked some things just a little too much, that there were also other wings to The Lostings that dealt with sick children, badly damaged Service men and women and those that simply couldn’t deal with the real world and therefore felt safer between the ivy coated railings of this  grey soul destroying place. 

 

And, not wanting to sound soft – but it was nice to hear the laughs and sounds of the children as they ran from room-to-room, bench-to-bench – back and forth – all hunting the elusive little treats the staff must have hidden for them. 

And, even though it was still sporadically raining, even though the sky was still overcast, dark and steely grey and you could hear the drips falling from every tree, every bush in the vicinity – the sound and sight of the little ones – who were so happy and excited, sick playing with well, patients and visitors all together, brightened the day – well, it did for me – and I think, looking at the smiles and hearing the happy chattering of the other patients – it did for them as well.

 

That night was the monthly meeting and to be honest I’d had such a fun time chasing after the kids all afternoon – a bit sad that my lovely little Lulu hadn’t come up to see me today – but happier than I could remember being since being here – that I forget about being the first there and so, prepared for my usual tussle with the most uncomfortable chair in the world, I was quite pleasantly surprised when I sat down in the meeting room that they had repaired the chair – because although it was still cold, still hard – it no longer attempted to nip my buttocks off but did just as a chair should and just sat there and let me sit on it.

And so I sat and waited – not completely enthralled of the thought of yet another tale of woe and lack of control, but not as appalled as I had been in the first few weeks of being here and having to listen to people witter on about themselves, when all I wanted to do was talk about me. 

So, whilst not particularly fired up or bouncing around with expectation – I sat and was vaguely interested in what the latest tale of woe was likely to be.

 

And then my Easter tale of woe got up from her chair, cleared her throat and kicked off the Easter festivities.  

“My name is Myriam and I have been told I have a few little problems.”

 

Don’t we all, love, but it’s not normally us that calls them problems, it’s normally the people who put us here that sees them like that. 

 

And so to Myriam:  a middle-aged woman, of that age past 40 but not yet knocking at Retirement’s door. 

A thin, stick of a woman, thin arms, thin legs, thin lips, hair a non-descript brown that looked thin and wispy – if you could imagine tired candy floss that’s what her hair resembled – just not so sweet.

She reminded me of someone I had known but for a few minutes I wracked my brains trying to recall who it was and then it came to me – Scampi, the Jack Russell I had as a little girl – a tiny bundle of white with the biggest teeth and palest eyes I had ever seen – if you can imagine one step darker than albino then you can picture Myriam (and Scampi’s eyes). 

The only difference was that Scampi had the longest, tartiest eye lashes ever – it was like the God of Dogs had given her false eye lashes and then mascared them up to the hilt and Myriam didn’t appear to have eye lashes – or it could’ve been that her hair was so wispy it might have been that her lashes were so wispy – so insubstantial – that they had blown away on the wind.  Myriam’s eyes were red rimmed and watery – like she had a bad cold or conjunctivitis – the weepy stage – not the pus filled stage.

I try not to judge a book by it’s cover, but from the first sight of Myriam I didn’t like her.  I normally try to get to know a person before I hate their guts, but Myriam had that special something about her that triggered my hate organ – and that’s saying something because I normally reserve that for really despicable individuals.

As I waited for her to continue, I noticed the room gradually beginning to smell of cigarettes and cheap Avon body spray. 

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if it was coming from the room, from outside, but wherever it came from it was really cloying and quite choking and I felt myself pucker up my nose and try to breathe through mouth, which was’nt the greatest idea as I could then not just smell it but taste it also – yuck!

  I heard someone clear their throat noisily and rather purposefully – I turned from looking round the room trying to source the smell that lingered in my nasal passages and taste buds and fixed my attention of the not so lovely Myriam.

“I have had a few little problems.”

Yes, yes, woman, on with your donation to the night’s proceedings.

“It’s not my fault, you know, these problems – people have given me these problems – I am not like the rest of you – I am not weak.  I am not an addict.  People have given me these problems.  I shouldn’t be here, by rights.”

My ears pricked up.

“I shouldn’t be here.”

A woman after my own heart – just because I didn’t like her, didn’t mean I couldn’t feel an allegiance to her, did it?

“I don’t really know why I am here – I’ve never done anything wrong, I’ve never hurt anyone – people have hurt me – people have done me  wrong.  So, I don’t really know why I am here.  I was just minding my own business, not bothering anyone, just sitting and watching my programme on the telly, having a cup of tea, a nice ciggy, my lovely pussies all around me – keeping their old Mum company – better children than my own sons had ever been to me.

And then my boys came in and brought me here.

And here I am.”

And?

The group sat still, completely silent, waiting for the story to continue. 

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Until one of the group, a large, bushy bearded bear of man prompted her “Go on, woman, there’s more to that – and you know it.”

You really could have heard a pin drop while we all waited for Myriam to get to the full story.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Myriam stood and glared at the rest of us, especially bushy man – her pale eyes furious – and for a while – it seemed like there would be a stand-off between the group and the evidently wronged Myriam.

And we waited.

And she stared.

And we still waited.

And she still stared.

And just as we were giving up on hearing the tale of the wronged Myriam, she broke the staring competition and with an annoyed sniff, continued.

“As I was saying, before I was so rudely  interrupted.”

Excuse me?

“If you all will stop interrupting me – I’ll carry on.

“My sons brought me here – Edward, my eldest, a useless lump of a boy if ever there was, said it was for the best and his stupid younger brother, Kenneth, backed him up.

It was always like that with them – always siding against me – always ganging up on me – always trying to make me look stupid.  I’ve done my best for them – no-one could have been a better Mother – I did everything for them – washed them, fed them, clothed them, brought them up – their Father was there, but he was worse than useless.  Stupid man – never lifted a finger to help – just sat there, always there – being stupid, being useless.  The three of them were always picking on me – trying to make me look a fool, always whispering about me behind my back.

I should have listened to my Mother, God rest her soul, she said Stanley was not the boy for me – said he’d come to absolutely no good and she was right – but did I listen to her?  Do children ever listen to their parents?  I should’ve – but as my Mother said God rest her soul, by then I’d made my bed so I best lie in it.”

And so, Myriam went on – barely pausing to take breath – the litany of all the people who had wronged her – her Mother for not putting her foot down when it came to poor, beleagued Stanley, her Father who had been injured in the war and was sent home to just sit by the fire humming and rocking himself – forward and back – the rocking never quite smooth because of his lost leg and the fact that he just used to sit here – doing nothing – just to annoy Myriam – no-one else, just poor Myriam.

And then she moved onto her best friend Rose, who’d had her eye on Stanley – was always making a show of herself – always putting herself forward, her with her big blue eyes and butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-her mouth face, her airs and graces and the fact that Myriam decided that Rose was only flirting with Stanley to upset Myriam – to bring her down – the fact that Rose had been engaged to Stanley since before Myriam decided to make Rose her best friend, but Myriam knew Rose wasn’t right for Stanley and that everyone knew that Myriam was the best catch that Stanley would ever make – they hadn’t said as much to her face, but they knew it, deep down – they knew it.

And as Myriam exhausted that conversation she pulled her floral housecoat even tighter round her stick thin frame, sniffed and verbally ran on and on and most definitely on.  And as the minutes passed, not marked by the ticking of a clock, the ever slow movement of the hands as they gradually crept round but the embittered inventory of the wrongs of others – I wondered – Does she realize she’s in a Rehab. Unit?  Does she know that she’s sitting a twelve step programme group and to my sketchy reasoning of the stops – she’s meant to be at the bit where she’s made a ‘searching and fearless’ moral list of herself.  Does she know that or is this just another arena to vent her spleen, her hatred of this world, these people, that had always been at fault?

As I sat, the room grew colder, my chair became gradually more and more uncomfortable and Myriam went on.

