The Girl in the Pink Baseball Cap

The Girl in the Pink Baseball Cap

Oct 19, 2022

A few years back, I was at one of my regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, an early morning version for those looking to start off the day sober and make it through to the evening in the same condition. The meeting in question was a ‘regular, local’ kind of thing, which isn’t to say everyone isn’t welcome — they are — but it did tend to fill up every morning with a familiar array of pretty weather-beaten faces. But one morning a new face appeared, and new faces, however welcome, tend to get noticed. This one certainly did. An attractive young woman who looked like she’d just walked out of a hyper-real version of Gianni Versace’s fantasy boudoir, walked a little nervously into the room, looked around and quietly took a seat. Dressed in an expensive looking pink tracksuit, with matching diamante baseball cap, made-up to the absolute nines with nails and lashes that looked like battlefield weaponry, she certainly didn’t fit the bill of the rheumy-eyed alcoholic. She didn’t have a diamond-studded toy Chihuahua with her, but she might as well have done.

As people sometimes do, particularly men, I immediately made a series of sexist, objectifying and, it quickly transpired, wholly incorrect assumptions about this person. Bit of a bimbo. Out of place. Walked into the wrong meeting. Not a ‘real’ addict. Absurd dress sense. Quite hot though etc.

An attractive young woman who looked like she’d just walked out of a hyper-real version of Gianni Versace’s boudoir

But as is the norm in AA meetings, ‘new’ people are often given a chance a share their stories if they wish and so it proved in this case. After a few regular members had spoken, the chairman of the meeting, turned to our new friend and asked politely if she’d like to say anything. Shifting a little uncomfortably in her chair, she started to speak and it became immediately apparent why we should, to use the oldest of clichés, never judge a book by its covers. Witty, eloquent, self-insightful and wise, she described her life as an addict in the highly desirable Gold Coast suburb of Main Beach.

A notionally attractive, manicured suburb of high-rise condos and expensive apartments, directly beachside, Main Beach and its ‘trendy’ high street Tedder Avenue is, to my mind, an utterly soulless zone of boutique shops, overpriced, mediocre restaurants and facelifts that afford those wearing them no chance of ever blinking again. Plastic rictus grins abound, perma-tans stay perma, and hybrid doggettes the size of large rats are lugged around in Gucci handbags. Essentially it’s my idea of Hell, but tastes vary of course, and the wealthy, at least, have a place to park their Lamborghinis.

The woman lived in the heart of Main Beach and was a regular at the ‘Tedder’ lunches where one must be seen, and that was where her problems began. Memorably describing the entire place as, ‘a hotbed of mental illness and addiction’, she went onto describe how her routine lunchtime cocktails with the ladies had turned into taking a bottle of wine home, drinking that as well, before heading back to the liquor store for some more, and then hopping into her presumably expensive car and driving merrily off to pick the kids up from school. This situation, as it does with alcoholism, became progressively worse, turning into a daily drunkfest of immense and morbid proportions, where she’d find herself drunk by 8am, therefore driving the kids to school drunk and picking them up in an even worse condition, with the middle portion of the day spent grimly at cocktails on Tedder, and all the rest of it.

She said that she wasn’t really into drugs, having found they didn’t really agree with her, but nonetheless she would spend weekend evenings at various trendy nightclubs in the Gold Coast, where she found herself confused, naively she admitted, by the sight of her friends constantly ‘going to the toilet’ a little too frequently. Further to that, standing outside the club for a smoke, she found that she couldn’t understand the constant, taxi-like parade of cars that would turn up outside the clubs. People, including many of her friends, would approach the cars, have a quick chat with the person inside, before the car accelerated off into the night, only to be quickly replaced by another, and then another and so on. Rather sweetly, she said it took her some weeks to realise that these were, of course, drug couriers — who operate efficiently on demand, like a Domino’s pizza delivery — dropping off the necessary to punters at the club. In the Gold Coast, ‘the necessary’ tends to be methamphetamine, or ‘ice’, a terrifying, rip-roaring ultra-stimulant, that turns its users into garble-minded, sex-crazed lunatics within a few seconds of ingestion, and can have — to put it mildly — seriously damaging short and long-term effects on your mental health. Our friend said she’d tried it a few times, but didn’t much care for being turned into an instant maniac, and preferred to drink herself into a paralytic stupor instead — to the disbelief of her meth-addled friends naturally, who couldn’t understand why she didn’t simply adore the kitchen sink love juice they were so hooked on.

It was, she conceded, time to get some help

All this came to a head, when she forgot to pick the kids up from school one time, was called by the school and had to rush there in an obviously unsuitable condition, to get them. Completely pissed, she didn’t remember getting them, the drive home, or many other details of the day. And with her ice-crazed friends now knocking on her door nightly inviting her to yet more excess it was, she conceded, time to get some help.

Throughout this talk, this intelligent and impressive person remained calm, reflective, funny (I’ve not done her wit any justice at all, but she made us laugh out loud a number of times), insightful and profoundly saddened by the chaos and self-harm that her drinking had brought into her and her children’s lives. ‘I’m an alcoholic’, she said, and my heart skipped a beat as it always does when people are brave and honest enough to say those words. Because this, despite what you may have done, is where recovery begins. A process of honesty, not least of all with yourself, reflection and then active work to drag yourself back from the destruction of addiction, to a new and better life.

After that, she was gone. I didn’t speak to her after the meeting, don’t remember her name and will most likely never see her again. And that’s exactly as it should be. But as with all addicts, she has my boundless goodwill and I dearly hope that she’s found the sobriety and serenity that, clearly, she so badly needed. And I think this is the point of this story. Approach each other, addict or not, with a bit more kindness and at least a stab at empathy, because you have no idea what’s happening to them. To look at the girl in the pink baseball cap, you might think that nothing could possibly be wrong in her world, that a perfect life of beauty, wealth, and privilege was simply and easily hers. And yet beneath the poised and polished surface roiled a world of emotional turmoil, sadness and profound loneliness.

Thinking of her now I’m put in mind of the words of my favourite poet, Philip Larkin, who said this:

We should be careful of each other, We should be kind, While there is still time.’

Nick Jordan

Image: Shutterstock/Ryan DeBerardinis

If you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, in the first instance contact Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

All the people in this story have been de-identified to such a degree as to completely maintain their anonymity.

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