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Archive for the ‘Neighbours’ Category

I work on Tuesdays. Proper work. Paid work. I drive out of Thin City and into the Former Industrial Area (FIA) to an office and write. It’s not great stuff. It’s for some free local magazines. The people are nice and it’s good to get out of the house.

I remember reading a couple of accounts of heroin use which chimed very much with me. (I can’t for the life of me remember who wrote these accounts, but I’m pretty sure they were musicians). The gist of it both of these stories was that heroin use is a full-time job – you get up and spend all your day trying to get your hands on heroin (or, if you’re not a rock star the money to buy heroin) then you take it, the next day you do the same – and repeat.

I like routine. And alcohol helps me have a routine. It’s not a good or healthy routine (it’s got a hell of a lot better since Sunday) but it’s a routine.

I’ve gone over what the bad routine was and it’s very similar to the heroin routine – sleep, drink, smoke, sleep.

Yesterday as I drove towards the FIA, I followed – of course – my usual routine. Out of Electric Street, down White Street and onto Mud City Road and then call it at the nearest petrol station to buy fuel if necessary and cigarettes. As I pulled into the forecourt yesterday I had a shock. The pumps were all behind wire and the place was being dug up.

The shock to the system was quite severe. I cling to routines and habits desperately and any change causes real unease. I drive the wrong way to the FIA; Exact has been telling me for months that there’s a much quicker, easier way to get there, but I can’t quite manage the change in routine that would cause – where would I stop to buy cigarettes? What if I get lost? What if the traffic’s bad going that way? What if aliens land in Dodge (aigthoo) and set up some sort of checkpoint. What if… What if…

Mag rang me at work yesterday. The Shinei are moving. They will be gone in two to three weeks. The landlady is selling the house. This should – this is – unalloyed good news.

But.

What if lunatics move in next door? What if the Ku Klux Klan set up a training camp next door? What if squatters get in in the meantime and start to stage Thin City’s biggest free raves? What if it’s bought by a charity for rehousing owners of dangerously loud birds of prey?

Change ahoy. Danger ahoy.

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Last night, as I sat going through my allotted three bottles of Guinness, Mag came up with a piece of paper in her hand.

“I’ve written a letter to the neighbours,” she said.

Said letter asks them to stop their ****ing ****ing *******ft of a dog from fouling our garden. It was reasonable and polite but we both decided we would sleep on it.

It’s rubbish to live in fear and feel weak all the time. (One of my plans for sobriety is to take up some sort of martial art – I think it will be good for my brain as well as my body.) Today there is another pile of dog mess in the garden and I came downstairs to catch the dog just outside our back door having a good wee. I screamed at him to get out, hopefully loud enough for the neighbours to hear.

I’m sick of them.

I’m scared of them.

I had to try to explain to Alison at the addictions team why I was scared of three children under 10 yesterday. I don’t think I did a very good job.

Today, after my scream, I told Mag, “I’ll go round and have a word.” I suspect I won’t. But it was good to feel some righteous anger rather than just fear. I’m much more frightened of the children than I am of the parents.

One of my two ‘bad mantras’ concerns the neighbours. The other concerns my ex Lupe and starts off with ‘you ****ing lying bitch’ and doesn’t get better from there. These two – there are others, but these are the main two – occupy my mind every morning. I force myself to og through them. The one about the neighbours is a fantasy of revenge, of anonymous reports to social services and the police, or citizens committees. The one about the ex is about revenge, or writing the truth to the man she left me for. I discussed these with Elle, my now no-longer counsellor, and she suggested the idea of writing them down and burning them. That might not be such a bad idea.

Then again, I could form a citizens committee and start reporting their stupid dog to the police.

Will I go round and ‘have a word’? Sober? That’s going to be tough. We shall see.

 

 

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The little girls next door scared the life out of me this morning. I wish I could lose this fear, I really do. They have their cousins staying, a veritable heard of noisy children.

This morning, as we sat in the kitchen drinking tea, eating toast and smoking fags, they started leaning over the wall. Their yard is a bare patch of concrete and they are fascinated by Mag’s garden. When the dog – as he inevitably does – came over the wall, chasing a ball one of them had thrown over the wall of course, Mag ran out to shout him home. Soon she was answering questions about plants, about the little pile of rocks she has: “What’s that? Can we have, can we have, can we have?” She cut them some flowers and even found themĀ  jam jars to put them in.

By the time she came back to the kitchen, I was shaking with nerves. Just the sound of their voices puts me in a dreadful state. “We’re lucky that they like us,” she said. That’s true, I suppose. They did have a falling out with an elderly lady over the road who told them to be quiet, or get away from her car or something, and started a campaign of, what? Mild abuse, I suppose. They started to sing extremely loudly outside her door. The lady is dead now. It would be stupid to link the two, but they certainly did their best to annoy the hell out her.

I suppose I’m scared of them because I’m aware that it’s Mag they really like and I’m so brittle – or rather my carapace is so brittle – and so thin-skinned that I can’t bear the thought of them shouting something horrible to me. I know they’re desperate to get over the wall and play in the garden and look more closely at everything and I’m of the belief that my head will explode if they do that while I’m here alone and I’m put in a position where I have to tell them off. What if they hate me? What if they tell me to sod off? Off my mind goes racing. The answer to those questions is that I think I will in someway be destroyed. Which is silly.

