Pattaya, July 9th, 2009
Today I have been sober for 14 days.
I don’t know why, but once again I woke up feeling terrible, and even had a splitting headache, which is unusual for me. Anyway I was determined to get up and get into Pattaya for the 9.a.m. meeting, so I swallowed some paracetamol, gulped down a mug of hot coffee and set off.
I’m very glad that I did, because today was probably the best AA meeting I have ever attended.
There were 18 people there all told; mainly Americans, with the odd scattering of Irish and English, and their ages ranged from maybe their mid thirties, to over seventies.
One of the attendees was celebrating the anniversary of his sobriety – 14 years. So he was 14 years sober, and I was 14 days sober. We both received congratulations and applause.
I have no idea if it is true, but it is said that many alcoholics are highly intelligent people, and to some extent it is still a mystery, that despite their undoubted intelligence, and often considerable talents and abilities in other respects, that they succumb to the illness of alcoholism.
My fellow alcoholics this morning all had the opportunity to “share”; that is, give a brief address to the meeting on any aspect of alcoholism that they care to talk about. The wisdom and experience which came out of the “sharings” this morning was, for me, very inspirational.
As time goes on, I will write more and more about these meetings, and relate to you some of the heart rending, and inspiration stories (suitably disguised), that are shared daily by members.
But for now, I will continue with “Mobi’s Story”
BACK IN BANGKOK (1975)
So I arrived back in Bangkok, very, very, hung-over, (thinking back, I now realise I had the “DT’s”), jobless, but with a few thousand dollars in the bank which I was determined to put to good use in having the time of my life.
I was back in the old drinking and whoring routine, but a few months and a few avaricious girlfriends later, I was on the point of destitution, having now moved into a cheap “Thai” apartment, which was already a far cry from the air-conditioned hotel room that I used to stay in, and eventually I had to do a “runner” one night as there was no money left to pay the rent.
When you are broke, thousands of miles from home, you know who your friends are, and I had very few. The ones that I did have were in no position to assist me financially, but one did advise me of a commercial college in the “boondocks” who had a vacancy for an English teacher.
So I had few options other than to give it a go, and in any event I had always fancied myself as a teacher. So I applied for the vacancy and was put to work straight away. Of course they paid me very little, barely enough to pay for my food – which by this time consisted of 8 Baht noodles, and 5 Baht rice dishes from the road side stalls – and a nightly ‘band’ of Mekhong whisky. As for accommodation, well I was down at the bottom of the pile, and the only room I could afford was a small, extremely hot wooden room, in a Thai house on stilts, in old Soi 22, Sukhumvit, now long gone. I even had to pawn my radio cassette and wrist watch to raise the money to pay for the room deposit. My neighbors in the adjacent rooms were ‘ladies of the night’ – 2 or 3 to a room. They were friendly, but that’s as far as it went. Once they realised I had no money, they just weren’t interested in spending much time with me – why should they?
Pawning my meagre possessions became a feature of my life in those desperate days. I would pawn stuff during the month to raise money to get drunk, and redeem them at the end of the month when the school paid me. I found that by drinking as much Singha beer as I could afford, followed by quickly knocking back a bottle of Mekhong, I could achieve a state of intoxication that kept me going until the next day.
After a while, I realised that I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher, and I found it more and more frustrating that I was trying to teach English to students who just weren’t interested in learning. They didn’t care. Their parents had sent them to this 4th rate college, in the hope that their recalcitrant offspring may change their “errant ways”. There were some exceptions – a few over eager Chinese teenage girls who were keen to get ahead and learn English. Their parents weren’t rich (hence their attendance at a fourth rate college), but they were determined to make the best of things and build worthwhile careers. They used to engage me to teach them privately in small groups at their homes in Yawalat, (China Town) and the income from these special lessons became significant extra ‘booze money’ for me as time went on.
But enough was enough, and I reached rock bottom. It was the school holidays, so no work, and no money. My visa had long since expired and I was an illegal in Thailand. It was time to pull myself together and take some action. I wrote to one of my good friends back in England and asked him if he would lend me the money for an airfare back home, and to cut the story short, he very kindly came up with the necessary funds. Through my friends in Bangkok, I made an arrangement whereby I surrendered to the immigration authorities in Suan Plu, the same day as I had a confirmed ticket back to England. In those days, as long as you had a ticket flying out the same day, you could go to court, pay the overstay fine, and they would let you go, assuming and trusting that you would take the booked night flight out. All went as clockwork, and I made the sad journey back home to London, and thence to my parents flat in East London .Yes, my father was still alive.
I hadn’t seen my parents for several years, and indeed had been out of touch for most of that time. My mother, a dear, sweet lady who had suffered terribly through the years from my father’s rages and domineering and cruel behaviour, took one look at me and burst out crying. She said I looked as though I had just been released from Belson – so thin and emaciated I had become.