I can

Like everyone else I was horrified by what happened this week. Manchester is a city I’ve always been fond of. A couple of years ago I was seriously considering living there. I hate that it has been touched by such terror, in what seemed such a safe place. I feel I ought to be careful about what I say next; but as soon as I heard the news on Tuesday morning, I wasn’t shocked – not as much as I was saddened and angry. The world today is increasingly prepared for these things to happen, so before Monday I guess I was wondering, where next? Given how much the Manchester attack seems to mirror the plot of Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, I could well believe this kind of thing would occur at some point.

Before the attacker was identified I was really hoping they wouldn’t turn out to be of a certain background; as soon as they were identified as someone from a certain background, I could foresee the reaction of the media, as it is the reaction we always get now. It gets so tiring after a while. According to our most vocal news outlets, it is the religion’s fault, or it is the fault of all the refugees coming here; there is no specific motive that needs to be investigated, it is just another sign that liberal society’s tolerance has gone too far. What incensed me almost as much as the attack itself was the front page I saw today on two newspapers, both proclaiming in hysterical tones how “they” have started targeting children. They being terrorists of any description, those foreigners who come here solely to blow us up. It seems these newspapers have forgotten about Nice and Paris 2015, where children were also killed in great numbers.

What happened this week was devastating and evil, but to my mind what makes it even more depressing is the competition you get between outlets to appear the most horrified, to use the strongest and most stirring adjectives (“sick”, “disgusting”, “monstrous”). Being forced to listen to the news when I’m at home makes it hard to escape the feeling that the media’s vitriol has infected the air, so that the next incident won’t come as any surprise at all. Let’s face it, this is going to happen again, and again, until something in the world changes. A really depressing thought that may be, yet I can’t deny what I’m seeing. Things are either getting worse or they’re as bad as they’ve ever been; they’re certainly not getting better.

*

I’ve slept badly every night this week. I don’t know why, I just keep waking up three or four times a night, and it takes hours to get back to sleep. People have suggested all sorts of things, such as drinking camomile tea, switching a light on and reading until I get drowsy again; even getting out of bed and starting the day, regardless of what time it is. Such suggestions don’t take into account the fact that doing anything to stimulate the mind makes it twice as hard to return to the peaceful land of sleep. Drinking tea and reading are activities that stimulate the mind, so I don’t do them because the last thing I need at 3 in the morning is an even more active mind. All I can do is lie there in the dark and wait.

A strange and slightly disturbing development in this sleepless saga is the new uncontrollable tendency I have to make loud groaning noises as I’m falling asleep. I’m lying there, drifting off when suddenly a high pitched snarl or growl comes out of nowhere. I wake up and realise that I made the noise. How embarrassing. I’ve read up on this quirky disorder and apparently it’s called catathrenia. I’ve never experienced it before, but now it seems to happen every night. Apparently it can result from stress and anxiety, and is more common in people who regularly partake in activities where they have to hold their breath, such as swimming. The noise results from the breath being held for too long whilst dozing. For some reason the onset of unconsciousness is causing me to hold my breath for short periods. If I delve into this a bit I know I have long had trouble controlling my breath when I’m swimming; I’ve never figured out a comfortable way of swimming at length without having to constantly slow down to take in breaths. Somehow this is linking to the general underlying anxiety in my life, which links to trouble getting to sleep.

I know I’ve had problems sleeping all my life, so this new and slightly weird problem falls into a wider issue that isn’t new at all. I’ll have to get used to it. There do tend to be times where I’m sleeping better and times where it’s worse; phases that go in cycles which I haven’t identified yet. In a week or so I’ll probably be sleeping normally again, until the next turn of the cycle.

*

I made up with mum quickly on Monday, as I couldn’t take the feeling that I had done wrong any more. Although her outburst at the Labour canvassers would never be acceptable in any circumstances, my cold shoulder treatment was not acceptable either, and I was reminded of step four, and keeping my side of the street clean. I apologised as soon as I got back from work and immediately felt better. Perhaps it wouldn’t be a stretch to surmise that my disturbed sleep this week has resulted from the unnerving stress of the falling out. Even as circumstances improve and I start to experience normal moods in the day again, the old underlying sensitivity to anything potentially wrong is there. Anxiety sits deep in me, embedded in my soul. To soothe it I must take my time, be patient, meditate every day, be kind to myself. This is a journey of years.