“And, of course, the girls my boys met were all the same, all after what they could get, nasty money grabbing creatures – always sniffing around the tea service my Grandmother left me, always dropping hints about my lovely collectable china cats, my crystal figures, my Kenneth had started giving me for Christmas and birthdays when he got his first paper-round and all the time I knew what they were up to – I knew what they were up to – even when my boys got married – two of the biggest tramps you ever met – all chest and hair and legs and showing their what-nots to all and sundry – nasty, dirty girls they were – not clean and proper like me.  Oh, they made up to me when my boys were around, but the moment they went off down the pub – filthy habit they got off their Father – useless man, stupid man, I knew what the girls were up to – pretending they cared about me – made noises about helping me with the washing up – but they didn’t really want to help me – they just wanted to get their dirty little hands – their whore painted fingers in my tea caddy where I kept my housekeeping.

Couldn’t keep their thieving hands off anything those two – not happy with stealing my boys, taking my boys away from me, tempting them with their tiny clothes and flesh everywhere, they were chatting up my Stanley – and like the stupid fool he was – he thought they meant it – like they’d be interested in him.  He’d smile at them and laugh and talk to them and offer to make them a cup of tea or fetch them a bit of my special home made cake from the pantry and they’d giggle and simper and wiggle and make a right show of themselves – no better than they ought to be those two.

Glad when my boys saw sense and got rid of them – luckily, they listened to their Mother and saw sense and divorced those nasty trollops – and good riddance I say. 

But boys will be boys and it wasn’t long before they brought back more dirty girls into my nice clean house.  Those boys will be the death of me – the next couple of girls were worse than the one’s they married, they were rude to me, actually answered me back – one of them called me ‘an interfering old bitch’ and refused to visit me any more – I ask you, the bare faced cheek of it all.  I told the boys they should’ve made more effort when they married, those girls they wed were lovely, good, clean girls – couldn’t fault them – but do my boys ever listen to me?  Do they ever?

It was about this time my Stanley decided to be really hurtful and annoying and went and died.  He did it on purpose, y’know – he knew it would upset me – make things harder for me – so he spitefully went out into his shed and had a heart attack and died – stupid man.  My boys took heart and not because they loved me but because they felt guilty for being so mean and unkind to me, they moved back home to take care of me.

“Take care of me – that’s a laugh – the ingrates spent all their time avoiding me, making excuses that they needed to go to work, to go to the super market to get the groceries for me, to go to the doctor to pick up my medicine for my nerves – brought on by my stupid husband and his behaviour.  Dropping me off and picking me up from Bingo to see my friends when they knew I hated my friends and Bingo.  Oh yes, they did everything they could possibly do to avoid me and annoy me.

And then, one night, when they complained about me giving their fish and chip suppers to my lovely pussies because they were out working – so they said – they said they’d had enough and left.  They might have thought that they were doing the leaving, but it was me that told them to go – horrible boys always making trouble for me, doing their washing just to undermine me, making me breakfast in bed on Sundays just so I didn’t have to sit downstairs with them, picking up my medicine and reminding me to take it every night and morning just because they hoped it would finish me off.

Oh yes, I knew all about them, eyeing up my Grandmother’s tea service, looking in my tea caddy, going through my things and counting what I was worth.  And then they were gone – And I had my house to myself – just me and my lovely pussies and there I was, minding my own business, having my tea, watching my programme with that lovely Dale Winton – now I bet he’s lovely to his Mother – having a ciggy, which I never enjoyed when Stanley was there or the boys for that matter – they always said cigarettes would be the death of me – stupid, all of them – I’m here in this place – not dead – and then I’m not sure if I fell asleep or what but the next thing I could hear was the boys talking about me and then I was brought here – they kept saying it was for the best – that I couldn’t stay in my own home any more – that I needed to be with people like me – with my problems.

And, as I said before – these are not my problems – it’s all what people have done to me, just like they always do.

I shouldn’t be here – there’s nothing wrong with me – I’m not like you PEOPLE – this is my Sons’ fault – they put me here because they don’t want me any more.”

And just like that, the annoyed and hard done by Myriam seemed to run out of steam and deflate before our eyes and she was done.

Normally, the group stay behind after the tale and ask questions, give constructive support or just chat and drink the ghastly impersonation they serve as coffee and tea in this place.  But on this occasion, almost as if one, they all got up, nodded at Myriam and then me and left the meeting room.

And then, there was just Myriam and me and to be honest, that wasn’t a situation I wanted to be in.  Just before I made my excuses to leave – she came forward to me and looked me up and down and sniffed as if I wasn’t really worth her nicotine scented scrutiny.

But, to my surprise, it was me who spoke “That’s all very interesting Myriam, but aren’t you meant to have made your personal inventory of yourself – your wrongs – not everybody else’s?”

“Quite the little miss-know-it-all, aren’t we dear?”

“No, I just thought that’s what this meeting was about.”

“Did you now? – but as you’ve heard – nothing was my fault – it’s always been like that – it’s always other people who make problems for me.”

I looked into Myriam’s Jack Russell eyes and knew that as far as Myriam thought she was completely in the right – always had been, always would be and I’d be better off saving my breath.  As I’d reached this conclusion – I must have glanced away, because when I looked back – she was gone – only the smoky floral cloying  scent hanging on the air to say she’d ever been there.

 I left the meeting room and went back to my room, mulling over what I’d heard that night.

Thinking about Myriam, thinking how could she have got it so wrong – I didn’t understand how she could be blind to her faults when it was so obvious to the rest of the world and then I started thinking about me, my life – before I came here – had I been like Myriam, blaming the world and his wife for my downfall, when maybe just a little part of the bad things that had happened to me had actually been of my doing?

Was it my fault that they had put me here?

Was it my fault that Dave had turned his back on me?

Was it my fault that Janie didn’t want me looking after Lulu any more?

Was it my fault that somewhere down the line my pleasure had taken precedence over my family’s wants and needs?

I wanted to shout to the night sky – black, shiny with sparkly white stars and shadowed by scudding clouds that dripped drizzle, that ‘No, none of it was my fault’ – but to my shame – I couldn’t honestly say that and that troubled me.

Because if I wasn’t careful, I would end up believing that it was my fault that my life had become a nonsense, so uncaring about anyone else and that I was ready to take on board that my moral inventory was full to the brim and over flowing.

Was it my fault?

Go on – you answer that – I’m tired of thinking and wondering.

 I need to go back and get some rest.

Nite-Nite.

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The Lostings _ March

Step 3: We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a higher being as we understand them.

                                                   PETEY’S STORY – MARCH

As quickly as winter, with its freezing rain and endless dark days had taken hold at The Lostings – then it was gone and March took its place instead. 

It was not exactly tropical but rain stopped, chilling you to the bone, the nights didn’t draw in as quickly and everywhere I walked I found carpets of daffodils –yellow and bobbing in the early spring breeze which carried the scent of crocuses, early hyacinths and brave early March blooms.

When I sat on my bench – for by that point I had been here for going on three months and had started getting as territorial as the others when it came to benches and my place in the great order of things on a daily basis.

I had spent the early part of  March listening to others, sitting in groups, spending time with new patients who were as lost and confused and angry as I had been and counting the days I had been here – not an easy thing when watches were not allowed, newspapers frowned upon and TV just not in existence.

I had also started to find myself counting the days that my family had not been to see me – the only way that I could keep track was by collecting little twigs from the tree that stood by my bench and placing a twig a day in the hollow of roots at the base of the tree.

I did the same to mark the days that Dave had not been here to visit – but in his case I collected dead flower heads that seem to litter the grounds of the place. 

Sad to say, even though I knew exactly how long it was between seeing my family – I still found myself counting out the little piles every day I returned to my bench.

It was midway through the month when I started thinking a lot about Mum – and not always with the annoyance and dislike I normally felt when I gave her time in my head.

 I might have mentioned before but my Mother could Moan for Gold at the Olympics – so great was her capacity to moan, wither and deflate the most happy occasion. 

