A long time ago in Bethnal Green, I thought it was the end for me. I was in a cafe alone with friends, laughing and joking, them not me, unaware of my impending doom.
I stared into my coffee and willed my stomach to return to the middle of my body. It paid no attention and continued to bounce slow and sickening between the back of my head and the back of my throat.
I excused myself to the bathroom. I thought the change of scenery might do me some good. If the bathroom floor had been a fraction cleaner I would have curled up and spent a couple of happy horizontal hours waiting for the waves to pass. Instead, I splashed cold water on my face, braced my hands on the sink, and made hollow oaths to myself that I would never drink again.
I never smoked until I was twenty-eight but once I started I made up for lost time. I went from 0 to 40 a day in the space of a month and I chugged away like that for 2 years. After the fifth bought of bronchitis, I thought I’d better stop only to realise I couldn’t. ‘So this is what addiction feels like.’ I made a few more attempts to quit with no luck. In the end, I ambushed myself on a 7-day personal development retreat. The ground rules were no talking, no drinking, no sex, no smoking and you had to run a mile every day.
I did all the above and took the opportunity to run a mile from cigarettes and never looked back.
The last horror movie I ever saw was Nightmare on Elm Street in 1986. I watched it on my new video cassette player in my first ever flat and felt very cool and adult. I can still remember the nightmare I had that night and how it went on and on regardless of how many times I woke up screaming, the dark presence in the room, and praying for the morning light to return.
I consider myself a slow learner. I bang my head against the wall many times before I realise it hurts. The Taoist perspective is kinder.
“The sage uses errors to attain mastery, embraces ignorance to acquire knowledge, cultivates confusion to reach understanding, courts foolishness to find wisdom.”