I am back home now after the end of two weeks of independence in Tottenham, and as expected, I’m quickly finding things to complain about. It’s not so much living here that’s the problem any more, it’s the actual state of the place which is really pissing me off. Our bathroom is in a diabolical state at the moment. Two weeks ago the council came out to remove the ceiling due to years of damage caused by leaking pipes in the flat upstairs, and a replacement ceiling has still not been put in. So all these ancient supporting wooden beams and electrical wires are showing, and a great big hole in the concrete where the water was coming through from upstairs is clearly visible. Bits of concrete and plaster are now falling down into the bath; that’s not to mention the state of the wall, which is cracked and mouldy from years of bad ventilation. Mum’s at her wits’ end about it and so am I. We’ve chased the council up, surveyors have come out to take pictures of the problem, and nothing is being done about it. If we had a spare £3,000 lying around of course we would pay someone to do the entire job tomorrow. But sadly we don’t have that kind of money lying around – if we did we wouldn’t be living in this shithole in the first place.
It’s been the cause of many arguments between my mother and I over the years. Until very recently I believed she was being unreasonable when she called up the council first thing in the morning to shout at them. Now I can understand why she feels the need to do that on a regular basis. What they need to do is strip everything out and put a new bathroom in. Everything in there is at least thirty years old, and the government’s standard for social housing states that bathrooms should be no more than twenty years old. But they won’t do the work. They’ll put it off until the very last moment when we are getting ready to take them to court, and of course by then both of us will probably have moved somewhere else. It’s a ridiculous and irritating stalemate situation. I guess the global recession hasn’t helped matters. Maybe the council doesn’t have the money to do any repairs that aren’t a matter of life and death. But that doesn’t help us very much. While our landlords procrastinate about this we have to put up with a crumbling bathroom ceiling and wall. The kitchen presents a whole set of other problems that I won’t go into detail about now.
It’s all part of yet another bunch of problems that I simply have to let go of. When I get the time this week I hope I will be able to calm myself down, pick up the phone and ask to speak to someone at the council offices who has decision-making power. Until then, I can’t afford to worry about it. There’s room for me to be angry at myself here, since I could and probably should have picked up the phone today, but I didn’t have the time because I’d managed to stay in bed until mid-afternoon. Getting angry with myself is another unhelpful action. I obviously wasn’t meant to get up early today.
To clear my mind this evening I went to a mixed meeting in Soho where half the crowd are straight and the other half are gay. It’s a good meeting, I’ve been there quite a few times now and I got my two year sobriety chip there a couple of weeks ago. Tonight’s chair was given by someone with a lot of sobriety, and as always with lots of sobriety, I enjoyed what I heard. They spent time talking about depression, and I really appreciated this part of the chair as the message was very clear: depression is a serious illness, just like alcoholism. By saying that I am a depressive as well as an alcoholic, I am not in any way diminishing my alcoholism or claiming the ability to drink safely. Like it or not, depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the western world and it tends to be comorbid with alcoholism. Although I love the Big Book, I think it contains a great big gaping hole where depression is concerned. I appreciate that depression probably wasn’t understood very well when the BB was written. I am not criticizing the authors of that book or the principles behind it. I am simply arguing for recognition of the complex, multi-layered nature of alcoholism. Depression is not worse than alcoholism and vice versa; neither illness is more important than the other.
The really confusing thing about depression, and the reason it took me so very long to accept that I had it, is that it comes and goes. Every single day is different. I do not feel the same from one day to the next. Sometimes I feel on top of the world. Other days I find it impossible to want to get out of bed. In recovery I have discovered the true nature of depression: it is a dreadful, debilitating, cruel and baffling thing. For weeks at a time I can believe that it’s gone for good and I’ve beaten it; then along it comes again to wallop me, and I feel like there’s a thick, suffocating blanket wrapped around my head for the next few weeks. Getting sober has not removed my partiality for depression nor has it made depression any more bearable when it decides to come along. What sobriety has given me is the clarity of mind to see what’s really wrong with me. It has enabled me to find out about the nature of the problem and it has given me a chance to deal with it. At the moment I don’t think I will ever be entirely free of depression, just as I don’t believe I’ll ever be cured of alcoholism. The surest thing in this life is that a drink would not make my problems even the slightest bit better. I might not die instantly after taking one drink, but that drink would represent one big step backwards into denial. I would have to start lying to myself again, and I don’t want to do that.