*

My home group elected a new secretary last night, and that secretary is me! I was preparing for the “election” all week, knowing I couldn’t back out as half the group were expecting me to go for it. One other person was up for the role, another regular member that I like and respect, and it was rather nerve racking as we had to pitch ourselves to the group. I gave my length of sobriety and brief reasons why I want to be the secretary. I love the group, I’ve been going for nearly ten years; there was nothing else to say. Pitches done, us nominees had to go out of the room while the group voted. In our moments of anticipation in the hallway we talked about other things, anything unrelated to what we were doing there. After a while someone came to fetch us and we were told the result.

My approval seeking side immediately thought “they like me!”, and then I wanted to know how many people voted for me, but of course it would have been inappropriate to ask, so I’ll never find out. I especially wanted to know whom the members of the group that I don’t get on with voted for. There are three people that go to the meeting regularly that I would say I don’t get on with. I’ve never fallen out with them or had any kind of incident, I just don’t know them, and they’ve never appeared to be interested me. Extrapolating from lack of interest the idea that they don’t like me might be a leap too far, but with some people you get a vibe, and I definitely get this vibe with these people.

Whether they voted for the other candidate or for me, it shouldn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Serving as the meeting’s secretary for a year is going to be very good for me. Already at the end of the meeting I had two new phone numbers from other people on the committee, which indicates that I’ve moved another step closer to the heart of things. My journey back to the middle of the AA bed is virtually complete. Being endorsed by the group is a good confidence booster, and I was on top form as some of us left to go for fellowship at the nearby chip shop. I was laughing and smiling and chatting almost as if it was natural. The fact that I’m now tied to the meeting for another year makes me only slightly apprehensive, as does the idea of having to ask people to do chairs for me. I haven’t forgotten the last time I was secretary of a meeting, when the stress of it drove me out of the gay meetings.

That was a long time ago, I’ve worked hard to come back from the wilderness that event left me in, and this is a very special meeting. Even if I don’t get along with everyone there, it will go well as long as I do what I’m capable of doing, which is committing myself to it fully. The doubts will always swim around at the back of my mind – Does he hate me? Am I out of my depth here? Am I picking the wrong people to do chairs? – as they do in every situation. I end many journal entries on a deliberately positive note and so I’m ending this one on a positive note: I can do this.

Way too far

If you’d call N’s behaviour with P slightly out of turn, then my mother’s behaviour is diabolical. I hate what this election is doing to the country, I really do. As part of the normal election process we had some canvassers round today trying to drum up support for the opposition party. As soon as I saw them outside I was hoping my mother wouldn’t answer the door to them. She hisses every time the opposition leader is on the TV – what was she going to say to them? Even I couldn’t predict how bad it would be.

This is going to be hard to write about. I love my mother dearly, anyone who knows me knows how true that is. But sometimes she does my fucking head in. What a nice English expression that is. Her behaviour is sometimes so unbearable it’s like having my skull crushed in: it breaks my heart. As soon as the canvassers knocked on the door she opened it and launched into a violent rant at them, calling them names, asking them how they dare bother her with their filthy socialist policies. How dare they do their job? How dare they try and encourage democratic debate? How dare they support a different party to her?!

I was dreading the abuse becoming racist, because that’s what seems to happen with ill informed Tory supporters these days, but fortunately (if you can call anything about the situation fortunate) she just stuck to childish playground insults like “moron!” They quickly wished her a good day and walked away, probably wishing they’d never got up this morning.

Having seen them off, mum slammed the door and got on with her day as if nothing had happened. I didn’t want to be anywhere near her for fear of what I would do, but I had to go in the kitchen to make lunch as I had been waiting for the past ten minutes while she screamed on the doorstep. “I’m sorry about that, but these people really get to me…by the way, I saw a lovely wardrobe in the shop across the road yesterday.” My wardrobe has been on its last legs for a while and we had agreed that I would need a new one soon. To bring it up now, of all the times she could have done it, made me rage. I couldn’t talk to her about wardrobes at that point, or anything, I just needed to get away from her. I quietly made my sandwich, walked back to my bedroom and closed the door, ignoring her completely. I was livid.

I wanted to ask her if she believed that Theresa May would be any better placed to solve her problems than Jeremy Corbyn. I wanted to remind her of what the Conservatives have been doing the past year, ruining the country’s prospects of getting any kind of deal with the EU so that they can feel high and mighty about themselves. I wanted to ask whether she really thinks that the multi-millionaires in the cabinet care about her and people like her. I wanted to yell in her face that thanks to her government, I will never get a mortgage, I’ll have to pay ever increasing rents for the rest of my life, I’ll probably have to work into my seventies, and I probably won’t get a state pension when I retire.