To be honest, I can vaguely remember that when I was much younger she sometimes was happy, but as the years went by, the times of happiness and contentment grew less.

She came to visit me on Mother’s Day and whilst she moaned and complained about absolutely everything else she didn’t really bitch about me – which made a nice change.

It was only after she left that I thought that maybe I should have bought her a card, some flowers, a box of Milk Tray, but as there wasn’t a shop here and leaving the grounds just didn’t seem possible – I guess that finished my plans for being daughter of the year.

But as the days followed her visit went slowly by – I really decided that I wanted to give her some flowers – not that I was getting soft in my old age but I hadn’t given her flowers since I was at school and that was under duress from Janie, the wonder child. 

It just shows how bored I was that I was fretting because I couldn’t remember what flowers my Mum liked – had I ever really asked her?  And if I had asked her, had I ever listened to what she had to say?  I guess not.

So, really that was all I could say about March – daffodils, my Mum not moaning at me and my sudden compulsion to be nice to her – I’ve already told you – I was bored!

The only other thing that happened was the big meeting where I met Petey and my chair was marginally more comfortable than last time. 

And so, to the tale of Petey – a man only a Mother could love.

“My name is Petey and I’m an addict!”

I looked at Petey and knew automatically what his problem was – but then anyone with a pair of functioning eyes would be able to see.

 Petey was huge – not just a bit tubby, not curvy, not voluptuous, not in need of dropping a few pounds but absolutely mammoth.  He was about average height, had average looks – grey rather straggly hair that hung forlornly to his neck, rather non-descript faded blue eye and that’s where the average ended.

It was like someone had played a seriously sick joke on him – he had this tiny potato head superimposed unto this bloody monstrous body.  Of course I’d seen the fat bugger programmes on Channel 4, I’d laughed myself silly to Jerry Springer shows where the object of ridicule – sorry, interest –  where huge chunks of fat with a person stuck in there somewhere who bleated that they didn’t want to die but I’d never sat in the same room as one of them.

Petey stared directly at me and I thought for a moment of no-inner monologue – did I just say out loud what a fat pig he was without realizing it? 

He stared and I met his stare and for a split second I felt the pain he must have felt, been feeling every time someone looked at him, as I had, with revulsion and so little respect, understanding and compassion. 

At that moment I felt maybe a little twinge of guilt but as I said before, I don’t want you thinking that I am going soft in any shape or form and with that in mind my drop of human kindness dripped away and I settled back to listen to the blubbery Petey.

“I can see that it’s pretty obvious what my problem is – isn’t it?”

Let me guess, Petey, you’re an anorexic and deep inside all that man fat you’re actually a perfect size 0? 

Thought not.

“I have a problem with food – I like it a little too much.”

A little chuckle went round the room – but it was noticeable that it was a ‘We’re laughing with you, not at you’ response and this seemed to please Petey no end and he beamed to all concerned.

“As I was saying, I’ve always loved my food.”

No shit, butterball bloke!

“I was always big as a child – my Mum always used to believe in feeding the men up in the family.  My Dad was quite big as well and because he was in the fire brigade – he kept himself quite fit and all the extra helpings Mum gave him would always end up on my plate.

 As a boy I was always teased at school, but being the youngest, I had two big brothers and a very over protective big sister who would thump anyone who ever upset me.

My Mum was never happier than when she was cooking huge meals for the family – and I was never happier than when I was eating them.

I spent a lot of time at home with Mum when I was younger as I was sickly – always had a cold, a bad tummy, a sore this or that and in those days schools didn’t really bother if you weren’t there.

 As long as you weren’t getting up to no good on the streets then no-one minded.

I think Mum used to get quite lonely with Dad always out ‘fannying around with fires’ as Mum always used to say and having me at home was good for her. 

And I didn’t mind, really, I was never the brightest at school, no matter how hard I tried my work books were always ink spattered, my homework always forgotten and the words on the blackboard always used to do a peculiar little dance which made copying them down, let alone understanding them, impossible.

As I grew older, got bigger, got slower, I just kinda stopped going to school altogether – it got so Mum would get so upset if I went to school she’d get one of ‘her heads’ and the silent treatment would start and the cakes and lovely treaties for me would stop. 

As I said, I didn’t miss school and its words that made no sense.  I’d never really gone there long enough to make friends and the odd friend I had made Mum didn’t like and got all huffy when I bought them back home for a bit of tea. 

As Mum said, she was my best friend – so why did I need anyone else?

Slowly, as the years passed my brothers and sister left home, got married, had kids, moved away and then there was just me, Mum and Dad. 

To be honest, I never really noticed that Dad was drifting away from us – he was just there less and less.  He said he needed to work more shifts to pay the bills – the Labour government had got everyone striking and money was getting harder to get hold of and keep.  So, he worked more and more shifts, longer hours away that turned into days and then into weeks. 

It wasn’t ‘till a few months had passed that I was on my daily visit to the shops for my Marathon bar and bag of Flying Saucers that I saw him with Bet from four doors down from us that I realized he wasn’t going to be coming home. 

And then, it was just me and Mum and that was my life.

And I got bigger, the meals got larger, and I got bigger, the snacks got larger and I got bigger.  My Mum didn’t do it out of cruelty, she did it because she loved me – she showed her love for me by looking after me.

My room was cleaned every day by her, my washing done every day by her; she made my breakfast, my lunch, my tea. 

She bought me tea in bed every morning. 

She ran my bath every night and always would wash my back.

 The only place we ever went was into town on a Saturday morning to do the food shop, but after a while, I was too tired to go.  I’d get out of breath just walking to the end of my road, let alone all round town and back. 

And so I stayed at home when Mum went out, watched telly, ate the endless sandwiches and cakes my Mum left me, just in case I got peckish. 

It was strange but even though I ate three good size meals a day I was always peckish.

Mum always used to buy my favourite Penguin bars – I always used to laugh when I saw the ‘Pick-up-a-penguin’ advert  on the telly and she would leave me a couple of packets of them when she went out shopping. 

I always thought I’d only ever eat maybe one or two – but every time Mum returned – the wrappers would be scattered around my feet like chocolate smeared confetti and my fingers sticky from the biscuit and chocolate cream filling that always seemed to end up on my fingers and under my nails.

And I grew and carried on growing. 

It got so that  I was so big I just stopped leaving the house, the looks people gave me, the whispers, the outright staring, the comments, the horrible things they would say – almost like they thought I couldn’t hear them. 

And Mum always used to tell me to ignore them, not to let it upset me, ‘that we didn’t need them – we had each other’.

Over the years, Mum got older, I got bigger and Mum had more of ‘her heads’ and I started getting pains in my chest, in my legs, in my guts. 

I had my first deep vein thrombosis at the age of 27.

 My first diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes at 29, my first heart attack at 32. 

They were all firsts but they weren’t to be my lasts.

My G.P. put me on a diet which I followed for three weeks until Mum said I was looking ‘peaky’ and made me a lovely big fry up to cheer me up. 

There were some days I really didn’t feel that peckish any more – my chest hurt, my legs ached and throbbed and I could taste the acid taste that constantly flowed back up my throat every time I ate or drank. 

But whenever I tried to tell Mum I wasn’t hungry, didn’t want her endless rock cakes, couldn’t face the never-ending gravy drenched meat and potatoes, the custard that covered every pudding she ever served – she’d get huffy, get one of ‘her heads’ and then as that didn’t work – she would start fainting. 

The first couple of times she did it – it really scared me – I thought she was dying and, for those brief moments, I knew I couldn’t face a future without my Mum. 

By then I couldn’t even put my own shoes on without Mum’s help, couldn’t get up the stairs to go to bed without Mum behind me, pushing and shoving me up the wooden hill which seemed to get higher and harder to scale as the days went by. 

