A dilemma

The irony of the matter is that I waited three years to start dating again, and I don’t know how to navigate the imperfect but very real dating situation that life has put in front of me. I could choose T, and get bored in the end; or I could choose G, and get bored in the end. Before I met G yesterday, I honestly thought I would just keep seeing T, even if I could never be sure of him or my feelings towards him. With a new, very different option in the picture I am clearly on the road to losing interest in my Oxford beau; but I honestly can’t tell if it’s a genuine loss of interest, or if it’s just a fearful backing away, in favour of someone who temporarily seems safer and more exciting. I could get bored of G next week, and then I’d be back to square one. I’m already so disappointed in myself for letting this happen, I feel bad about the efforts I now have to make to back away from T, and I’m panicking.

At the weekend I was totally ready to set this Friday aside for T, but today I’ve had to tell him I can’t do it, because I’ve already spent too much money and time on dating someone else this week (I didn’t tell him that bit – I had to use my studies as an excuse). I’m being dishonest with him and I find it hateful, but I have no idea how else to handle this. I can’t exactly tell him I’m getting bored and moving on to someone else, because that would be unnecessarily hurtful to him, and it might not be wholly true either. I may be getting bored, or I may just be looking for excuses not to commit to someone that I really like but have difficulties with.

I committed to seeing G again on Sunday before I could have any doubts, so having tomorrow to myself did seem really attractive. I’ve told T I’ll see him next weekend for this long country walk as arranged. I will have to try and slot both of them in until what I actually want becomes clearer. I will continue to hate myself and feel bad in the meantime, pretending to be perfectly happy when I have to see either of them.

G would be a more convenient partner than T. He lives within the zones that my travelcard covers, he works a regular 9 to 5 week, and he loves the music that I love. We can have the kind of conversation you’d remember. Last night it ranged from classic French singers like Dalida and Barbara, to Los Del Rio (finally I had the lyrics to Macarena explained to me!); we talked about our mothers, the things we do for them; the problems in the world.

I can’t remember a conversation I’ve had with T. The practicalities of that relationship will always be against it, but…I don’t know. I’m so scared to make a choice! Whatever I do will disappoint someone, and it’s all happened too quickly. I don’t think this happens to normal people. For them it must be so much cleaner and easier. It’s always cleaner and tidier in films. You don’t meet two people in the space of a fortnight and have agonising doubts about both of them if you’re in a film. Life never did give me a clean, tidy romance that unfolded perfectly according to the rules of fiction. I’m still waiting for that to happen.

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Second first date

I had to see the therapist on Monday for a change as he can’t do this Friday. Even though it was just three days since I’d last seen him, we had a lot to talk about, of course as I’d been to see T on Saturday. We spent most of the session talking about the one thing, as expected. I still couldn’t seem to decide whether I want to keep seeing T or not. It must be frustrating for the therapist. Although I thought I’d had a lovely time on Saturday, I was full of the same doubts as last week, the same unanswerable questions. Does he really like me? Do I really like him? How the hell am I going to find out?

In the session it became clearer than ever that honesty is the only option. I have to say what I’m thinking to T otherwise this insecurity will just carry on forever. I have to change – that’s why I’m in therapy. I may not want to change but, as with everything important that I have to do, there is no way around it any more.

I came away deciding that I would be honest this week and ask him at some point what he actually wants. I didn’t know exactly what I would say, but I would definitely know where I stood by the time of our next meeting. I left it on Monday night, realising that I couldn’t possibly come up with the apposite words when I was tired and on my way to bed. I thought I’d send him some sort of message on Tuesday, broaching the subject somehow in a way that would give me the answers I needed. Except that I ended up being so occupied with work and then the meeting in the evening that I never found the right moment. So I left it for today.

