Today I have been sober for 94 days.
I almost missed my meeting this morning. I woke up late, as once again I had difficulty getting to sleep, and then compounded it by forgetting to set my alarm. Anyway, I should have made it with minutes to spare, had it not been for a small incident on the way to Second Road. I was taking a left turn from a small Soi into a major traffic route, waited for a gap in the traffic, and as I turned a speeding bike came out of nowhere, and shot past me on the outside of my car. He looked back at me and then slowed down and let me overtake him. Then he stuck along close behind me, before coming alongside and trying to look at me through the darkened side window, and then once more overtaking to get a good look through the front windscreen. He continued to “circle” my car, and it was pretty obvious that he was planning some retaliation for the assumed slight to him when I supposedly cut him off.
I am the first to admit that I may have cut him off, but I did look right and I did wait while a number of bikes passed, and I certainly did not see this biker who was without doubt travelling at considerable speed. So it certainly wasn’t deliberate. As he continued to circle me, it occurred to me that in my drinking days, I would have undoubtedly stopped and had it out with him, whether I was drunk or hung-over, for either way I had no fear and easily became outraged at what I perceived to be outrageous behavior. After all motorcycle riders aren’t exactly paragons of the Highway Code on the highways and byways of Thailand, and by the looks of this youth, I doubt whether he had obeyed many road traffic laws in his driving career. So why the desire to “get me”? Probably because he could see I was a farang, and the more I observed him, the more I realised that he was probably high on ‘yaba’ or some other substance.
It was only a few days previously that I had been driving along Thepprasit Road towards Sukhumvit Road, when, literally out of nowhere, a motorcycle came speeding out of a gas station on the left side of the road and shot straight across Thepprasit in front of my car, missing my front bumper by millimeters. I was a bit shocked at the closeness of what would have been a terrible accident – possibly fatal, but soon calmed down and continued on my way. For that is what you do here – take life as it comes – and never get too upset about things. It’s the only way to stay peaceful and serene.
So instead of confronting my potential assailant, the new, sober Mobi decided to drive on in the hope that he would give up. But he didn’t, and I suddenly became conscious of the fact that I was approaching some red traffic lights and would be obliged to stop. Maybe this guy had a gun – not at all unusual in this “Deadwood” City of Pattaya. It is almost a daily occurrence for Thai youths to shoot and even kill each other, and I doubt whether many of them would have any scruples about shooting a farang – for nothing much would happen to them in this lawless town, where the police are merely organised mafia.
As soon as I realised my possible danger, I immediately took a left turn into a side Soi in the hope of shaking the youth off. To my horror I then realised I had turned into a cul-de-sac, and I would have to stop barely a few meters down the road. I looked behind me and breathed a sigh of relief as there was no sign of my pursuer. So I drove down a bit, did a three point turn and slowly made it back out to the main road. For whatever reason the guy had given up and disappeared and I was able to continue on my way to the meeting, albeit a few minutes after the meeting had started.
But better late than dead.
The previous evening I had eventually had a long chat with Bob in Australia on Skype and Bob related to me the details of two telephone conversations he had had with Dave earlier in the day. He told me that Dave was quite drunk on both occasions, but that he was very distraught, even broke down and cried, said that he expected to die soon but then assured Bob that he really wanted to stop and really wanted help. Bob said that Dave, not Bob, brought up the subject of AA and Dave said that he would now think seriously about going to a meeting.
However, Bob told me that he wasn’t convinced that Dave was finally at “rock bottom’, and that he would really go to AA. He felt that Dave was still holding back. We left it that I would call Dave the following morning when he should have sobered up, and see whether his resolve to try out the AA route was still there. Knowing Dave as we do, we both had severe misgivings.
After this morning’s meeting I called Dave’s lady and she told me that Dave and her were at that very moment on their way back home from the hospital, and that Dave was sober and feeling much better.
So when I arrived home I called Dave and had a long chat with him. He did indeed sound sober, maybe a little woozy, but perfectly coherent. He told me that his drinking spree started a week ago when he went to his monthly cheese and wine club lunch, and one of his old friends prevailed on him to just have a glass of wine, as surely one glass couldn’t do him any harm!
Well for those out there who are familiar with alcoholics and AA will know that just one glass is all that it takes. The first drink will be the start of something big. I suggested to Dave that he avoid such gatherings until he had at least twelve months of sobriety under his belt or he would continue to lapse, when faced with similar circumstances. This sort of behaviour has been well documented over and over, and I don’t think that Dave is any exception to the wisdom of “never take that first drink”.
