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 –
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.