I haven’t yet confessed to the fact that while all this has been going, I’ve been messaging another chap called G on the gay website, and we had arranged to meet tonight in town for dinner. It all happened really quickly on Sunday night, so quickly that I didn’t even think about it much again until today. I realised this afternoon: oh, I have a date tonight. I must have arranged it in a moment of anger at T; by today I wasn’t so sure that it would be a good idea, and I nearly cancelled, especially as I was so worn out from the stress I’d had all day at college. I didn’t cancel the date, I don’t like to cancel things without good reason these days, and I suppose I thought I’d just get through it, be polite and then never see him again. On the way to the date I was messaging T about Friday, trying to inject some ‘authenticity’ in the conversation to find out what he really wants from me. I said I couldn’t afford to go to Oxford again this week (true), suggesting instead that he come to London (maybe if he agrees to come here, it proves he’s interested in more than sex as none of that will be on the cards here). He replied quickly, agreeing to the principle of coming to London, but sadly he’s short on funds this week too, and could I put up with the expense of another bus trip to Oxford, just this once? I said no, I can’t (honest), and he said he’d see what he could do.

It wasn’t the discussion I was hoping for at all. I was hoping he’d agree to come to London on Friday, and say finally that he wants a ‘relationship’ of the sort that involves walking around and talking and doing all the things that they do on TV. As soon as he’d said that he can’t afford to travel this week, I couldn’t exactly push him to say more about what he secretly wants. My intentions for the discussion were derailed. I had to accept that I’d been left with the vague notion of his desires, which may or may not be very serious when it comes to me as a person. I may not find out what he ‘really’ wants for a long time.

With all this in mind, I met G west of town, and as soon as I saw him and started talking to him, I was disappointed – because I found him attractive, physically and mentally. In front of me I had someone who could be so much better for me than T.

G is a talker, he could talk for England, and we share so many interests, and I don’t get the impression he would ever be cagey about his feelings. He’s twenty years older than me, so not exactly in the age bracket I was intending to go for, but for now (this could change) I’m willing to ignore that. For the first hour or so I had the usual worries about my social performance – whether it was good enough, whether I was making him like me – but pretty soon we were falling into a long, easy conversation about travelling and music, and I was forgetting many of my inhibitions. After dinner we sat in a pub for a while and I was playing an equal part when it came to directing the conversation. Normally if I don’t know someone I’d let them do most of the talking – I’m naturally a listener rather than a talker. It’s very unusual for me to talk so much the first time I meet someone. I desperately wanted to push us towards this magical authenticity that I keep dreaming about, so I kept asking interesting personal questions. By the end of the night I’d found out all about his life, his family, the places he’s lived. He knew about some of my previous relationships, and the fact I haven’t dated for three years. My feelings about the gay community and gay dating in the 21st century. We connected more on a personal level in three hours than I think I’ve connected with T in three entire days.

Not to get carried away or over excited. I’ve just met G, and I worry that there’s a real chance that it won’t be the same after we’ve inevitably slept together. Oh I can already see it going that way, there was physical chemistry there for sure. I can read the signs. It’s only because I assertively announced that I was going home at 9 o’clock that I’m not in a bed with him now. I was tired after a very long day and, in keeping with my new determination to be true to myself in all situations, I ignored all urges to be naughty and came home in the certainty that it would be better for us to wait.

I have no idea what will happen with G. I don’t have to know. We’ve tentatively agreed to meet again on Sunday, which will be nice if it happens; I can’t look beyond that into the future (I sure wish I could!) Now that I’ve had one good date with someone who I think I can really get on with, I’m evidently less keen on spending a lot of time with T. God, why do I sense that there’s something so predictable about this? If the yearning I experienced for T last week could subside this rapidly, it can certainly subside as well with G. I don’t wish to be pessimistic and think that everything’s bound to lead to the same disappointment. It was that thinking that kept me away from men for three years; it’s that thinking I’m trying to get away from by going on these dates. I’m disappointed to have got so over excited about one person only to find myself looking for ways of avoiding them a week later – but on some level I’m beginning to think that it doesn’t need to be taken so seriously. Perhaps it’s fine that I’m already losing interest in T as I discover a new excitement for someone else I’ve just met. Perhaps dating is like that nowadays.