And so, so Mum wouldn’t go and die on me, I carried on eating and eating and eating.  Sometimes I ate so much I’d have to stop to be sick because my tummy was so full it was hurting me, and Mum would hold out the waste paper bin – the one with the map of the Isle of Wight on – whilst I’d fill it with undigested food, half chewed and featuring little pieces of breakfast and dinner and tea and Penguin bars and rock cakes and cheese and salad cream, sandwiches, all made soupy and moist by endless cups of sugary tea and big glasses of sickly sweet Coca Cola.

 And then Mum would take the hot slurry away, bring me a glass of water to rinse my mouth and then bring me another plate of food and it would start all over again.

Mum was happy, she loved me and showed her love for me in the kitchen day in, day out and I loved her and I showed my love for her by eating and eating and getting bigger.  When Mum was 76 and I was 38, I got up to use the toilet and my legs wouldn’t work – couldn’t work – I called out to Mum and slowly she rolled me to the edge of the bed, where she supported me whilst I used the bucket I kept by my bed for when I was eating in bed and needed to be sick. 

After that, I always used the bucket – for all my business – the bathroom was too far away and sometimes I would be caught short and I wee myself and then as I spent more time in bed, I would go to do a fart and something bigger and nastier than gas would leave me – over my bed and over me. 

I remember the day Mum stopped loving me – it was actually Mother’s Day and Mum had been busy all day baking and cooking and feeding me and washing me and wiping my bottom because I couldn’t even find it any more.

 One minute Mum was loving me – helping me fork up bacon and eggs and a lovely big doorstep of floury white bread and butter and pop it in my mouth and then she wasn’t.

 I called for her over and over again but then she didn’t love me any more and wouldn’t hear me.

I don’t remember much after that, I must have called or shouted for help at some point, because when the next door neighbour let themselves in with the spare key Mum always kept under the milk bottle grate by the front door to see what the kerfuffle was – she screamed and ran out of the house to call 999.

It took seven big firemen and a winch to get me out of the house – evidently I put up a bit of a struggle because I didn’t want to leave Mum. 

Whilst I think the emergency services could understand my reluctance to leave her there, I don’t think they could understand how I tried to make her comfortable. 

I think maybe the neighbour didn’t come immediately when Mum stopped loving me – she was very cold and very stiff when they eventually found us – I’d fed her the rest of the breakfast she’d so lovingly made me – the congealing, rancid egg coated her chin and oozed out of her mouth, the bacon hard and turning from tasty pink to rotting green.

I loved my Mum so much, I’d even fed her my secret stash of Penguins and Marathons – because she had decided not to love me any more – she was being huffy and wouldn’t eat – so, I had to force the chocolate and biscuits into her.

 I tried her mouth but that was full of breakfast. 

So I put some in her hands, smeared the chocolate on her cheeks, so when she had stopped with her huff, she would see how I loved her. 

I was worried that she’d be hungry after her mood, so I shoved the rest of the chocolate treats in her, in her special places she would sometimes show me when I’d made her really happy. 

It had made a mess but I knew that when Mum decided to love me again she’d think it was lovely how I’d shown how much I loved her.

I think they gave me an injection to calm me down because I don’t remember anything after that – just waking up hungry here.

My name is Petey and my Counsellor says I am an addict. 

Can we stop now and have a cup of tea – did anyone bring any biscuits?  I’m feeling a little peckish.”

I sat looking at Petey – feeling disgusted at him, for him, with him and the words of the third step rang in my mind .

– And so had Petey, he had, in some strange way, made that decision to turn his will and life over to the care of a higher being or power – or, in Petey’s case – his Mum? 

So was food his addiction? 

Was his Mum addicted to him?

 Would he ever stop feeling peckish? 

Suddenly, I could imagine the smell in his room when they found him and his ever-loving Mum and I felt unwell – cold and clammy and nauseous.

In retrospect, my Mum with her amazing feats of nagging didn’t seem so bad. 

In her own way she loved me – always had, no doubt, always would and what had I ever done for her? 

Never even bought her a bunch of flowers, never bought her a cup of tea in bed, never made her a snack when she was tired.

 Never done anything.

And  at that moment, I told myself that when I got out of this place, I would do these things for her – I would make it better, much better.

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The Lostings – February – A lost Valentine

Step 2: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

EMILY’S STORY – FEBRUARY

If January was cold, dark and completely boring, then February at this Godforsaken place tried to out-do it by being cold, dark, wet and completely boring.

Groups dragged on and no matter how early I tried to get to group to get one of the comfy seats – one which would love my bum and not savage it – I always seemed to be a person too late and the evil butt munching chair would be sitting empty, waiting for me and my terrorized derriere.

The highlight of my February was a dodgy, ugly looking bunch of flowers from the forecourt of the local Tescos distress and a rather hurried visit from my once cunt struck boyfriend, Dave. 

It was strange, but the years we had been together on and off had always been underpinned by a bottle of wine, a jug of Pimms, endless bottles of JD, enough puff to float Jamaica and enough Coke to keep the drug barons of Columbia well and truly happy. 

And now to try and sit side by side on one of the endless damp benches that littered the cold, grey grounds and try and find common ground on something that did not involve sex, drugs, booze and rock n’roll almost seemed impossible. 

To sum up – he tried talking, I tried talking and no matter how we tried – the easy banter that had once been part of us seemed to have long gone. 

I made the mistake of asking him why he didn’t come and see me more often, why he backed my family in sending me here, if he was seeing someone else – someone younger, prettier, freer, and less incarcerated. 

Maybe my barrage was all too much – but he got up and just left.

 Left me close to tears and so Goddam angry on that cold, damp bench that it wasn’t until I went back to my room – with the remains of the forlorn bunch of tulips and carnations he had acquired from just down the road – that I realized that it was Valentine’s Day and that was as near to romance or a sniff of the other that I was likely to get.

A couple of depressing, endlessly rainy days later, I went to my second big meeting and prepared to listen to some no-hoper off- loading their tale of woe to the rest of us, with the vain hope that someone, somewhere would have the answer to how I could get out of this place and get on with my life, get my boyfriend back and be happy again.

Yet another cold, dark and dismal night.  Another night of making the effort to get to the meeting early – to get the hallowed comfy seat – another night of yet again failing dismally and ending up with the bum cruncher.  

And so I sat in the cold, badly lit meeting room, my breath noticeable in the air, the smell of insipid decaf hanging in the air and the usual people in their usual seats – nodding briefly at me and then becoming re-engrossed in their own personal thoughts – maybe they all had the misfortune of the hard arse killing chairs in their time, maybe even now – but whatever, they mostly looked as dismal as I felt.

And then, we kicked off another fun packed night of verbal truth or dare and as there was no TV to be had in this hell hole, I thought I might as well stay and listen to another story.

 Another person, another lesson on the perils of getting to like something too much and for the wrong reasons.

“Hello everyone, my name is Emily and I’d like to speak to you tonight about how I ended up here.”

I sat up a bit higher in the ghastly chair and then tried to get a better look at the Emily person who’d kindly decided to fill my boredom this evening. 

Shorter than me – which as I’m a statuesque 5 foot nothing – is saying something. 

Pale – pale all over, pale washed out silvery yellow hair, pale milky skin, also eyes of a pale watered down green and lips that looked like she remorselessly chomped them whenever she got the chance – not bloodied, but too red for her little white face and childishly chewed almost beyond the saving graces of a lip salve.

So, Emily the pale, you don’t look like a coke queen, a smack girlie, a crack whore – a secret tippler – what’s your nasty little secret?

I’ve been like this almost as long as I can remember – nosey to others misfortunes – wanting to pry under their skin – dig and poke around until their every little sticky rude secret, their tiny bits of mystery were mine to know and paw over – like a little kid with Mummy’s nick-knack memento box.

And, because her vice, her problem wasn’t straight off visible to me – I was suddenly more interested in what she had to say – I’d seen her around the grounds before – always quiet, always off in her little world and never seeming to have much to say for herself and now, well, here she was – not exactly ‘bright eyed’ or ‘bushy tailed’ but suddenly more interesting than my boring single room because I hadn’t managed to work her out – know her for what she was.

