Wednesday, 28 October 2015

But then it turns out I screw up badly when sober as well

This New Year I will have been off the sauce (alcohol) for three years.
It's been, as these things always are, quite a journey, and as I contemplated the three year marker it sent me into a contemplative mood.
What, if anything, have I learned?
What, if anything, do any of us learn? Whether going through the recovery path or not?
So here today I set out to fail to answer all and any of those questions, as no one really can.
So first thing is I remember reading once some intelligent thinker on the human condition pointing out that 'you can't know someone else as well as you know yourself, and none of us know ourselves very well'.
I mention that because I can't answer for anyone else here.
There are some elements of the recovery path that are common to all, and there are many that are individual to you.
Much like waves, to bring in a surfing analogy.
At a given break every wave is the same, yet each wave is individually different as only a chaos theory system can be.
Apart from surfing and waves being an analogy for the complexities of the human brain system, it allows me to bring in a picture to head the blog of a wonder wave in Mentawai.This island chain off Indonesia is considered the Disneyland of surfing, the waves are that good, and I think you can see that here in the picture.
Anyway, back to recovery.
As I look back down the gun barrel of my personal history, I see a frankly chaotic life liberally bespattered with bad decisions and screw-ups, all my own fault.
For the longest time I tried to blame things that went wrong in my life on someone else, most commonly the boss at wherever I was working at the time.
Australian as that is, to blame the boss for everything, it is clearly not the case in actuality.
Close upon the heels of that would be blaming my parents, which while richly deserved, clearly can't answer to the sheer volumetric analysis of the times I screwed up.
All my errors were of my own making, and I don't know if this is blaming someone else' by extension, but if it wasn't someone else's fault, then I invariably put the blame down to alcohol, and being drunk when I did my latest civic atrocity.
However,and here 200 words in we get to the nub of this, now that I have been sober two and three quarter years, I discover I am screwing up just as badly and as often, and now I can no longer blame alcohol for it.

