It’s often only with hindsight that I recognize the moments my life changed. And so it was with the moment Graeme entered my life. It was a Friday afternoon in July 2000 and I was utterly beaten by addiction. That afternoon I truly believed my only option was suicide. My mind was shattered, my body ravaged, my spirit splintered. I did not know who I was. As a last act of desperation I called Lifeline.
In those days NA in Durban was not organized. There was no phoneline to call, no website to visit. But Lifeline gave me Graeme’s phone number. It took hours but with my Dad’s encouragement I finally spoke to Graeme.
Graeme did what we in 12 step fellowships are called to do; he carried a message of hope to me, the desperate addict. When he spoke he was speaking my story. He was the first person to give me hope; the first person I believed when he said there was a way out. He was the first person I called when I got out of rehab, and the first person I met at a meeting.
During my first couple of years, Graeme listened to my bullshit, told me it was bullshit, and gave me suggestions for a different perspective. He never told me to go away when I relapsed and he never shamed me. He reminded me that “this too shall pass”.
The impact of Graeme’s answering my phone call has been huge, not only in my life. He demonstrated for me the power of sharing our experience, strength and hope, and nothing more than that. The only things that mattered were “do you want to change?” and the program is the solution. His one small act led me to 7 years of phoneline service where I had the privilege of doing for others what had been so freely done for me.
Graeme, you will be missed. You will forever be part of my story, with gratitude and humility.
We could go back to the start,
to tentative touches and expectant kisses;
tummy butterflies and shy glances.
We could go back to a time
when there was nothing in existence but our burning fire
incinerating the world around us;
the time when there was only you
and only me.
We could go back to the start.
But I’d still be me.
And you’d still be you.
Our lonelinesses colliding
– a cacophonous distraction.
I’d like to go swimming with you –
diving under crashing waves
the salty ocean tingling our skin
floating and drifting quietly on the swell.
I’d like to drink tea with you –
quiet earnest conversation about who we are
gentle chamomile smoothing the pathways between us
raucous laughter and trips down memory lane, bold mint and tart hibiscus
fuelling our non-stop chatter.
I’d like to tend a garden with you –
our hands nurturing life, the sun on our backs
dirt under our nails
insects buzzing their gossipy secrets between us
flowers and herbs serenading us with their scents.
Even though I hate gardening, I’d like to tend a garden with you.
I think a lot about dying.
And I think a lot about how we’re not supposed to think about dying. Why is it that death and dying are taboo in our society? Why are we so scared to even give voice to that sometimes fleeting thought of desiring a permanent way out? I stay silent because I don’t want to be judged. I don’t want to be moralized or cajoled into an ‘attitude of gratitude’. I want to be allowed to feel what I feel. I want to be allowed to examine my thinking. But mostly I don’t say anything because I don’t want people to worry. I’m not suicidal. But I do think a lot about dying.
This is not how I imagined our ending
This is not the culmination of our honest conversation
This is not the gentle and patient way we have grown
This is not respect
This is not integrity
This is not the friendship we have pieced together over the years
This is absence
love your body as a lover loves your body
the delicious curve of your waist;
dipping before embracing the succulence of your hips,
hips that sway sensually with the rhythm of you
trace your finger along the history
of your stretchmarks.
they tell a story of motherhood and creation –
heartbreak and joy; of you becoming more.
Monday 7th March 2016, 9-something pm
“Mom, I’ve taken a bunch of pills.”
Shame seeps out from the soles of my feet
Leaving messy footprints in my wake
I wipe my bare feet on the mat of confession
I scrape them raw, desperate for wholeness
They look clean
But there’s always a layer of residue
Small specks ingrained in the whorls of my footprints
I carry them where I go
I wash my hands in the waters of forgiveness
Still they are grey with grimy sludge
When I touch you my handprints remain
The oils of my fingerprints have stained my spirit
There is no escape
I dry my body under the summer sun
Scorch this shame from my skin
Unburrow it from my heart
Make me clean
Make me clean
Make me clean
I take tentative steps from the house of grace
Gentle rain soothes my hot and heavy limbs
My lifted face is cooled and
I am being washed
Leave your shame at the doorstep
You don’t need it anymore
April 2000. I suspect that I might have a drug problem.
I seem to have lost my tenuous grip on reality. I don’t know when this happened but I’m suddenly aware that I feel desperate and anxious quite often. I can’t see anything beyond my obsession to use. I think about drugs and using. All. The. Time.
I am 30 years old, the mother of a 2 year old, 4 years in recovery from drug addiction, and about 35kg overweight. I am a whole child overweight. I don’t know much about treating myself with love and respect and dignity.
If you can look past my weight, my life seems pretty together. I live in a nice, recently renovated flat. I’ve held down a steady job for 2 years. I have a brand new car. I hate the car but it’s my first brand new car, I’m paying for it, and it’s what I can afford. It’s a family car. Okay, maybe look past my car too. I have family close by, amazing friends, and I don’t use drugs or drink alcohol anymore. These three things are miraculous.