Third date

I went to Oxford again. In therapy the other day I spent the whole session talking about it, of course, and I couldn’t come to any better conclusions about how to spend my Saturday. It was good to be back in therapy after a three week break, by the way – during his holiday my therapist could have no idea how much would happen to me, and how much I’d have to talk about on his return. I thought it would take at least two sessions on his return to cover everything, but I managed to explain the situation in just twenty minutes, giving us plenty of time to pick over the options. At the end of it all, my doubts all come back to the possibility that T will lose interest in me. Ultimately that’s what I fear, and it’s why I hesitate to take this forward. I was sure that if I were to go to him again we’d end up in bed and reach the impasse of me not being able to climax again. It seemed there would only ever be one road we could go down, with one disappointing destination.

I still bought the ticket and went to Oxford on Saturday, though, because of the way my therapist always responds to my statements with a questioning ‘will that really happen?’ He can leave open the possibility in my mind that I can’t predict the future, and that I can’t be certain what T will think about me. The trouble with T is that he doesn’t give anything of his feelings away, at least not verbally. Just like Jerome, I have to guess at his intentions by what he does in the bedroom. It drives me mad that I’ve ended up with someone like that again. But as the therapist seems to be saying, being driven mad doesn’t necessarily have to mean that I give up on it.

Before driving me back to his place for more between the sheets action, T wanted to go for a long walk in the countryside around Oxford. We followed the muddy path by the Thames for a couple of hours, passing through gorgeous green meadows, taking pictures of the surprisingly shallow Thames, which in this part of the world looks nothing like the behemoth it becomes in London. Our conversation was marked by many long silences, but on the third date these weren’t as wholly uncomfortable as on the first. It was easier to remind myself of staying in the moment, with the beautiful scenery around us.

Back at his flat later on, we were naked before long and things were getting quite passionate. Like last week, it was very nice, but I’m still left wondering where this is all going, away from the bedroom. I can’t help it, I’m built this way. I want to know what he wants from me, if he just wants to continue with the afternoon delights or if there’s more in that mind of his. It’s so difficult to tell. Although we have at least two more meetings planned in the coming weeks, and although at least one of them won’t involve sex (another long walk through the countryside), I don’t hear anything from him in between meetings any more and so on a day like today, it’s like he doesn’t exist.

Of course, my therapist pointed out that I’m not messaging him in between meetings, so it could seem to T like I don’t exist. I’ve not brought this subject up with T, so he could just be under the assumption that I am not interested in anything more. It’s easy to think like this when I’m in the therapy room, but away from a certain calm environment I forget logic and go quickly back to the abandoned child, wanting others to do all the work for me.

Before I left last night T suggested meeting again next Friday. Luckily I have the day off and it doesn’t clash with any of my home AA meetings, so I won’t have to miss one of them again. I didn’t like missing the Saturday meeting, even though I had planned to days in advance and I had the tea commitment covered. Having gone nearly every week for two years, I missed the group. It makes it difficult to see how this is going to work in the long term, when our schedules are both so tightly packed. I talked about this the other day, and I was of the conclusion that I just had to stick to the present, letting the future take care of itself. As time progresses I can’t stop myself from thinking about the impending future, with all its challenges. Returning to Oxford on Friday will cost money that I can’t really afford because I’ve spent so much on these bus trips already. I could invite him to London, I’m sure he’d be willing to travel for a change. Only we couldn’t exactly enjoy any bedroom time with each other here, given that I live with my mother in a small flat. We’d be able to do nothing except walk around talking all day. We’re already doing that the week after on the 30th, when he wants to go to the south coast with a gay online social group that he joined.

