Pattaya, 12th October, 2009

Today I have been sober for 43 days.

Last night I drove into Pattaya to attend the 7.30 p.m. meeting. For those of you who may know the area, I drive South down Beach road, and then turn left up one of the small connecting Sois and then turn left again into Second Road (which runs parallel to beach Road), and about a kilometer back down on the right is the small Soi where the meetings are held. In case you are wondering, Beach and Second Roads are one way: Beach; north/south, and Second; south/north.

I had previously met a couple of friends up by the lake near my house for a quick chat, during which period we experienced severe thunderstorms and torrential rain. Unbeknown to me, the rain in Central Pattaya had been even worse.

As I drove down Beach road I encountered some flooding on the road, and as I progressed further south, the flooding became somewhat worse. But I have encountered flooded roads before and I knew that my diesel powered BMW could handle ‘normal’ flooding – i.e. a few inches of water. I thought to myself that as soon as I get off Beach road, the flooding will disappear as surely all the rain water will have flowed down to the beach and thence into the sea.

So I took my left turn up the Soi towards second road, and half way up, came to a halt. There was a knot of semi-stationary traffic in front of me in this little Soi, and after inching along for about 5 minutes, I began to see the cause. The top end of the Soi was flooded badly, and as I got ever closer to Second road I realised that my theory about the water flowing into the sea was a complete load of rubbish. The flooding in Second Road was even deeper than that in the Soi and Beach Road, and the vehicles which hadn’t conked out and/or been abandoned, were crawling forward, creating what can only be described as a chaotic “sea of vehicles”.

I was committed. I could not go back – there were cars behind me – and I could not stop in the middle of a flooded road. So I joined the band of happy drivers and edged into the ever deepening floods of Second Road. Motorcycles and other vehicles were breaking down all over the place, and to my alarm I saw that the exhaust pipe of a Baht bus (Songtaew) right in front of me was completely submerged, and a few moments later, the water was so deep that it was washing the feet of the passengers ensconced in the back. I was terrified that my own car may stall at any moment. The BMW is a very low slung car, and I knew for sure that my exhaust was well below the water line.

After an eternity, I approached the Soi where the AA meetings were held but could see it was deep in water. On the opposite side was the Siam Bay View Hotel and I suddenly hit upon the brilliant idea of turning left into the hotel and parking in the hotel car park.  Yet another piece of bad thinking. At first, I thought I was very clever, for as I drove up the ramp past the security gate, I was briefly in much shallower water, but once past the hotel entrance, to my horror, the flooding was deeper than ever and I feared for my car.

There was well over two feet of water in the hotel grounds and I have no idea how I managed to traverse the long driveway and eventually find ‘sanctuary’ at the top of the elevated driveway in front of the hotel reception. One of the bus boys directed me to park up in the high, dry area, and I gratefully alighted from my car, rolled up my jeans and started to wade back out into the flooded grounds. The water was lapping my knees when the aforementioned bus boy ran up behind me and called out for me to return to my car.

“Oh no”, thought I, “he’s going to tell me I can’t park there”.

But he just wanted me to put my car into neutral so that he could push it if necessary. I told him that you can’t park “Beamers” in neutral, but I drove it forward a few feet so that other cars could get out. I then tried to tip the boy, but he refused any offers of money. Sometimes your faith in human nature is unexpectedly rewarded.

Back in the hotel grounds, the water was well above my knees as I slowly made my way out to the road, where it was a little shallower (lapping my knees, rather than above them), and I gingerly crossed over to the Soi where the meetings are held. I should have saved myself the effort. All the bars, shops, café’s, restaurants, guest houses and other establishments were flooded out and business everywhere had ground to a halt. The AA meeting place was no exception; they were busy trying to bale water off the flooded floor, and there was no sign of any alcoholics – sober or otherwise – except muggings Mobi.

I waded further up the Soi and found a bar that was trying to stay open – albeit still flooded – and gratefully sat down and ordered a Diet Coke from the friendly girls. There were some Swedish guests there who were returning to Sweden, and I felt very sorry for them as they soaked themselves trying to climb on the back of flooded motorcycle taxis, weighed down with bags, and navigated their way out of the floods of Central Pattaya.

We all have our trials, tribulations and frustrations when we come to live in Thailand, and even more so when we try to live with Thais and understand and accept some of the more ‘difficult’ aspects of their alien culture.

But yesterday evening, in the midst of so much chaotic disruption to their daily lives, the good, (dare I say endearing?) parts of the Thai nature came to the fore. Most businesses in this area were forced to close; many places had been badly damaged by the floods. All staff had to stop work, which for many of them meant no salary, no tips, no money for ladies’ drinks, and no high rolling customers. Yet I did not encounter a single frown, let alone anyone complaining about the fates which had conspired against them, or any desire to wreak vengeance on the city council which had miserably failed to provide adequate flood prevention measures.

On the contrary, there was almost a party atmosphere. Everyone was smiling and joking and making do the best they were able to. Many were perched atop of tables, chairs and various make shift objects sticking out of the water to escape the swirling currents, but they all had a grin on their faces and there was plenty of  laughter to ease the unpleasantness of their grim situation.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the folk back home would say and do in a similar situation.

Three hours later, the water had receded sufficiently for me to make my way home.

But for the pimps, prostitutes, waitresses, thieves, scam artists, street sellers, hairdressers, masseurs and all the other ‘flotsam and jetsam’ of Second road, they had to start the big clean up and try to make a few Baht before the evening was over.

Today, I made the morning meeting, and it was very interesting for me because there is a new member, clearly in a lot of pain as he withdraws from his self inflicted alcohol poisoning, and who today attended his second meeting.

Since I have been attending AA, we often get a new person arrive at our meetings and tell us that they wish to get sober. Many of the senior members try to give them good advice, the main one being to come back to meetings every day so that we may continue to provide help and advice. As a rule, we never see them again.

So I was pleasantly surprised that we finally found one who has ‘stuck’ and I hope sincerely that he keeps returning, for he looks in so much pain – mentally and physically, and I believe he is ready for help.

This afternoon I had a major problem.

I called my sponsor and told him that I was ready to meet him to go through the fourth step.  He told me to miss tomorrow morning’s meeting and meet him instead. So I asked him why did I have  to do this, as I derived so much benefit from  attending the daily meetings, and why could I not meet him when the meeting was over?  He told me that my step work with him was more important than the meeting, but couldn’t explain to me why it was necessary to miss the meeting. I asked him what was the reason that I could not do both? He lived near the meeting venue, he was not working and he did not try to claim that he wouldn’t be free later, only that he wanted me to miss the meeting and see him instead.

By this time things were getting a little tetchy, so I said I would think about it and call him back.

I then called a good AA friend of mine, asked him if I he thought I was wrong about all this. He told me to tell my sponsor to “get lost” (or words to that affect!). Well I had no intention of doing that, as my sponsor has been very kind to me and spent a lot of time with me, but I could not understand his attitude on this point. One of the requirements in working the 12 step programme is that the member “must be willing to go to any lengths to achieve this purpose”. My sponsor seemed to be implying that if I did not meet him when he wanted me to, then I was not fulfilling this undertaking.

Well I sent him a long SMS. I told him that I was indeed willing to go to any lengths, but that I wasn’t a door mat, and that I would only do things if I understood the reason behind them, or least I was given some kind of explanation that made sense.  This he had failed to do, and I could only conclude that he was a bit of a control freak, and a control freak is the last person I need at this point in my life.

So I am without a sponsor again.

One day I will find the right one. Meanwhile, onwards and upwards.

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