By Amy Dollery
I JUST can’t settle today. This afternoon. I feel fidgety, uncomfortable in my skin. Like I don’t know what to do with myself.
Earlier at the supermarket, just as I walked to the checkout point, a mother with her two children had stopped and looked at me strangely. Like I was familiar but she couldn’t place my face. I could see her mind searching, had she met me in a bar? Perhaps when she had one glass of Pinot too many? Had I stopped to talk to her? Somewhere in her memory she unearthed an unsavoury feeling. Her instincts were telling her she did not know me from anywhere good. I could see her try so hard to remember if I had treated her badly. I hadn’t. She instinctively moved her children away from me.
I pulled my baseball cap over my eyes and moved to a till at the end. Out of the way. But the encounter has stayed with me. The slightly dirty feeling hangs in the air around me.
My cousin came over to the flat not long after I got home. He is consistent. When no one else knows quite what to do, he just carries on the same. We drink a beer, and talk about football. He asks me how everything else is going. He doesn’t want an answer other than ‘okay’. Normally I play my part.
But today I couldn’t help myself. I think it was the lady in the supermarket. Or maybe it was nothing. Whatever it was, today I find I want to know what he thinks. I ask him, how does he think I am doing? Does he know I have changed?
He looks at me sharply and replies, “What are you talking about this shit for?”
I shrug. “I don’t know. I just want to know what you think?”
“ Mark. I can’t talk about this shit. You understand?”
He stares at me unblinking. I break his gaze and instead look down at the table in front of me.
“Look” he says “Me and you, we’re family right and I am here because of that. If I just think of you as the boy who stuck up for me against my dickhead dad, and watched my back at school, I can be here and I will always be here. But I can only do that if we don’t talk about the other stuff right?”
He leans forward onto his elbows which seem to anchor him to the table.
“Mark, I can only do this if I don’t think about the other stuff. Do you understand?”
I can’t lift my eyes off the table, but I nod. I do nod.
“So” he says leaning back and taking a swig of his beer. “Do you think Liverpool will win?”
Now he has left, I feel hollow. I have served my time and I have done my therapy. I go to the groups. I am dealing with my addiction. I am working so hard. Today I am left wondering if it is worth it. What more can people ask of me? What more should I be asking myself?
The groups said it would take time. That it can take the people around you longer to understand your change, than it can take you to change. That there would be setbacks.
But they didn’t tell you about the loneliness. The loneliness in your journey and the loneliness in the inability to share your successes. People do not want to hear that. Well done, you are no longer doing something so wrong that you never should have even thought about in the first place.
But the difficulty with addiction is, it does offer friendship when no one else does. Ironic really. It has been your sanctuary in a shit world and now it is what you need sanctuary from.
And I could do with a friend right now. God I could. It would take nothing for me to pull out the camera packed under my bed, and put it in my rucksack. Nothing for me to leave my flat, turn left out of the drive and walk the short distance to the park. It would be the easiest thing in the world to sit on a bench and start to click. It is the only way I know to halt this despair, even for a moment.
But I won’t. This time I won’t. But no one will see that as a victory.
I open another beer and look towards the door.
© Amy Dollery 2016