We talked for quite a while, mainly about his alcoholism and the experiences and successes of other alcoholics, but Dave never once mentioned AA. So finally I told him that I doubted whether he would ever succeed in staying permanently sober without the help of AA. Dave just said “Hmm” and immediately followed with, “I have to go now”.
That was the end of the conversation, and, I guess that will be the end of my involvement with Dave until he accepts the help of AA. I simply cannot sit by and watch him slowly kill himself, and I cannot spend the rest of my life trying to support him and advise him so that he either won’t drink, or when he does lapse, help in getting him dried out again.
This evening I sent the following SMS to Dave:
“Hi Dave, good to speak to u today and happy u r sober. I wanted to talk to you about AA, but as soon as I mentioned the subject you finished the call. U clearly r not ready to reach out to AA. So it is with much sorrow that I tell you that I give up and will let u go your own way. I know you will lapse again – without AA it’s only a matter of time, and I cannot stand by and see u destroy your life. It is too painful. U will not hear from me again, unless U R ready to give AA a go. It doesn’t have to be thru me. I can get strangers to take u if u prefer. Call AA on 02 2318300 http://www.aathailand.org Good luck. M.”
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 19)
THE RETIREMENT YEARS.
Some background relationship detail is needed before I continue with my story.
I had been with my current wife, the fourth, since 1976 when I had met her in Thailand. Let’s call her “Noi”. Noi was born in Bangkok of Thai/Chinese parentage, and much of her secondary education had been in Singapore, and even before that she had attended a Christian School in Bangkok, so her English was quite exceptional. To this day I do not know all the details regarding her life before I met her, or how it was that her family had the money to send her to Singapore. Her father, although ethnic Chinese, (many of whom are extremely wealthy), was a market trader in Patunam market, and certainly in the years that I knew him, struggled mightily to make ends meet and worked all the hours God created, slaving away in the market.
Noi’s mother was a Thai, a sort of “foundling” who to this day has no date of birth on her Thai identity papers, and was “adopted” by royalty. So she grew up in a rich household and was clearly a beautiful woman when young. Again, by the time I had come into their lives she was still assuming the airs and graces of her adoptive family, but was living in a basic, rented shop house near Patunam Market, and had very little money. There was clearly no love lost between father and mother, and, I was to find out much later, Noi’s elder, ethnic Chinese “sister” turned out to be her father’s “live in” mistress, as he no longer had any discernible relationship with his wife. I gathered that the mother was rather stupid and had gone through countless wads of money that had come her way via some of her husband’s better off relations and also from her rich adoptive family.
In spite of Noi’s father’s unofficial “bigamy”, he was a good man and took care of his family the best he knew how, including various waifs and strays that were dumped on him by errant relatives and family friends.
Noi had had a previous relationship with a rich Chinese man when she was in her teens, and when she was twenty, gave birth to a baby daughter. I met her when she was 23, had broken up with her common law husband and was working in a department store as a sales rep for a children’s clothes manufacturer. Her daughter was living at the family home, but she was living alone in a rented, very cheap, basic room near Victory Monument. Her job required her to move all over the country and work for periods of time in different department stores, although her salary for this was very meagre. One thing led to another, and of course her excellent English and love of western music drew us together, as I was able to copy music cassettes for her to listen to on her Walkman.
She clearly set her cap at me, and it wasn’t long before she quit her job and moved in to live with me at my rented apartment off Soi 24, Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok.
Shortly after we set up home together, one of her father’s friends had seen us out somewhere in Bangkok and duly reported it to her father. He was very angry as he looked down on farangs and especially farangs who took his daughter to their home to live with. (I assume they thought that I was one of those “low class” tourists, who were even around in those far off days.)
Our first meeting, at her father’s house, was a very nervous affair for both of us, and her father clearly didn’t approve of the relationship, particularly as I learned that both parents suffered “loss of face” by their daughter shacking up with a long haired farang.
Over time, my relationship with Noi’s family thawed, and her mother came to visit us, and Noi’s daughter started to spend a lot of time with us. We then took Noi’s daughter to live with us and rented a small flat owned by one of Noi’s ‘cousins’. One day, Noi suggested that we move to a property her mother owned at Saphan Kwai, a two storey shop house that her mother had been renting, but was now vacant but in very bad decorative state. To cut a long story short, we spent a fair amount of money making the house habitable, and then moved in there. At this time I was still working with Dave in his recording Studio at Soi Asoke.
