Twenty years without a drink... then they shut down AA: For recovering alcoholic Tanya Gold, stripped of her support group during lockdown, it became a battle to stay sober
Aged 46, I am happily married with a beautiful son. He is seven. I learnt I was pregnant on my honeymoon. I am more fortunate than I ever thought I would be; more fortunate than I deserve.
I spent lockdown in the farmhouse in west Cornwall I bought with my husband, Andrew, three years ago. As others struggled with tiny gardens and food shortages, we swam, cycled, did puzzles and read books. Food was plentiful. Neighbours were kindly.
But I could not rest or appreciate my good luck. I felt anxious and trapped. Sometimes I cried with fear at what might happen to everyone I love.
I did this because I am a recovering alcoholic and I could not go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), where I have gone for almost 15 years.
When Covid-19 shuttered the world, it also shuttered AA, which is a lifeline for alcoholics like me.
I have depended on its meetings in church halls and community centres more than I have realised. Four months into the pandemic, I wrote on social media: 'When will it open?' I wandered around like a ghost which, in a way, I am.
There is another me, you see, and she is not a fortunate mother. She is a monster: a drunk; an insane person.
I put her away a long time ago -- my very own mad woman in the attic of my mind -- but she will never really die. How can she, when she is part of me? She waits for me to feel weak and alone. Covid-19 was, for her, just another opportunity.
It is helpful for me to see alcoholism as a voice in my brain: me v. she. It doesn't matter that they are both me. It makes the enemy explicit; and it is more comforting to imagine only part of you is mad rather than all of you.
When I was young and the alcoholic voice began -- I was about 12, but much mental illness begins in adolescence -- I thought I was mad. I heard a voice that told me to despair; to trust no one.