Today is the 12th day of my sobriety.
The author and spiritual teacher, Eckhard Tolle , about whom I will write more about later, has asserted that we are all consumed with our egos and ‘thinking’. In his writings, he encourages us to be ‘present’ and to enjoy the ‘now’ and in effect to try and stop our poisonous, destructive ‘thinking’.
There are many ways we can momentarily ‘come out of ourselves’ and enjoy a glimpse of a new consciousness or enlightenment.
One way is to immerse ourselves in our work, particularly creative work; but it can be literally any job or task that we enjoy doing, that we are able to do well and become totally engrossed in it.
I know that I am a very egotistical person – all alcoholics are; it’s a very common character defect.
When I write – this blog or other creative work – I do become less inclined to indulge in egotistical thinking; I can feel it within myself.
I used to play the piano, (unfortunately I had to leave it behind at my house), and that was another occasion when I felt at peace with the world and with life and I stopped ‘thinking’. I just ‘lived’ and became ‘one’ with the music I was playing.
Similarly, when I listen to inspirational music, it takes me out of myself.
Yesterday, I took a day off from my blog. I have felt increasingly depressed, and in a desperate attempt to counteract the depression I decided to be more active around my condo and to change my routine.
So I busied myself with some long overdue tidying up and sorted out some of my papers.
For weeks now I have had the TV playing in the background – either BBC World or Fox News, or when I grew tired of international news, I would listen to BBC radio from the UK, courtesy of the internet.
I go through these phases, so yesterday it was time for a change and I put on a music video, the first time for quite a while.
It was Andrea Bocelli performing live at an outdoor concert in Tuscany. I had forgotten how beautiful his voice is and how emotionally charged his songs.
It was inspirational, and left me breathless. It was almost as if I was there. He is blind but it never seems to faze him. He seems such a gentle, loving man, and sings exquisitely.
I listened and watched him perform for over an hour and my depression started to lift.
For a short while I had stopped ‘thinking’ and had become really ‘conscious’.
Then I played some more of my favourite music tracks and ‘ripped’ the Bocelli DVD onto my hard disk, and then I ‘burnt’ the audio tracks onto a CD so that I could listen to it in my car.
I was so immersed in my sound and video machinations that I missed the evening AA meeting – yet again. I suddenly realized hadn’t been to a meeting for two days, even though I had resolved to immerse myself in them.
This morning, despite having only about four hours fitful sleep, I roused myself and made it to the nine a.m. meeting.
It was a pretty good meeting.
The sad subject of parents dying was raised by another member and when it was my turn to ‘share’, I spoke about the events surrounding my own parent’s deaths, which I hadn’t mentioned to anyone for many years.
I had been living and working in Thailand in 1982 when I received word that my father had died. I immediately went on a serious drinking binge and became very, very, drunk. I remember to this day sitting in many different bars, all alone, with the tears streaming down my face.
My father was a brute of a man with an uncontrollable, vicious temper who had bullied and dominated his family for literally decades. He was a total bastard by any standards.
Yet there I was, crying. Why? I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t feel happy. I think I just felt free – free at last from his overwhelming influence in my life. I was crying from relief.
Following my father’s death I have already recounted in “Mobi’s Story” how my then wife persuaded me to return to England to take care of my ageing mother.
My mother had borne the brunt of my father’s cruel behaviour for over forty years. She was such a dear, sweet little thing, who had done the best for her children under very difficult circumstances. As well as bringing up the kids, doing all the housework and cooking, she had worked full time to pay the bills, while my father feigned illness, stayed at home and made trouble for everyone.
Now, at the age of seventy three, frail and sick and lonely, she was at last free of him. Her eldest daughter was living in South Africa, my elder brother lived the other side of the Thames with his own family, and I was the other side of the world in Thailand.
So my wife, her seven year old daughter and I, moved to England to live with and take care of my mum, and try to give a little happiness in her old age.
I like to think that the next six years were probably the happiest in my mum’s entire life. At long last free of her terrible husband, she was able to relax, travel and do things she had been unable to do when married. And she had some family around her to take care of her and give her all the comfort and love she deserved.
In 1989 my mother went to visit her daughter in South Africa and to celebrate her eightieth birthday.
The day she was due back, my brother insisted on meeting her and taking her to his house for a few days, before sending her back to her home with me and my family.
He met her and took her to his house and then went back to his office, leaving her all alone. She called me, and she clearly was very ill. She told me she had had a very bad flight back to England, had no sleep and felt terrible. I called my brother and told him to go home immediately and take mum to hospital.
This he did, but for whatever reason I can’t imagine, she didn’t stay long at the hospital, and an hour later she was back in the empty house, and my brother had once more returned to work.
Around six o’clock, my brother called me in a highly distressed state and told me that Mum had just had a massive heart attack and he thought she was beyond help, but an ambulance was on its way. A few minutes later he called back to confirm that my mother had indeed passed away.
He told me: “There was nothing anyone could have done”.
My brain was numb, and I couldn’t think of anything to say and put the phone down.
I opened a bottle of scotch, and drank and drank, but never seemed to get drunk. I just seemed to remain sober, in full possession of my faculties; thinking about the only woman in my life who had ever really loved me and been good to me.
I was completely shattered. I cried and I cried and I cried.
Later came the recriminations. I suppose I wanted to blame someone for my loss, and my brother was as good a target as I was likely to find. To this day I never said anything to him about it, but I blamed him for Mum’s death. I know she was old and frail and sick and probably wouldn’t have lived too much longer, but she didn’t have to die at that time in his empty house, because he was too selfish and insensitive to her plight to have realised he should have stayed with her.
I carried that resentment inside me for a very long time. In fact I think I have nurtured so many resentments as far as my brother is concerned.
But I have come to realise that I have been in the wrong for all these years. The only person who has been hurt by those resentments is me.
My brother is not a bad person. Nobody is perfect – least of all me. So who I am I to judge others?
He is what he is, and he has certainly lived a better and more fulfilling life than I could ever dream of. I am sure he has never done anything bad with malice or forethought.
It’s just me with my twisted, alcoholic brain that finds fault where there is only human frailty.
After my father died, he was to continue to haunt my thoughts for many years – and he still does to some extent. I had nightmares about him for years and years, but something happened a couple of years back, which seemed to finally expurgate my memory of him. I will write about this later.
So amazingly enough, I no longer feel any resentment for him – my Dad.
They say a son never gets over the death of his mother, and for me that is certainly true. I love her as much today as I did on the day she died and I still think of her every day, mourn her and miss her.
In case you missed it that is the reason I decided to swear on my mother’s grave I would never drink again.