It was also around this time that Noi decided that she wanted to become a Thai singer, (i.e. a singer of Thai songs). She could barely sing in tune, had no discernable singing voice, but took lessons and eventually sang well enough to get a job in a Thai night club. This was in addition to her day job which, through my contacts, she had obtained at as a production secretary at an advertising agency.
At that time my relationship with Noi was quite good, although she had already given me some grief, in the only way that Thai women can, by being moody and controlling. Once, soon after we shacked up together, and during a period when she was being extremely charming, she had an unguarded moment and she warned me. I remember to this day her saying: “You don’t know me. I’m not really like this – you don’t know what you’re getting into” (Or words to that effect). Never was a truer word spoken.
I was still young, very naïve and an alcoholic, so it took a very long time for me to realise that being a night club singer didn’t only involve singing. It was only after I started to get phone calls from various Thais on my home phone for her in the evenings when she wasn’t home, that I started to wonder what was going on.
By this time we had moved to Patunam and had rented a place opposite her family home. Her daughter continued to live with us, but I had now started a new job in Siam Square as GM of the a New English language radio station, (working all kinds of crazy hours), and Noi was becoming ever more conspicuous by her absence, which meant that the daughter had to stay with the family across the road for much of the time. Noi’s absences became longer, and many a night she wouldn’t come home at all. Then one day we had a big row over something I cannot remember and she walked out and left me. Not the first time I had been left by a Thai lady and had her kid dumped on me.
Noi’s mother was distraught, and I vividly recall her coming up to my room with her granddaughter (who loved me to bits) and cried for hours over what her daughter had done. The family continued to cook for me when I was home, and the daughter also stayed with me when I was there. Noi came home occasionally in the day time and collected clothes and tidied up a bit, but never came when I was there.
In spite of her so called “respectable” background, Noi reverted to type and was clearly sleeping around with rich Thai men for money. It is this experience that has helped convince me that nearly all Thai women are completely amoral, and many think nothing of having casual partners, either for money, or just for fun, whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Those who believe there is a fundamental difference between bar girls and “respectable” girls are one day often sadly disillusioned. I have seen it over and over again through the past 35 odd years.
I should add that by this time we were legally married, although no wedding was held and no sin sod given. It was purely a legal, administrative process to formalise and cement our state of cohabitation.
Anyway, my wife’s behaviour didn’t really bother me. I was having a great time in my new job, as recounted earlier in Mobi’s story, I was enjoying myself running the radio station, drinking myself to oblivion, and having the occasional girl on the side to satisfy my basic urges.
In all I was with Noi for some twenty seven years, and apart from a brief infatuation when I first knew her, she was the only wife that I never truly loved. She just controlled me, like someone may control a compliant dog.
I suppose in a way she did me a big favour. If it wasn’t for her I would have never left Thailand, I would never have had my insurance career in the UK and made enough money to see me through. Who knows what may have happened if I had stayed where I was and continued to drink myself to oblivion every day? As it was, I was doing very little work, and rarely showed up at the office before lunch time. The lifestyle and temptations were too attractive and destructive for a budding alcoholic in his late thirties.
Eventually, after a few months, Noi returned home. I suspect she thought I would give up and move out, but as I have said, I didn’t really care what she did, and I was quite comfortable where I was, not far from my office, her family taking care of my cleaning, laundry and food and the rent very cheap. Besides, I was either too drunk or hung-over to find the energy to do anything as momentous as to move out and leave my wife.
When she returned home, she started working hard to persuade me to move back home to England. I didn’t want to go, but I tacitly agreed, just to get her off my back and stop the nagging.
At the time I had no intention of keeping my promise, and assumed that something would come up to give me an excuse to stay in Thailand , or that something would occur to convince her to change her mind. But she never gave up, and I clearly recall the day when she confronted me at home in the afternoon, and wanted to know if I had set the date for our departure. I tried to persuade her to change her mind about going, and she went completely berserk – the first of many violent and intimidating tantrums to come over the next 25 years or so. She screamed and shouted at me and started throwing my things all over the room, including my precious cassette radio, which was smashed to bits. I was terrified, and quickly assured her that we would indeed go – very soon.
And go we did, in September, 1983, and so began an unhappy home life for me and my future family with a moody, vain, lying, conniving, controlling bitch, who had such a violent temper that despite her size, she could put the fear of god into almost anyone, well… me anyway.