I can understand why working class people like my mother feel angry at the world, why they may feel the need to explode it all out sometimes. I can’t understand how we’ve gotten to a position where the blame is being laid at the kind of politicians who want to do something about it. The left have somehow taken the place of the right as the villains of the piece. So now it’s the left’s fault for the social care crisis, it’s the left’s fault for rising inequality, stagnant wages, inflation and declining opportunities. If I didn’t live with someone who had bought into this warped way of seeing things I wouldn’t find it so painful to think about. I probably wouldn’t be so fucking angry. But I do live with someone who will happily tell the world that they think Jeremy Corbyn is a loser. Someone who thinks it’s ok to humiliate a pair of young kids on the doorstep because they’re trying to make a difference.

I was supposed to be writing an essay today, but there was no way I could just close my bedroom door and concentrate. The only place I could think to go was to the college library, where by some miracle I managed to finish it within two hours. I wouldn’t have gone to the library today if it hadn’t been for mother’s outburst, I was planning to stay in all day until the work was done. It turns out the library is a great place for concentration, so if there’s any positive to come out of today it’s that. Not that I’m feeling positive at the moment.

When I’d finished the essay it was still the middle of the day, and I wouldn’t feel ready to go home for hours. I decided to go for one of my long London walks. The weather was nice and I ended up in Greenwich Park, taking pictures from the top of the hill where the views are spectacular. I had good music on my phone and I began to feel better.

Evening came and I’d have to go home. Many possible conversations went through my head on the train; none of them would have been worth having. I can’t change my mother. I could tell her that her behaviour was inappropriate, that part of living in a democracy involves respecting others’ views. But she would only do it again on another occasion. She used to have many irrational outbursts when I was younger, over all sorts of things I can no longer remember, it seems to be a part of her make up. I told her so many times that it had to stop, tried so often to reason with her and get her to see things from an adult perspective, but she never would. The heartbreaking thing in all of this is that she doesn’t seem to have the capacity to be reasonable, at all.

So I’ve returned to my room and closed the door, saying a quick, awkward “hello” to her in the hallway. It’s just like one of the many evenings we had when I was a teenager, after we’d had one of our fights and I’d stormed off to my room in a huff, furious with her for not understanding me. The atmosphere will stay for a day or two, and then she’ll apologise without really knowing why she’s apologising, and then we’ll be back to normal. “Normal”. Until the next time.

The outbursts aren’t frequent at all now, not like they were fifteen or twenty years ago. Thank God. That doesn’t make today’s incident any less disturbing though. I still can’t quite believe it happened. All through the day I’ve wanted to run to her and say sorry for ignoring her in the kitchen, because there’s the part of me that desperately needs to keep her love, alongside the part that wants to teach her a lesson. My inner child needs her love and approval more than anything, and in that inner child there’s incandescent rage over the fact that it has to be this way. I could never tell her how I felt as a child because there was never any point, and there still isn’t. It’s enough to make anyone want to tear their hair out.

We learned about Johari’s Window in counselling class yesterday. According to the theory we all have a known part (things that everyone knows about us), a hidden part (things that only we know), a blind part (things that others know while we don’t), and an unknown part (things about us that no one knows, not even us). Things that have been in the hidden parts of us can come to the surface and become known through disclosure and sudden insights. In counselling, the counsellor usually aims to bring things out of the hidden self. What’s in my hidden self? That anger I was talking about, for sure; and that heartache. My mother will never know that I had to get out of the flat today and go for a massive walk because I couldn’t bear to be stuck here with her, it will always be hidden. I can talk about it to friends, to my therapist; but I can never share anything with the most important person in my life. I may as well be a teenager again, hiding the important facts in my life such as my sexuality in case it upset her. A 34 year old teenager, stuck inside my room, hidden and invisible.

Too far?

