Christmas? ‘Appy Bleedin’ Krismus!
‘Appy Bleedin Krismus
Here he goes again, I hear some groan. But Bobby has a mission. When someone you love dies too young from alcoholism there are those like Bobby who try to redress the balance with honesty. You may feel he is being disloyal to Diddley telling you her secrets. But, of course, they were not secrets but carried out in full view of her admiring audience. The audience that assumed she ‘liked a drink’ . Laughed their heads off at her antics. Her total disregard for other people horrified that a grown middle aged woman could carry on like that. Oblivious to the humiliation she heaped on her husband. And then bought her another drink despite her husband’s exhortations not to. Totally in control of her destiny, she maintained she lived in a fantasy world where alcohol was fine. But really she didn’t believe herself deep down inside but was unable (or unwilling) to try to even reduce her drinking. She told her Middlesbrough aunt that she had never been so happy in all her life. Couldn’t believe she had found someone to adore her like Bobby. And yet she knew she would die young. From drink. Like aunts from her family in the past. It was a family trait she maintained.
The psychology of alcoholic minds is not at issue this Christmas. What is, is the dreadful prospect of families and loved ones seeing another festive season disintegrate into drunken behaviour. Or merely their fear that this one will be just the same as those before. A time of survival, rather than a season of festive cheer and happiness. A season when an alcoholic has carte blanche to drink themselves under the table. A season when dependency upon alcohol goes beyond any kind of loyalty to their families or friends. When we see in stark reality that alcoholism is a horrible disease. One which can make their loved ones diseased themselves in trying to cope.
Only they can help themselves. Al-Anon members are sometimes invited to AA joint platforms where the meeting is run and mainly inhabited by members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Speakers tell their stories. At one Bobby went to recently, an Al-Anon guest speaker gave a calm but sad account of her life with her alcoholic husband. She was still married to him, but had detached herself with love from his problem and concentrated on her own life and happiness. When AA members later shared their hopes, some commented how, in their darkest hours, they never considered anyone else. Their families or friends. All they could think about was the next drink. Later, at a meeting like this, they were proud to have found sobriety through AA and had a virtual reverence for the Al-Anon speaker who reminded them how badly they had once treated everyone.
(The story above was written in total bliss. Sitting on a breakwater at Ferring on Sea, he was mesmerised by the rhythm of the tide sliding in and out over the shingle. Sunny, cold but mesmeric and highly conducive to creativity. A couple walked by unnoticed by him. Until they commented how relaxed he appeared. “You seem miles away” the lady said. “But the tide is coming in” said the man. “And it’s about to envelope your feet.”)
Each year, Al-Anon tries a public information initiative at Christmas. This year they have asked for member’s stories to publish on their website. Bobby thought maybe you would like to share his story and here it it is.
Christmas with Diddley: The Office Party.
“Dearest, Darling Diddley. I loved you beyond common sense. And still do.”
These were the words I spoke to a packed church at my wife’s funeral just over four years ago.
A congregation who, as one, remembered her for being one of the funniest people they had ever met. A congregation who were shocked to hear that someone so full of life could be dead at just 65.
We worked at the same office and ran into each other at the tea point, where all Civil Service life unfolds. Both divorced from childhood sweetheart marriages, where the other party had gone off with new partners.
We were made for each other. Everybody said so. Within a year, we were married. It was too wonderful for words – provided you excluded December and the dreaded office Christmas parties. Diddley had worked there a lot longer than I and had loads of friends and belonged to a socialising group called ‘Focus’.
One year, the Focus Group Christmas party was on our wedding anniversary at their favoured pub. I dreaded it. Twenty people, say. Diddley – the life and soul of the party. A wonderful bouquet of flowers was delivered to her by a local florist. Everyone clapped and cheered. She was so happy. The bouquet had come from me.
From past experience, I had an agreement with the group this time that when a certain stage of inebriation was reached, they would support me and take her to my car whatever her protests. The time came but, by now, I was the only sober one left. Instead of our agreement, they accused me of spoiling the party. Lighten up. Have fun. It’s Christmas. Diddley tried to stand, but slid to the floor and lay there. Swearing, to my humiliation. I stepped over her prostrate body and decided that I would remember what I had learned at Al-Anon and would not ‘enable’ her and told them she was their responsibility. And walked out, to shocked looks all round .
I walked to calm down and then drove home. It was a cold, frosty night. My house has a side entrance not visible from the road. And there she was dumped on the doorstep in her flimsy party clothes. Asleep. I dragged her into the warm downstairs room and covered her with a duvet and pillows and made sure she was warm.
The next morning, she walked into the bedroom and got into bed. “I am so sorry, Bobby. I ruined everything. I’ll never let you down again. What happened to those beautiful flowers?” … “In the pub skip” I replied. She was inconsolable. Eventually, of course, I told her they were in the garage.
I went to work and was asked by one lothario how she was. “DEAD, YOU CRETIN! I didn’t go home for ages and you left her on the doorstep to freeze to death.” Stunned, he said “That’s not true, I hope!” “If it was, you would be in court for your part in it. When will you understand? She is not a pxsshead like you. She is an ALCOHOLIC. She is ill.”
How did she get home? They were all drunk. My guess is a taxi, but I never asked. I was so angry with them and they knew it.
We never went to another office party. But now, years later, I am still friends with most of them. The funeral was the final confirmation. Dead at 65 from ‘end stage alcoholic liver disease.’
‘Appy bleeding Krismus’
So who are these alcoholics?
Maybe they are the tramp like character comatose on a park bench.
Maybe the young woman sitting on the ground in the rain outside the station with sunken eyes and an air of hopelessness.
Maybe the former leader of a major political party.
Maybe the famous comedian.
Maybe the former England football captain.
Maybe your mum. Your dad. Your brother. Your sister. Your Aunty. Your uncle. Your children.
And, just possibly, it could be the best friend you ever had. The one you tried so hard to help. And failed. The one you shared seventeen glorious years with. It wasn’t a failure, but a magnificent success that ended too early…
Lighting a Candle By Diddley. For Sarah. Her mother.
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