It was like Emily was aware that there was at least one more person in the little audience who wanted to hear what she had to say and maybe this made her relax a bit, or smile, or something – but for a split second she looked almost happy, almost comfortable.

“I’ve been here for a little while now and I’m feeling much better, much more like my old self.”

Good for you, Emily, but why are you here?

I was getting impatient for her to start and had to hush myself and let her speak – in her own time (which isn’t easy for me).

“I’ve never really had a problem with alcohol or substances – never really felt the need for them.

“When I was young, my Mum and Dad always had wine in the cellar, a nicely stocked drinks cabinet, just in case someone paid a visit and I always had a small glass of fizzy wine when it was a birthday, or Christmas, but that was about it. 

My parents never smoked and the only time I ever came across cigarettes was in the 5th year at school – a bunch of us would hang around at the back of the playing fields, away from prying eyes and tired, bad tempered teachers and share out the sacred packet of 10 B. & H. Gold and smoke and smoke and tried to look like we were enjoying it. 

I tried for almost four months to learn to smoke – I was so desperate to fit in with the others – it had taken me a while to get in with the ‘in-crowd’.  I spent most of my senior years at St. Christoph’s Grammar never been quite brainy enough, quite bad enough, quite pretty enough, to be accepted by the beautiful elite – the ones that always made their school uniforms look fashionable, that always wore the slightly non-regulation black shoes with the higher heels, the pointier toes, the barely-there make-up, which when I tried it made me look like I had a bad cold, too much blusher, watery eyes and chapped lips – never alluring, always ham fisted.

I think it was only because they took pity on me – I was the plain one, the quiet one, the one, the shadow friend that every attractive popular girl has in those difficult not baby-not-woman years.

 I think, by then, they’d realized I was really no threat to anyone – not loud enough to take attention from them, not pretty enough to take their boy friends, not dark enough to weird them out – I was just me, just Emily.

As I grew older it was always like that – I would hang around on the outskirts of groups of friends – always there to run an errand, cheer someone up, do a favour and after a while – I knew no other way of being. 

I was everyone’s favourite ‘little miss nobody’ – and to be honest – it was oh – I didn’t want to be in the bright and shining spotlight.  I liked to be in the shadows looking in – it’s always so much safer in the grey light.  Being in the spotlight is too hot, too frightening, but being right out in the cold was so chilling, so empty and dark – being in the mediocre middle was and is always best. 

And so, my life went on, safe and secure in the social and personal aspect.

My first job was in a bank – nice grey suit, nice grey people, all polite and smiles. 

My first boyfriend – well, serious one – I met at the bank, a nice man called Phil – another grey suit wearer.  Steadily and steadfastly plodding his way up the banking ladder of success.

My first time was with him.  It was nice, a little bit uncomfortable and messy to start with, but I’d gone to the one sex education class offered in the 4th year at school and knew what to expect. 

After that, Phil and I were a couple –simple as that.

We worked together, went on dates every week together, slept together every Friday and Saturday night after our date at his flat and I’d spend my Sunday every week doing my laundry, helping Mum with the roast, sit with Dad and watch DIY make-over programmes together.

I decided at 24 that it was time to leave home, leave my familiar bedroom with it’s lilac sprigged walls, my teddy bears, my crystal animals glinting on the endless shelves Dad had put up over the years to house them.

Phil wanted me to move in with him and kept dropping large glaring hints about engagement rings and what we’d call our first son. 

 And as nice as it sounded, as safe and in the middle as it could be – I knew that I really should try living away from home before I traded my parents’ protective nest for Phil’s protective studio flat.  I found a house share quite quickly when I made my decision to grow up. 

And four weeks later, I was settled in a three storey house in Beckenham – just opposite the Baths – in a nice, airy, wooden floored bedroom, with French windows, hung with make-shift gauze net from Ikea – my first double bed (thanks to Dad and his brother Ian) and my bears and crystals hanging off every available surface I could find.

Shortly after moving in I met my house share partners – Jenny, a Social Worker trainee, Jonathan, her partner and working at the local Job Centre and Ronnie.

I got to know Jenny and Jonathan well before I ever laid eyes on Ronnie because Ronnie always seemed to be out when I was in and visa versa.

To be honest, when I started building my own new life, suddenly Phil didn’t really seem to feature in it, the more I tried to show how independent my new living arrangements were making me, the more Phil showed how dependent he was getting on me.

 I started breaking dates, making excuses, not answering the ‘phone when I knew he was going to call.

I found fun and acceptance with my new friends and suddenly dull Phil with his grey clothes and mind numbing conversations about our future were the last things I wanted.  And slowly, Phil’s devotion to me changed – shifted from his love for me to his dislike of me and then just plain bitterness.  Whenever our paths met in the bank he would look at me as though I was something he had stepped in, he never said anything bad to me in front of our colleagues – he was too much of a player for that – but gradually his whispering campaign against me took hold, reports I had been working on for the DCM mysteriously get shredded, my locker in the staffroom starting growing dents, my coffee cup he bought me covered with hearts and dancing bears got chipped, then cracked, then ended up smashed down the ladies toilet. 

It got to a point that all his and my so-called work mates started avoiding me – like you do when you send someone to Coventry in Juniors.

I woke up one morning, after a night of no sleep, dreading setting foot in the bank, dreading having to deal with his pettiness, my colleagues’ on-going dismissal of me, the whispers and sniggers and broke down in tears.  

And it was like this, in my nightie and fluffy bear head slippers, crying as I made my morning tea in the shared kitchen, that I first met Ronnie.

 Luckily for me, crying women didn’t seem to phase Ronnie at all and noises of sympathy and comfort made, tea and toast rustled up and the bank ‘phoned and informed of my terrible flu-bug, I finally got to talk to my almost imaginary house mate.

Ronnie was a roadie for 2 or 3 local bands and also worked in a couple of recording studios and therefore tended to keep strange hours that up and until that point had not fitted in with my humdrum 9 to 5 existence.

I fell for Ronnie that morning – completely and madly – and by the time the lunchtime news came on we became very acquainted in Ronnie’s bed. 

I had never and have never, done something like that again.  It was madness, for once in my life I suddenly felt passion, fire, heat and Oh, I liked it so much.

From that point we became inseparable – the flu bug became possible M.E., possible stress and I was lucky doubly in that respect, my G.P. was very happy to hand out sick notes for Industrial Stress and its many guises and my work, especially my Line Manager, had realized what she thought was harmless fun on Phil’s part was something not so harmless or funny and was happy for me to stay on full paid sick whilst they had an investigation into the situation. 

For them, it meant that Phil was still making them money and I wasn’t visible to the rest of the staff with my ‘over-the-top’ female behaviour.

I spent every waking moment with Ronnie, going to gigs, sitting at bars waiting for the love of my life to finish lugging amps, rigging lights, sound checking and being every inch the rock n’roll roadie.

Even whenever Ronnie had to work at the studio I was there – no longer in fluffy tops and flat regulation shoes – but I suddenly discovered skinny fit jeans, boots, crop tops and enough jewellery from ‘The Great Frog’ to weigh me down.

When I wasn’t with Ronnie I was waiting to be with Ronnie – I would do my chores, change my sheets, shave my legs, do my shopping, but always counting the minutes until we were together again.  The minutes apart felt like hours and the hours felt like days.

I loved Ronnie so much it hurt – it was everything I’d ever imagined that love should be – and then so much more. 

Anything I did without Ronnie felt wrong, like I’d forgotten something.  The more time we spent together the more time I wanted to spend.  I could spend hours lying in Ronnie’s arms and then get up and want to do it all over again.

It got to such a point that I didn’t eat, sleep or leave the house without my knight-in-shining armour. 

Ronnie used to call me ‘beautiful’ – used to lay me down in bed and kiss every inch of me, love me until I couldn’t breathe, until I couldn’t think straight and I really thought I had died and found heaven.