Sleep deprivation can lead to a frosty countenance. I’ve been going through one of those phases this week, those inexplicable phases where I can’t get a single night of solid unbroken sleep, and I haven’t been feeling the love towards my fellow man all that much. I had arranged to meet P last night to go for dinner and then see a show at the theatre. I don’t like to use the word ‘should’ when it comes to my feelings any more, but I think a night at the theatre should be something to look forward to. I thought I would feel good about about it because the play we were going to see had had good reviews, it starred some A list actors and, many years ago, I decided that going to the theatre was one of the gifts of sobriety. But I was having one of those phases where I was sleeping badly, I felt a tad frosty on the way out of the door and I had to force a smile throughout the evening. I wouldn’t say I was in a terrible mood, not at all; I was ok, really. Talking wasn’t a tremendous effort, I could sort of enjoy the play once it got going, and I didn’t experience the sort of crash on the way home that normally occurs when I’ve been in a really awful mood and I start to feel guilty about it. It was quite an average evening, with a little frostiness at the beginning. Only it should have been wonderful, I think.

P wanted to talk about his recent falling out with N, the falling out we’ve all been waiting for for years. Since I’ve not been on facebook for the past month, I didn’t notice that P had posted a right leaning political article which caused N to blow a fuse. There were several harsh words posted publicly as comments on the article, then there were some even harsher private messages. For about the past year I’ve been wondering when it would finally happen, when one of them would say or do something to make the other’s polite facade slip. They’ve hated each other for years, let’s face it, they’ve never agreed when it comes to politics and they’ve never been the kind of people who can just let that lie. So after sending several harsh messages to P, N found himself unfriended, to which he replied with a few dramatic text messages last week. P had had enough by this point and stopped engaging with him. It was getting a bit much.

“I may support the government but it doesn’t mean I’m a money grabbing capitalist! I have a social conscience too! I believe the NHS is worth saving!” P sputtered incandescently, seemingly confused by N’s vociferous anger. Now, at this point I could have stopped biting my lip and said a few things I’d been dying to say for the past eighteen months, things that concerned his undying support for the government. I could have really let rip, because despite all the work I’ve done in the past year to accept him for how he is, his voting habits have never stopped bugging me. I don’t want to ‘divorce’ him any more, because I don’t currently think it’s worth killing a friendship of twelve years over politics (I didn’t feel that way last year, believe me, especially around the time of the referendum!), but I haven’t miraculously found a way of liking his beliefs. I will probably always struggle to accept the incongruence between what he says and what he does in this matter – the fact that he claims to care about society whilst continuing to support the government that is destroying it.

I could have said all the things I was thinking and hurt his feelings quite badly, but I didn’t. I just couldn’t be bothered to cause a confrontation. For most of last year I desperately wanted to confront him, to make him stop and really think for a goddamn minute. I’ve never said anything because the right moment never seems to come, and I’ve been putting up with it for so long the urge to smash our friendship gets less urgent by the day. I become more resigned to putting up with it by the day, simply because it’s easier, and somewhere in me I must value such a long term friendship. Watching his friendship with N implode this week is uncomfortable considering just how close I came to doing the same thing last year. Yet despite how much closer I am to N in terms of my political views, I see that the way he’s done it is wrong. It seems he’s deliberately set out to upset P, and that doesn’t seem right to me. P isn’t a bad person, he’d never do that to a friend. I think, at the end of the day, if N wanted to have it out with P he could have been a bit more grown up (and private) about it.

Session 3

I love being in therapy. The nature of the conversations we have is sometimes unpleasant, and painful, and unceasingly dark, but still I come away from each session amazed at what we’ve covered. In three weeks I have managed to explain my life story to this person who I’ve never met before, and I’ve got him to understand what I’m saying. That must be down to his training, but it feels like a very positive thing quand même. Today’s discussion went deeper than the last; I guess next week it will go even deeper. I talked about the feeling of being trapped in a glass bubble, that strong sensation of being separate from everyone in the world that occurs when life is getting too much for me. I sort of already knew it was a feeling I first experienced at school, and when it happens to me now I’m regressing to that part of the past, I’m not really my adult self in those moments. I also sort of knew that I can draw myself there, and that I use the bubble for protection sometimes, it’s not just some external factor that traps me against my will. I had never said these things before, to anyone, and I’m discovering that saying something out loud is qualitatively different to writing it down. Until now the only place I was expressing these things was on my laptop.