Love Gone Wrong

I am single now, at the age of fifty, and here again I have only myself to blame.
I fell in love at least twice in my life.
Once the woman in question left me, reported numerously here in the blog by me. She was the woman from California who went off with another man. So broken up was I by this that I nearly could not stop drinking long enough to come home to Sydney from California.
Indeed but for some superb self-control for four hours one Sunday in San Francisco, I would still be living there today, broke and on the streets no doubt.
But the other time love found me ranks as - even for me - the biggest mistake of my life.
It was the mid-nineties in bohemian Newtown in  Sydney when I met her, her name was Susan, and this name is relevant believe me.
I had not long finished teachers' college at Sydney Uni and there I formed a terrific relationship with an Art teacher student named Siobhan.
However not long into our relationship the travel bug caught me again and I headed to the United Kingdom for some more travel.
NB: here again we see the colossal nature of my screwing up, I dumped a fantastic girl whom I was having a fantastic relationship with in fantastic sun-drenched Sydney, to go to depressing England and no one. Good job Lachlan you moron.
Anyway, upon my return from the UK, I became friends with Siobhan and we formed a new friend relationship.
One of the few mature things I ever did in my life.
So one week Siobhan and I were speaking on the phone and she said she was going to a party in Darlinghurst on Saturday night held by one of her friends from art college, Georgia.
I was doing nothing, and so accepted her invite to go.
There I mingled with the very arty crown, and we had a good time.
Toward the end of the evening I struck up a conversation with an attractive woman named Susan.
She was really nice, intelligent sharp but my initial thoughts were she wasn't really my type as she had a tattoo on her left breast of Da Vinci's perfectly proportioned man.
If sounds weird, it was, and is.
It was some thought of throwback to my hopelessly white bread middle class upbringing, in which my parents taught me that only the working class and other undesirables had tattoos.
However thankfully I was able to overcome the voices of my parents screaming in my head, and I got Susan's phone number.
This was in the days before mobile phones were at saturation levels and people still wrote things down with a pen on a piece of paper.
However when it came time for all of us to be thrown out into the night by the publican, neither Susan or I could lay hands on a pen.
So she ferreted in her bag and found some lipstick, then wrote her name and number on a pub coaster in lippy.
[Sidebar: I should add, putting her name on there was quite important as later on in that era, when my drinking was really out of control, I would quite often find a hastily scrawled phone number in the pocket of my jeans on a Sunday morning. This would lead me to stand catatonically in my bedroom in the Sunday morning sun while I tried frantically to piece the night before together and in vain try to remember where and how I had got this phone number].
So Susan wrote her number down in lipstick a precursor for the quirkily brilliant relationship we then enjoyed.
I rang her a few days later and we went out the next Friday, things went well, and we began a relationship.
We went to the movies, we went to the pub, we played pool, we went to parties. It was great.
But then the axe fell.
After about a month I realised I was falling in love/already in love with this woman.
What's more, I could see she was falling in love with me.
And so I broke up with her like the coward I was/am.
Looked at it dispassionately no one, including me, can understand what led me to this decision.
I loved her, she loved me, the relationship was great, what's the problem?
However of course it was that old black magic of my parents appalling upbringing of me.
Having deemed me unlovable, forever and incontrovertibly, I had accepted this fully, and it now began to colour all my life choices.
In this case, my logic(?) went like this. I am unlovable (thanks mom and dad), she loves me, therefore she, Susan, must be up to something underhanded.
So I cut and ran.
Stephanie Dowrick in her great book Intimacy and Solitude made what I thought was a very good point when she said: "Men almost always leave a relationship to go to another one, rarely to men leave a relationship to go nowhere."
I agree with that in general, and once more this lunacy of breaking up with a great woman who loved me, to go nowhere, shows how bizarre my behaviour was.
So then I moved into a kind of netherworld in which my drinking already at binge levels from Thursday to Sunday, took on the more sinister overtones of full-blown alcoholism.
I had proved my parents right that I was unlovable by sabotaging all the good relationships I ever had, and thus was now doomed to walk the Earth alone and drunk like a kind of alcoholic Ancient Mariner.
About six months after this break up I began to realise my mistake and tried to call Susan and see if things could be salvaged at this late date.
However when I rang the number which I read from the coaster still stuck to my wall, written in lipstick, I learned that Susan and her flatmates,Dan and Tina had moved out, and the number was no longer connected.
So then I thought well I'll look her up on directory inquiries.
Again for those of the younger set, if any, once upon a time if you didn't know someone's phone number you could ring the phone company and ask for the number. (just another little historical vignette there).
Anyway, I went to do that, and suddenly it hit me that after our month long brilliant, passionate and intense relationship, I didn't know Susan's last name.
Some have said to that when I tell them, Mariner-like, of this relationship: "Well you can't have really loved her if you never knew her last name".
However I counter that by saying well what's in a name anyway?
This point was made in the pretty bad really, but had lots of nakedness movie of the eigties Summer Lovers.
Which I bring in here as a reference, but also to get another picture on board to break up the thousands of words of pictureless text.
The darker haired woman goes to leave the three person relationship, and the guy, naturally enough, asks her not to.
She says: "you think you know me?"
He replies; "yes."
And she says: "What's my last name?"
Which he doesn't know.
Anyway, Susan was gone from my life forever know, and I never knew her last name.
Final note on the darkness that surrounded this end of my dreams of happiness came some years later.
After I had moved to Byron (2006) I decided to make one last effort to contact Susan again.
So I put an ad in the paper in the personal section.
And I'm sure you can guess what I wrote: "Desperately Seeking Susan".
In the text, not knowing Susan's last name, I put in what I knew about here then, 'Susan you used to live with Dan and Tink (Tina's nickname), breaking up with you was the worst decision I ever made, please call Lachlan' and added my phone number.
No response of course, but in the end, as stated, there is no one to blame but myself.
The past is indeed another country, we did things differently there.
So coming back forward to the present day, I don't drink any more or smoke pot in the same copious quantities I did back then, yet the mistakes still come think and fast.
Clearly none of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes.
I'd like to think in the end though that even if I'm still screwing up at least it's not to the levels it was in the drinking days.
My friend Phil (Philby by nickname) worked for a bank and said to me one day; "I'm a disgrace to the bank really, I have no savings but plenty of stories".
I'm much the same, in the course of a long and chaotic life I am now fifty with no savings, broke and (largely) alone but with a vast bank of stories.
However the friends I do have now are at least long term as I've forged those friendships while sober.
This does make a difference I can assure you.
And thus perhaps what I have learned after all of that is that the way to have relationships that last is to not just cut and run the moment one single tiny thing goes wrong.
So maybe after all that I have learned something after all.
Famous Victorian beauty Lola Montez famously said: "I want to live before I die."
And that is the best advice of all.
Don't live your life, as I have done, by constantly regretting mistakes made in the past.
But also be aware that Lola Montez died of syphilis, and so bring a modicum of caution to your living as well.

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