Strangely enough, when it started to go wrong it unraveled very much like it did for me and Phil – the more time away from me Ronnie needed the more I couldn’t let go. 

It wasn’t that I did it on purpose, but I truly did not know how to let go of the ties that had bound us so very tightly.

I knew Ronnie had finally grown tired of me at the Christmas Blowout gig at the Gun.  I’d spent literally all day trying to be the beautiful woman Ronnie fell for but instead, deep down, knowing that my days in the limelight – on centre stage in the light were coming to an end – I spent most of those hours crying silent tears, laying on the bed that had witnessed my joy, my orgasms, my love, rubbing my face on the sheets where Ronnie had lain only the night before.  Sniffing in the scent Ronnie always wore – hot, spicy and musky. 

By the time I made it to the Gun I was puffy eyed, wild haired and barely dressed, but by then I didn’t care. 

To say I made a complete fool of myself that night was an understatement.  I flirted with all Ronnie’s friends, got very drunk and finished off with picking a major argument.

I got taken outside by Ronnie very forcefully and told to behave myself and then slapped me hard around the face. 

I tried, but I couldn’t and I ended up storming off home – expecting Ronnie to follow me, to make it better, to apologise – to do anything but let me walk back to the grey light – to the shadows. 

I  went back to my room and cried until I was sick. 

Ronnie didn’t come home for four days after that. 

When Ronnie eventually did return, bringing the smell of someone else on clothes and skin, I knew that our relationship was not as it used to be.

From that point on, I’d start arguments, Ronnie would get fed up, shout at me, push me, slap me, punch me – anything to make space between us.

 I know it was all my fault – on the occasional times we actually made up an argument in bed – Ronnie would always cradle my bruised, hurting body, stroke my hair, kiss away the split lips, stroke my blossoming black eyes and tell me that I brought out the dark side. 

It’s silly – but the more Ronnie said it – the more romantic it sounded – that Ronnie’s passion and need for me was so great that it unleashed the violence that dwelt way down.  Eventually, I took to always wearing big sleeved tops, high roll necks, anything to cover the bruises – especially when I made the infrequent trips to see my parents. 

I couldn’t tell them how badly it had gone wrong with my lover, because I couldn’t ever admit to them how badly I’d treated Phil and then leapt into bed with the next person who showed any interest with me.  I knew that Mum and Dad would never have approved of my new significant other because of Ronnie’s background – previous for car theft, GBH and a list of petty crimes clocked up in youth, of Ronnie’s job, the fact that Ronnie didn’t own a suit, didn’t want marriage, kids and a mortgage and now, that Ronnie didn’t want me.

Ronnie and I staggered on together until last February – it was actually the night before Valentine’s and I knew all day that Ronnie wouldn’t be with me on Valentine’s Day, hadn’t planned a romantic meal, wouldn’t buy me red roses, wouldn’t get down on one knee and give me a ring, wouldn’t even be there to make love to me – as Ronnie was going off on tour with the band.  I had known this for a couple of weeks, but still it made me angry – even though I knew by then Ronnie was seeing someone else, bringing back their smell to my sheets, to my body and almost daring me to start yet another fight about it.

I knew Ronnie was going to be packing up and leaving at about eightish in the evening and for once I managed to pull myself in check, had a bath, washed my hair, actually put on some clean clothes and tried to recreate the Emily that Ronnie had loved. 

I didn’t want it to end in shouting, blaming, fists and blood, but as friends with fondness, with a gentle goodbye kiss, but although that’s what I had in mind, that’s not what came out by the time I reached Ronnie’s room.

I looked at Ronnie, all toned, all muscles and musk – denim and leather and my stomach flipped.  I still wanted Ronnie so much it hurt – it hurt my eyes to look on such beauty – such beauty that once was mine.

To think of my world without the person I loved more than life itself was so painful – I couldn’t breathe – and I smiled and walked towards that body that had been mine, that had wanted me as such as I wanted them. 

Ronnie turned to me, asked me what I was doing, what I had in my hand – but by then it was too late for Ronnie and for me.  The knife slid into Ronnie’s chest much easier than I thought it would.  I think I missed the ribs and went straight into Ronnie’s heart.  The look of shock on my almost dead lover’s face was one that will stay with me for ever.

I remember Ronnie crumpling to the floor and then I think I sat down beside my lovely Ronnie and I cradled her beautiful head in my arms and breathed in the scent of her, hot spicy and musky one last time.

I must have called my parents because the next thing I remember was my Dad pulling me off Ronnie’s already cooling body and taking me away from the room and my Ronnie. 

It was very muddled for a while and then I woke up one day here, at The Lostings. 

I guess my Dad and my lawyer or someone must have put in a plea of diminished responsibility – because I don’t remember Court or prison – just a long sleep and then here.

Thank you so much for listening – I realize that my addiction was to Ronnie – I was addicted to her – I fell so hard and so fast – it was beyond my control.

I know now that for a while I lost my sanity and I now believe that it took a higher power – something bigger than my love for Ronnie – to bring me back to my senses.

My name is Emily and I am an addict!”

There was complete silence in the meeting room for what seemed forever, but then gradually people began thanking Emily for sharing her story, making their encouraging noises and someone put the urn back on to bubble and boil again for yet more low fat tea and coffee.

And me, to be honest – I felt a bit cheated that the story was over – that the sticky little secret was out, that I now knew what made little harmless Emily tick – what gave her bad dreams. 

So, that was her secret?

She had loved a woman?

Hadn’t we all had a bash at that at sometime?

She had killed someone?

Hadn’t we all wanted to at some time?

She had become addicted to a person?

Hadn’t we all trod that slippery slope at sometime?

Hadn’t we all felt the pain of unreturned love?

Hadn’t we all stopped eating and sleeping because we missed someone so badly?

Hadn’t we all hung around outside an ex-lover’s place just to catch a glimpse of them?

Hadn’t we all broken into an ex’s house and slashed all their favourite clothes, put prawns down the back of their sofa and put all their CDs and Collectors Vinyl in the oven – turned it on slow cook and then left the house to burn down?

Hadn’t we all collected a big pile of dog faeces from the local park and posted it to their ex and their new partner? 

Well, come on, we’ve all done that before –

Hadn’t we?

As I was leaving the meeting I glanced back at Emily and at that moment she turned and smiled at me and I felt a cold, swampy shiver run through me.  ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’

There is a thin, thin line between getting hung up on a person and becoming insane with lust.  Addicted to a person, unable to be without them.

 And I felt rather shaken by just how much I realized that now I thought back to my last meeting with Dave.  Rubbish flowers and rubbish conversation and whilst I wanted be out of this place so I could get back with him, hang out with him, listen to his endless tales of Sales Success and battles won and fought, his encyclopedic knowledge of the A21, his baldness, his easy-to-be-with manner, his prize possession, a diamond ear ring reputed to have been ripped out of the ear of a WWE Diva at Smackdown and his warmth and kindness – and whilst I missed him, I didn’t cry every day for him.  I wasn’t addicted to him, I wouldn’t kill for him, wouldn’t kill him because I couldn’t have him.

And that thought – whilst a relief – made me sad – sad to know and realize that I had loved my JD, my coke, my puff , partying and others far more than I had ever loved him.  Dave, as everything else in my life, was a habit but a habit that had never grown out of control into an addition.

The staff here say get to know your addition, know your enemy and at that moment it made me heart and soul sore to understand that Dave had never been my enemy, my addiction.

I lay in my lonely, cold bed that night and for the first time in a long time – I cried for what I had lost and for what I had never given myself the chance to love and prayed for sleep to come to let me stop hurting. 

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January.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.

 

BEZ’S STORY – JANUARY

“I’m Bez and I am a coke addict”.

My ears pricked up when I heard mention of one of my favourite vices. 

Maybe this boring, useless meeting would be worth staying awake for!

“I have an addiction to coke and I’ve been clean for eight months, three weeks and two days”.