We explored the link between the bubble and my inability to form romantic relationships, my constant use of porn and fantasy to shelter myself from my lonely reality. Through the discussion the therapist kept asking me how it felt to talk about it. I couldn’t just say what I was thinking, I needed to delve into my soul and name the feelings as well. My therapist seems acutely attuned to the two conflicting parts of my personality, the adult and the child. He knows that my adult side is the one doing all the rationalising and analysing, trying to find the logical answers to things, while my child side is the one still living in the 90’s, experiencing the constant powerful tug of emotions such as fear, anger and lust. The therapist seems keen to keep pushing me there, gently of course, to find out what the child thinks about things and how it sees the world. Normally I wouldn’t like to ask my inner child’s opinion on anything, because somewhere along the line I’ve learned that it can’t be rational about anything and therefore it can’t serve me any purpose. Today I’m starting to give the child some airtime because my therapist wants me to.

The fifty minutes zoomed past today, so that we had to end just as I was experiencing a surge of anger and felt myself close to tears. My child side is still angry about the trauma it suffered twenty years ago; furious that I was cast aside at school for being gay and left with no one to talk to, made to feel it was my fault. I thought about the paragraph in my autobiography where I imagine being at school, turning around to the bullies who are castigating my sexuality and saying “So? So what if I’m gay?” I would never have had the self belief to do such a thing at school, and I still wouldn’t.

I left the session with the conundrum of self belief on my mind. To get better, to be able to do the things that scare me in life (such as getting a boyfriend) I need some element of self belief in me – but where do I get it from? In AA we learn about higher powers, and letting go, and taking care of ourselves, and that’s all wonderful. Yet this doesn’t answer the question deep down in the core of me, the question of whether I’m really worth loving.

Lots more work to do.

Session 2

I had that dream the other night, the one where I’m told I have to go back to school, to complete some mysterious task that I failed to complete when I was a teenager. This recurring dream has come and gone over the years; in recent years it’s come up infrequently, possibly as I’ve worked on whatever issue was causing it. This week it was more lucid and powerful than it had been in years. I clearly remember a scene where I’m walking towards the school gates on a dreary weekday morning, trying to slow my steps so I can put off the inevitable. The image stuck with me when I woke, and I’m still thinking about it now. The fact that the dream can come back so strongly after all these years, at a time when I thought everything was going so well, is concerning because I always took the dream to be a sign of things going badly. The sense of doom in the dream always seems to say something about my life. Some repressed feeling or message is coming up, and evidently the fact that I have just started therapy again must have something to do with it.

I didn’t plan to talk about the dream in today’s therapy session. I went there fully intending to talk about my sexuality for an hour, since it appears to be my most pressing problem and I become increasingly desperate to resolve it by the day. We continued the discussion about shame around sex for the first ten minutes, then somehow it went into a discussion about my experience of school, as I linked the men I tend to be attracted to to the boys I attended school with. “They are all without exception straight, unavailable men; men who would probably hurt me if they knew how I felt about them. These crushes started at school, where the boys I fancied were the ones who would definitely hurt me if they knew.” Then I mentioned the return of the recurring dream about school, and we spent the rest of the session dissecting what happened to me there.

A powerful emotion built in my gut and burst out of my mouth halfway through the conversation. “I’m so fed up of being stuck at school! I want to move on! I want this to be over!” Although I have been aware for a very long time of how school traumatised me, I never really imagined “moving on” from it. For so long I’ve lived with it; at times maybe I’ve thought I could accept those demons in my life and carry on peacefully with them there. Until today I didn’t quite understand the anger I still have about it. My therapist therefore must be good at his job, as his gentle probing questions quickly got underneath the justifications and defences, unearthing a need to heal that I didn’t know was in me. Whenever I said something strong about my school experience he asked me to describe how it made me feel now. His technique is a classic therapeutic technique, I guess, requiring the client to focus on feelings and their underlining meanings. I’m quite impressed that we got to this stage in the second session. Sometimes it can take months or years for client and therapist to go into those areas. I suppose my already high levels of self awareness and my recent training helped a great deal.

After the session my analytical mind wanted to know what was going to happen next, how I was going to use this new insight and finally “move on”. I had to remember what the therapist seemed to be getting at in his closing statements: I can do myself a favour by staying in the present, with the feelings, not trying to use them or process them or get rid of them. There is a helpless and upset child inside me, one that suffered for lack of love, I need to simply be there for that child. The therapist really seems to believe in inner child work, so it looks like I have a lot of that to look forward to. And despite the upsetting nature of the conversation, I came away happy and relieved that I finally get to address these things with someone who is trained and solely focused on the work. Now I can look forward to next week’s session even more.

