WRITERS’ CORNER : WHERE I FIND SOLACE
27 April 2022
Where I regularly find solace is at meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, which even though I’m now 52 years sober (i.e. free of alcohol and other drugs), I still attend two or three times a week.
It is especially at my home AA group at South Sydney, where I am known as ‘Redfern Ross’, that I feel a sense of peace and serenity and usefulness. As I often say, ‘You don’t have to like me, but I’m a remarkable example of how AA can transform a person who was so damaged by addiction and shock therapy into a functioning human being and a highly-regarded historian and novelist.’
My darling wife of 43 years Lyndal Moor Fitzgerald, to whom my recent memoir, Fifty Years Sober: An Alcoholic’s Journey is dedicated, was 45 years sober when she died in January 2020.
Lyndal had nothing in her blood but blood since the day our mutual friend, Barry Humphries, introduced us. Lyndal’s AA nickname was ‘Adequate from Arncliffe’. This was because she regularly talked about striving, in her work, for adequacy, not for perfection. It was as a result of hearing this that I actually started writing.
When I was drinking and using, I thought that I was a writer but then I didn’t write a note to the milkman! Also, as a perfectionist, my rule pre-AA was ‘If at first you don’t succeed, stop.’
It was only after I was three years sober that I published my first book, a slim volume of poems, The Eyes of Angels. I’ve now authored or co-authored 43 books. And this is because I paid attention to the wise words of Adequate from Arncliffe.
It is not an accident that, in my eight Grafton Everest novels, many of which I’ve co-authored with Ian McFadyen, the bumbling anti-hero is a longtime sober alcoholic.
It is also no accident that Dr Professor Grafton Everest’s loyal, long-suffering wife Janet, who also does not drink alcohol, bears a striking resemblance to darling Lyndal, who encouraged me to work with Ian. As writing can be such a lonely business, I am grateful that our collaboration has proved so productive and enjoyable.
I agree with our nimble publisher, Louis de Vries of Hybrid Publishers in Melbourne, that the last two Grafton books, The Dizzying Heights and The Lowest Depths are the best.
Enter the code THURSDAYBOOKCLUB at the checkout for a 15% discount on The Lowest Depths by Ross Fitzgerald and Ian McFadyen at Abbey’s Bookshop.