Polite round of applause from the rehab. group and even I made a half hearted attempt to clap and look impressed.  I get the feeling that Bez has maybe said all this before, many times before.

 Now, do I doze off and hope no-one notices or shall I give this group thing a bash?  Whilst I hate to admit it, even I, who is not one to traditionally follow the rule book – I kinda realize that the more groups I do, the more clapping I do, the more navel gazing and “mother my dog” lamenting I engage in, the quicker the powers that be will decide I’m cured and send me home so I can get back to my life – my fun, happy, boozy, ‘tripping off my tits’ life.

So, after making the decision to pretend to engage with this drivel, I sit up in my seat, feeling the hard, uncomfortable wooden struts of the chair digging into my rump. 

Oh great, just what I need – the lovely Bez, his ability to avoid the devil that is cocaine for a good hour and a seat that has taken issue with me and is slowing chewing my arse!  Bloody great!

As I sit, squirming, trying to give my butt some respite – the very clean and proud Bez kicks off with his story and I kick off with my attempt of fake redemption of my terrible ways.

“I’m Bez and a coke addict and I’ve been clean for eight months, three weeks and two days”. 

Yes, I know Bez – just cut to the chase, will you?

“I was born in Glasgow, my Ma and Da drank, but then everyone did where I grew up – it was what people did – to deal with the crap that they lived with.

I had my first proper drink when I was four – at my brother’s wake.  I sat under the coffin with Billy McKlusky and had a wee dram – as my Ma would say – it was Scotch and I remember how it burned down through me, the smell, the heat, the dirty yellow of it and although it made me sick as a dog a few minutes later, even the smell as it came back up was something special, something to like. 

As I grew up there was always booze and fags around – me Ma smoked, my Da smoked and then so did I.

 I had my first smoke at five.  I nicked a couple of cigs out of me Ma’s handbag, snuck out the back with me mates, Billy and his little brother Tommy, down out of our back yard, out past the cobbled track that ran from where I lived to the railway yard. 

I stood there, all macho in me cousin’s hand-me-downs, my hair slicked back with spit and a dab of marg, with me Ma’s hand-me-down battered fag in my mouth – lit and smoky and after taking that first drag down feeling me guts coming up to meet the ciggie.

I wanted so much to be a real man, not a nancy boy who couldn’t handle his drink and drugs, but as I swallowed down the puke in my throat and tried to stop the acrid wetness from flying out of my nose, I knew I was gonna have to work at it.

“I won’t bore you with the chunk of my life from then to when it gets really interesting – just to say, I drank at four, I smoked at five, thieved at six and fucked when I was ten – and by then I’d reached the dizzying heights of being a proper man. 

When I was twelve I was a runner for the local firm, taking a bit of this, dropping off a bit of that and loving every minute of it.  It was about this time I discovered Cannabis and from that first little borrowed  bit of puff and happiness, I realized that if I had felt love for my first drink of Scotch, it was only a boy’s childlike crush in comparison to something that proved to be more a love of my life than any girl could ever be.

“A few years later, I got into bikes, motor, not push variety and with the money I had coming in from my rather dodgy career, I had ample to get a big, loud, smelly beast of a bike.

“I could talk for hours about my first bike for the rest of the evening but that’s not why we are here, why I am here – just to say – the first time I sat astride her, I felt the hot, meaty throbbing of the engine between my thighs and almost shot my load right there and then.”

The mention of what almost happened with Bez and what lives between his thighs had me focusing on what he was actually saying and not just the rise and fall of his voice. 

I actually sat up, stopped gazing at my feet and looked at the man who called himself Bez.  Tall, maybe 6’1”, 6’2”, shoulder length mad black dog hair, tied back with a bit of well chewed leather thong, dressed in leather trousers, a red T-shirt and a black leather waistcoat and huge pair of clumpy heavy biker boots.  A lot of silver jewellery, a matching mad looking moustache and eyes the colour of burnt golden syrup. 

Whilst I don’t normally go for the biker type, too macho and sexist for me and always covered in grease, oil and bits of bike, I could have made an exception for him. 

Whoa – girl, down dog – maybe what the all knowing doctors and staff here kept saying – ‘the addict, if deprived their addiction of choice, will latch on to any other addiction they can get their hands on’.  So, coz I can’t get a JD and Coke – drinkable or sniffable, I’m now sniffing after sex.  Help me Trisha, I’m a sex addict!  Oh please, what a load of tripe. 

And so, after stamping down on such a ridiculous thought and the uncomfortable itch of early lust, I brought my thoughts and eyes back to Bez and let myself fall back into his life.

“After that first bike, I never looked back, always buying new parts, always building my dream bike, always striving to make it perfect and when it was perfect, growing bored with it so quickly, it always caught me unawares – and then – as soon as the boredom came, crashing it, trashing it or hocking it on; and so on to the next dream bike and the next all consuming need to make perfect my dream – again.

“Somewhere, between the bikes, the booze, the puff and now running my own little firm of young un’s wanting to be the next big thing, the next big man, I got a girl pregnant, married her, had a fight with her brother, killed him, packed up my business interests and moved down to this neck of the woods. 

I left two days before my daughter was born – strangely enough we never had a really good relationship since then.”

I could believe the cheek of the man, but still wanting to hear his downfall, I tuned back in.

“It was moving down here finally I stopped acting the big man and actually started living as the big man – let’s just say, my business interests took off, far bigger and better than they ever had back home – down here – there was always more buyers for the commodities I had to sell – knock off – a bit of smack, drugs, guns and sometimes even girls.  Now, before you all get really pissed with – they were always legal – none of your kiddies pervs specials – that type of thing makes me sick to the stomach.

“Enough about my career – enough to say – I bought, I sold, I bought bigger, I sold better and with that came enough money to make me a happy man – but strangely enough – the more I made, the happier I thought I should have been, the more I couldn’t sleep when I was knackered.  The more I drank, the more I puffed and eventually the more I headed towards the ultimate love of my life – the thing that brings me here now – I remember the first time far better than my first fuck.  I was in a pub in Croydon – I say pub but your run-of- the-mill Croydonites with their fake gold and everything Burberry and the girls with their famous face lifts never drank or came near such places. 

So, there I was with a bunch of mates, Spaniel, Animal, big bollocks Benny and a handful of scummy dirty looking women (my favourite type) too much peroxide, too much scent and far too little covering them up, just sitting back and listening to some Sabbath tribute band churn out the same old offerings they always did, when one of the girls made a big old show of dancing in a very naughty way around me and gesturing me to follow her to the bogs. 

Now, never one to look a gift dog in the mouth, off I went into the dark,  dank, ripe smelling loos to get to know the young lady a bit better. 

Five minutes later of a bit better and a quick  clean up with what was left of her T-shirt and she starts cutting some lines of something white and crystally and shiny, rolls up a £20 note and takes a toot, then offers me said note and a couple of lines.    

 “Firstly, it felt weird, flying backwards up my nose, then numb and then fuck me, it was like 4th July had gone off in my head – Oh Man, it was absofuckinglutely fantastic – thought I had died and gone to heaven. 

After that I did it whenever I saw that girl and slowly I started doing it more and more with the girl and without, it didn’t matter to me.  It was like all my mates did it, had it, and therefore so did I.

“It got to the point I couldn’t go out and enjoy myself without it, couldn’t go with a girl without it, couldn’t run my business without it and more importantly, couldn’t even be bothered to ride my bike without it.

“It got to such a point me mates started calling me ‘Daniella’ after some bint off the television who had a similar love to mine of the Old Columbian marching powder.

“Shortly afterwards, it were about nine months ago now – my daughter came down to visit me and I was so coked off my tits I actually passed out whilst she was talking to me.  It cuts me to have to admit that whilst my baby girl – well, oh 12 year old – was visiting me for the first proper time and telling me about her Bratz collection, her school mates and her new Daddy, I had to pop to the loo for a couple of little pick-me-ups and I think it was after the fifth or sixth little pick-me-up – I actually passed out.  I ain’t seen her since.  It’s not that I don’t wanna see her, I really do, it’s just that she won’t see me.”