Doing my bit

It’s the birthday week of the founder of the charity that I work for, so to celebrate all staff have been out fundraising. We were asked to think of creative ways of making money; my manager came up with the idea of having a cake sale. Perhaps not the most original idea, but it seemed guaranteed to raise some funds. In the morning I helped her set up stall in the road outside the office. I wasn’t looking forward to the day – I’d have to stand there for at least an hour selling cakes, and I’ve never considered myself a salesman. It felt like one of those Apprentice episodes they always have at the beginning of the series, where the candidates’ selling skills are put to the test on this kind of challenge. A cold breeze blew past us, never letting up, and it seemed destined to be a slog.

The road was busy in the morning and my manager was very good at catching the attention of passers by. Knowing I ought to make some effort, I studied what she was doing and soon I was doing it myself. Nearly every other passer by seemed to have a hankering for cake. Some colleagues in the office had baked especially for the occasion, others (myself included) had just bought what they could find at the local supermarket, and we were well stocked for the day. Pretty soon slices of banana loaf and fruit cake were flying off the table, and we were doing a lot better than predicted.

Other teammates took over selling duties after lunch so I could go inside and resume my normal job. I was glad to be back in the warm, though as I watched the team spirit in full flow outside I kind of wanted to be back out there. At the end of the day when we cracked open the buckets we were delighted to learn that together we had made over £200. Result! Although I could be sure I had only contributed a small part of that, it felt good. It had been a good day all around. We had worked together and done something worthwhile. That money will go to what is unequivocally a good cause. It’s nothing to do with profit, it really means something. I had sort of enjoyed talking to people in the street, something you’d never normally find me doing; and it had been nice to feel part of a real team all day. None of the cold atmosphere that was there before I went to America was there yesterday. Apparently that’s in the past, since P got over whatever was bothering her.

*

The home group was nice to go to last night, after such a nice day. It’s always nice to go to, but particularly so yesterday. I guess I’ve been back ‘in’ AA for eighteen months now, and I feel more solid as a person the longer this regular routine of meetings continues. I could have felt a bit shaky without my sponsor there last night: he’s away at the moment, and later in the year he still plans to move away permanently, so going to the meeting alone is something to get used to. When he’s away it’s a reminder that I need to learn to stand on my own two feet there, and trust the rest of the meeting’s attendees fully. By trust I refer to something deeply personal, a feeling that leads to security and fellowship with others, the opposite of isolation. I did my best with it last night, making an extra effort to talk to people, when I was tempted to sit at the back and mourn the absence of the person who brought me into the meeting last year.

Soon I face the choice of whether to volunteer myself for the position of secretary or not. R’s tenure comes up in two weeks. Everyone would agree it’s been a successful tenure. He’s the best kind of person to have as secretary. It’s a shame it has to end, but the tradition of commitments only lasting a year is strong. When the impending vacancy was announced a few weeks ago I felt unexpectedly inclined to put myself forward. I say it was unexpected because at one time I didn’t think I’d ever want to be secretary in an AA meeting again. Doing this wouldn’t just tie me to the meeting for another year, it would mean I’m really back in the fellowship, committed to it without any reservations. Although I decided at the end of 2015 that I wasn’t going to go through life without a program any more, that I was ready to relinquish my doubts once and for all and throw myself back in, there wasn’t an overnight return to service positions. I’ve taken my time with them, allowing myself to settle into meetings before putting my hand up for jobs, because I didn’t want to rush into responsibility without knowing I was really ready for it. I specifically didn’t want what happened in 2012 to happen again, when I had so many commitments I stopped seeing the point of them.

There’s no danger of me taking on too many commitments this time. I only have one other at the moment, and I don’t want more than two. I feel reluctance about going for the secretaryship at my home group because it’s such a visible role, I’d have to be my best self every week, and it’s an important meeting to steer. There are a lot of newcomers that go there, people who need to see a good example at the front of the room. Could I really set a good example week after week for a whole year? People may say I already do that when I go every week, but this feels like a big step up.

I want to do it because a part of me (maybe it’s the ‘recovery’ part) feels I ought to keep giving back to the meeting, and this would be the perfect opportunity. I’ve been secretary before at plenty of meetings, it’s not exactly hard to read out a script. Sourcing chairs would be hard, as you’re always having to deal with people saying ‘no’. I think I could deal with that now. It’s really the visibility of the position that scares me, as well as the fact that I’m not the only person interested in it.