I’ve done a bit of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in my time and know that I must try to be realistic about threats like this, but knowing and actually believing are very different. When Amy Winehouse died, I heard some talking head psychologist discussing her, a massive ego and very low self-esteem was the diagnosis. That’s true for me. I can’t bear the thought of people not liking me – it’s why I’ve so assiduously cultivated, at the very least, nodding acquaintances with everyone in The Spread. Children are a different ball game all together, they’re much harder to gauge, you can’t reason with them and make them like you.

How I deal with this fear is the biggest challenge of going sober. It’s what I fear most.

 

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So, late last week I took the walk down White Street onto Mud City Road and to the local addictions team.

A familiar walk.

You see, for a year recently I was abstinent and I attended an antabuse clinic there, swallowing the little tablets that make alcohol a much more unpleasant poison than it already is.

Then I stopped taking them. Then I went out for a drink with some of my Spread Head friends. Then, it’s two years later and I’m back again asking for help.

Oh well. Looking forward rather than back is probably better. Guilt never helped anyone overcome an addiction, I’m pretty sure of that. (I shall no doubt go on about guilt a hell of a lot more over the course of this here blog).

So back I went. The first appointment was just a pre-assessment. Familiar questions about substance use. Familiar answers.

The familiar – but none the less welcome – injunction, ‘don’t stop drinking’. Now, I know how unpleasant alcohol withdrawal can be, I’ve been through the early stages of very bad withdrawals and it’s terrifying, I really thought I would die and, indeed, that’s why they tell you not to stop (verbatim: “If you feel like you need a drink, have one.”) because you can die.

The truth is though that I’m absolutely terrified of sobriety. There’s a part of me that remembers how much better I felt when I was sober. And another part of me that remembers how I struggled with fear, with concentration, with depression, when I was sober.

I surprised myself a little though by saying that I was addicted to cannabis too. I’m not physically addicted, but it’s another compulsion. One I’m able to put aside when Mag is home. One I immediately leap back into when she’s gone.

I have given blood, I have given urine. I have slightly high blood pressure – nothing to worry about they assured me – and I am due back there in a couple of weeks for an assessment which will be much more in-depth.

I’m trying to cut down a little. And, I have. I’m on about the equivalent of four or five pints a day at the moment, enough to see off the shivers and the shakes and send me to sleep. Mag goes away again on Monday though and I’m in danger of bingeing then. Why, do I say ‘in danger’? It’s surely something in my control and I could decide not too. I know myself though. I know the call of The Spread, the fear because the Shinei kids will be on holiday.

That’s where we’re at.

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When I first signed up for this blog – which was quite a long time before I actually started writing it – I decided to put something about ‘inner city Britain’ in the title.

While it’s true that I do live in the inner city, our area of Thin City, the Edens, is, if truth be told, not at all bad – it’s certainly nothing like the Ill Manors of which the estimable Mr B speaks above. But paranoia’s a fine thing, obsession’s a fine thing, perspective is a distant thing.

Thin City has its problems, like most British cities. My friend and erstwhile business partner Desdi, lives in Dodge (as in get the hell out of), and there you will find much worse problems than here.I avoid the place as far as I can.

Here, it’s just a case of a large number of people who don’t really give much of a flying monkey’s about much.

Yeah, there are kids – who Mr B and others would label as Chavs – who have an attitude.

If I take a look at Electric Street though there is only one house that causes me problems: next door where the Shinei live (a prize of my ever-lasting admiration if you can work out what that’s a contraction of).

My fear of them is out of all proportion to the threat they pose – a mother, a father and three little kids, all aged under 10. The father is undoubtedly involved in some sort of criminality; the police pop round every once in a while. But it’s the kids who scare the living bejesus out of me. They stay up till gone midnight, they play (shock horror!) noisily in the street or their back garden, they’re cheeky and naughty, they bounce off the walls till the early hours. When I say noisily I mean incredibly noisily: I’m no childcare expert, but I have come to the conclusion that if you communicate with your children primarily by shouting your children will communicate primarily by shouting. And, there’s an edge of something not good to the way they communicate with each other. They have a dog which has taken on their ways of doing things too. There used to be a lovely big fence between our backgardens: they took it down, in the middle of the night of course. Now, the dog is a regular visitor to ours and other neighbours gardens.

Perhaps my chief problem with them is that they know no fear and because I know only fear that freaks me out. I’ve gone over and over this with Elle, my counsellor… the roots are undoubtedly in my own childhood. I wasn’t bullied, but rather lived in fear of being bullied, the whole time. If there is one over-riding psychological trigger for my drinking it has always been fear – I’ve been on (and am on) antidepressants and antianxiety medication, but no pharmaceutical company has ever managed to make anything so good and so effective as Guinness. In fact, my drinking is actually timed to coincide with their presence – I tend to start when they come home from school, or at weekends seek out the solace and safety of The Spread much earlier.

Living without fear is going to be the biggest challenge of my recovery.

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