At this point a lot of the group were sitting nodding in agreement, like they’d all been there, like they all knew what he was feeling and making noises and gestures of encouragement.

But not me, I might have been a bit of a party girl, when the mood took me – which, oh might have been a tiny bit more than Mr. & Mrs. Norm, but not me –  I didn’t have a kid and if I had I would never have put drink or drugs before them.  I would have loved them and cared for them and always put them first – wouldn’t I? 

The nearest I had to that kinda connection was with my niece – Lulu – who I loved to bits.  Janie – my ‘Earth Mother fat cow of a sister’ sometimes left her with me whilst she want off to her yoga class, or pottery class or whatever self improvement jag she was currently on – and I never passed out in front of my girl Lulu. 

Yeah oh – sometimes I had a little something to knock off the rough edges before Janie and the baby came round – just so I’d be in a better frame of mind and be more happy, silly Auntie Lou than grouchy pissed off  Auntie Lou – but I did that for little Lulu – to make her time with me nicer.

And maybe there had been a couple of times when I’d been giving Lulu her bottle and had to stop and pop upstairs to freshen up a little and maybe I can vaguely remember a time when Lulu was watching me having a stiff JD – grabbed the glass and helped herself to a little sip or so – but it was so funny, she looked like a natural bar botherer, I didn’t have the heart to take it away from her and yeah – she might have got a bit sick after, but nothing that a wet wipe and a spoonful of Calpol couldn’t deal with.

But, I never passed out in front of her – if she stayed over with me – I’d wait till she was asleep and then I’d have a few lines, a little something to lift the spirits and I always made sure that the windows were closed, the front and back door locked and the baby gate on before I passed out.

So, after becoming quite self righteous about what a low life Bez actually was – I carried on listening to him and his tale of woe.

“After that time with my daughter it really started getting out of hand – I couldn’t eat, sleep, do anything without my shiny white lines of crutch – I had a couple of spills on my bike and after the last one me mates had just about had enough and brought me here to sort myself out.

And so, here I am – eight months, three weeks and two days and clean and counting – my name is Bez and I am an addict. 

To start with it was hard being here – no bike, no mates, no drugs, but gradually I’ve realized what a fuck up I was making of my old life, before here. 

The drugs I don’t miss now – that much.  My mates pop in occasionally to say Hi and show off their bikes and I find that the longer I am here the more at peace I feel – I don’t crave the drugs now, just a better life than what I had before, which God willing – I’ll achieve when I move on from here. 

“Thanks for listening.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Bez has now left the building!

So, was that it?

Was that the great secret of how to change your life forever?  If it was – then, sorry, but I missed it.  I thought that the whole idea of sitting in this chilly, unwelcoming room, full of addicts and losers (not me, however) was that one of them was going to give up the magic secret of how they got clean, how they can live their life free from drink, drugs, sex, gambling, goat bothering or whatever thing it is that flicks their switch, how they can go back to their lives outside of rehab. and live without excitement, without fun, without happiness?

I know that this being my first meeting unfortunately it won’t be my last. But I was hoping for something a little more than decaffeinated everything and Bez.

Maybe it’s because I’m new to all this stuff, but I don’t feel ready to carry on sitting on the butt munching seat whilst the group all simper and coo together over how well Bez has done.

I leave the hall and walk out into the night, back to my room.  The sky is black, the route back to the rooms is not particularly well lit – jeeze, you’d think that with what this place is costing they could get some decent lights fitted – a person could trip and do themselves a mischief here. 

The walk back is cold and dark, the sky is pitch black with a smattering of misty stars – the air is so cold I can feel it way down in my lungs and as I breath out a plume of white, frosty breath surrounds me.  I hear an owl call from somewhere near and I smell the chilled, green, piney smell that always reminds me of dark winter nights and I pick up my pace and hurry back to my room – eager for some warmth and comfort – neither of which I found at the meeting tonight. 

I miss Lulu, I miss my flat and I miss the fun I used to have; but I’m suddenly struck by the weirdest thought – that maybe, just maybe, my life had become somewhat unmanageable and that somewhere down the line my so-called ‘addiction’ to having a good time had rendered me powerless to stop and realize what was happening to me?

Maybe?

Maybe not?

Maybe I just got caught up in the moment of the thing – maybe I’m just homesick – just tired, just suddenly having to look at my life not through my beer goggles but stone cold sober and straight and suddenly not liking what I see.

 

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The 12 Steps to Recovery

The 12 Steps to Recovery.

 Step 1: We admit we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable.

 Step 2: We come to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

 Step 3: We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a higher being as we understand them.

 Step 4: We make a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves.

 Step 5: We admit to our higher power, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

Step 6: We are entirely ready to have our higher power remove all our defects of our character.

Step 7: We humbly ask our higher power to remove our shortcomings.

Step 8: We make a list of all persons we have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all.

 Step 9: We make direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure others.

Step 10: We continue to take the personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admit it.

 Step 11: We seek through prayer, talking and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our higher power.

 Step 12: We have a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps.  We try to carry this message to other addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs.Image

The Begining

31st December

It was a cold, wet miserable day when they brought me to The Lostings.  

They being my ‘so-called’ beloved family, my ever moaning mother Jean, my perfect big sister Janie, her all knowing, all opinated husband, Billy and even my niece, baby Lulu came along for the ride.

 I must have really mucked up this time, because even my best mate made an appearance – and for Passion Matresse – aka big Gay Al – the butchest drag queen in South London to get out of his Egyptian cottons sheets before noon was really quite some feat, I can tell you.

 They had all, in their own ways been hinting, cajoling and finally threatening that this would eventually have to happen to make me see sense.

 As my sainted mother had said quite recently to me:

‘If you can’t stop mucking up your life, there are places we could send you that will stop that silly behaviour of yours – dead in its tracks’.

And, give her due, she wasn’t kidding.

 My name is Louise Mathews, I am 32, I have been dumped at The Lostings by mistake, I have been here for all of 2 hours and 37 minutes and I hate it already.

 This is what I learned about my rehab unit in the first few days I was there, I wish I could sound more informed but to be honest I had such a headache and felt so rough, you are lucky to get this brief description.

 You approach The Lostings from the Surrey/ Kent borders road.

 You don’t really know that you’ve arrived until you see the large wrought iron gates at the very last moment.

 One side of it backs on to a large country park and the other onto mile upon mile of disused factories and burnt out scrublands.

Bushes and trees poke out of the iron railings and gates as the hill slopes up to the entrance.

The gates have pedestrian access and swing inwards to allow car access to the property, those gates always get locked at night, regular as clockwork.

As you go through the gates, to your right is a modern looking house/office which serves as the booking in suite for the guests of The Lostings.

It is here that all the boring paperwork stuff is done, the checking in procedures, the payment options, cash up front, invoice, insurance covering the stay etc.

It is also here that the guests are allocated their rooms and their mentors/buddies.

 From here, you follow the path round – where it splits off either to the Doctor’s office and the meeting rooms/ rehab area or down to the dorms and rooms.

The Lostings is open to visitors from 9am until 4 in the winter and 9 – 6pm in the summer.

 Day visits by family and friends are positively welcomed but night visits are frowned upon as it is seen as too disruptive for the guests, too tempting or them.

 The family and friends are welcomed into the placing ceremony which happens when the guest/patient first comes to the Lostings.

Personal belongings are not initially encouraged but as the guest/ patient moves in and settles in – friends and family are able to bring in belongings to decorate the patient’s room.

There is a children’s unit on the boundaries of the property.

You don’t often see the little ones – except when they have one of their parties when they welcome a new patient and then the grounds are full of children and little ones running and crawling about.

 They admit a new person every 45 minutes, that’s how long it takes to process them.

 Admission starts 10am and last intake is at sharp 4pm.

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And you can always book your place in advance; you never know when you might need it!