Somehow people have figured out that I’m interested and they keep asking me if I’m going to put my hand up at the group conscience in two weeks. I only told two people, but it looks like one of them’s let the cat out of the bag because more than two people know now. It’s nice that people have enough faith in me to give me the encouragement. It would be lovely to think I’m really ready to do this for a year. Well, of course I’m ready. I’ve been ready for a long time. Sadly it will mean going up against people I like; the group would have to vote on who they want. We’d have to have our own mini election! I’ve never competed for a service position before, so that could be an interesting experience. Ahh, life in AA.

Meeting night

It’s not just politics that I’m trying to avoid by staying off facebook. It’s also the constant hunt for likes that I have to stay away from, too. In a meeting tonight someone compared facebook to cigarettes: where the first thing they used to do in the morning was light one up, now since they’ve given up the fags, the first thing they do is go on their phone and scroll through liking everything, in the hope they’ll get a like back. For too long my self worth was too heavily invested in that, and for months it was literally the first thing I thought about in the morning. Some people may think “oh poor you for being addicted to something so innocuous as facebook!” I don’t claim that it’s as serious as alcohol or drug addiction, though I hope people realise it can be used as a drug like any other. You hear about teenagers committing suicide because of what’s been said to them on social media, after all. I’m starting to take it seriously because I’m so fucking fed up of it. I spent years waiting to be tagged in a group photo at some restaurant somewhere, looking pleased at having so many friends around me, so I could get dozens of likes and ‘prove’ that I’m really popular after all. It’s never going to happen. It’s time for me to get off that ride and find another one!

I went to the big downtown meeting for the first time in ages tonight. Yay, I’m going to spend a few paragraphs obsessing about this one meeting again!

After therapy this morning I was feeling extra confident about things, and I thought a visit to my old haunt could round the day off nicely. I was prepared for the feelings of unworthiness to come back to me as soon as I got there, because unlike all other AA meetings, for some reason this one meeting that can always bring it out in me. It has always been the meeting where I’ve compared myself to others, always the meeting where I’ve struggled to share and connect with the group. There’ve been better phases and worse phases; I seem to remember a period last year where I was doing particularly well there, going for regular fellowship afterwards and feeling generally wanted there. And then it tailed off really quickly and I haven’t quite got it back since.

I managed a few tricks to help myself avoid feeling isolated from start to finish. I sat in a place where other people were sitting, and I made an effort to look and smile at everyone I saw. I knew the person giving the chair quite well, someone who I know struggles with sharing as much as I do, and I was able to spur him on, which felt nice. He gave a fab chair and I felt compelled to share something back in the meeting, but it took me until the very end to open my mouth and get the words out. A lot of people had talked about self worth, this big recovery issue that so many people struggle to crack. I needed to talk about it as well; I wanted to make the room laugh by quoting a much loved RuPaul line (“if ya can’t love yourself, how’n the hell you gonna love somebody else?”) but I decided against it, something about designing a share to elicit laughter doesn’t feel right. I just said that it’s taken me ten years to realise what self worth is, and how it’s something I need to work on every day by doing challenging things. I don’t know how many people my words resonated with, because I didn’t stick around long after the end of the meeting to find out, like I would have done last year. I’ve described the moments at the end of the meeting before as being like a gay club with the lights on and no alcohol. It felt that way tonight; that part of the meeting never changes. I would have liked to chat to G, the guy who’d given the chair, just to congratulate him for being brave and sharing so well at such a scary meeting, but alas he was occupied with other friends and there wasn’t space for me to butt in.

Before I left I made myself stop and talk to someone else who’d talked about how hard they find sharing. I don’t know the person that well but to me they had always seemed like a confident person. Their words had been especially difficult to listen to because they were sharing something that has been very much an issue for me. I felt good about reaching out to them and experiencing a moment of human connection before I had to go home.

There were other people I could have stopped to chat to. I knew nearly everyone in the meeting, some of them I’ve been quite friendly with in the past. What can I say, I didn’t choose to make the extra effort tonight. It would be easy to feel terrible that I didn’t say hello to everyone tonight, it’s got me down on so many occasions in the past. Tonight for a change, I don’t want to feel bad about it. I just want to feel happy that I went to the meeting, shared, and talked to a few people who I like. I’ve ruined so many nights over the years by over-analysing what I did and didn’t do there. It’s just a meeting, they’re just people. They’ll survive!