A whole day of innocent outdoor pursuits could be a great success, or it could be a disappointing failure. Although I enjoyed yesterday’s long walk, I knew there was an evening of passion promised afterwards. Without that end point I don’t know what he’ll make of me, whether he’ll just get bored and want something else. Therefore it would be easy just to go to Oxford again. But I don’t think that’s what I really want. I want to meet up like normal friends and just do a day of walking and talking. It’s whether he wants that that I can’t be sure. It’s so hard to be sure of anything when he won’t talk about it!

First day back

Today was the big day, the start of my counselling diploma course. The day I had been really looking forward to for some time. Waking up this morning I had so many things to look forward to. As well as finding out about the content of the course, and what the next two years of my life are going to be like, I was looking forward to seeing familiar faces from the foundation course again, as I knew at least five of us had been accepted onto the diploma. And we’d get to see our beloved foundation tutor again, who told us at the interview that she would be teaching diploma this year. Also, there was jangling apprehension and excitement about meeting some new colleagues, and the potential to form new bonds. It was all so interesting to think about on the way to college this morning!

When I arrived ten minutes before the start of class I was the first one there, funnily enough just like I was at the start of the course last year. It seems I have an aptitude for being the first person to arrive at things. Gradually other people started to drift in, including some I knew well from foundation level. It was genuinely nice to see them again, to get a few hugs and to catch up briefly on our lives. Others I recognised from the interview, remembered them all being nice and equally friendly, so there was the impression that it was going to be a very good group to work in for two years. God, two whole years!

A teacher arrived at 10am who clearly wasn’t the one we had been expecting. It soon turned out that our foundation tutor would not be teaching us diploma after all – which was a great disappointment to those of us who’d grown fond of her and had been looking forward to seeing her again. Our replacement tutor was a nice enough person, but through the day a distinct flavour of disorganisation emerged in his style of teaching. It was clear that he had only been recruited to the post recently, that he hadn’t fully planned the day, and that he didn’t know all the finer details of what we’d be doing in the next two years. He’d been given a schedule to take us through a formal induction, which wasn’t stuck to, and by the end of the day everything was running about twenty minutes late. We had ended up spending most of the day going through our course handbook, which describes the assessments we’ll be doing; it was good to go through it, but it would’ve been nice to have some other types of activity to break the day up. There were no ice breakers, no small group discussions; just a day of sitting around in the big circle talking vaguely about the course outline.

In PD (personal development) at the end of the day we all needed an opportunity to talk about it and put our minds at rest. Luckily almost everyone was feeling the same anxiety about the tutoring, and we could spend an hour and a half discussing it. Many of us couldn’t help but think of all the money we had spent on the course, and the great worry that things will go wrong quickly if the teacher can’t keep to a firm schedule. There’s a huge curriculum to get through, we have a mountain of assessments and learning objectives to meet; if the teacher’s just winging it most of the time it’s not going to be very comfortable.

Not all of the group felt the same anxiety – some were willing to give the teacher, C, the benefit of the doubt, knowing it’s the first time he’s taught a diploma class. Someone had the example of work inductions, which can often be chaotic and unplanned. God, if I had judged the charity on the induction I had last year I wouldn’t have stayed! At RG it was even worse. So by the end of PD we all kind of agreed that it was just the first day, there are two more years to go and the rest of the course probably won’t be anything like today. C certainly has impressive credentials as a counsellor and teacher, he does seem a nice person and I’m sure there are many things I will be able to learn from him.

*

With all that going on I almost certainly can’t continue with the novel at the moment. I’ve not been experiencing the creative urge much for the past couple of weeks, anyway. Having reached the halfway point in the story I’ve begun to get the feeling that I should go back and change certain things in the first half, before I move onto the second half. It could be a good time to stop, take a break and come back when I have time, which to be honest may not be until next year. Whenever I’m not happy with something I’ve written, I always find taking a break from it helps.

My over excitement about the fling with T is starting to die down, thankfully. Today’s events have definitely taken the focus away from it, and I am not getting the urge to check my phone all the time any more, although when I happen to remember that I’m supposed to be seeing him on Saturday I do still feel tinges of worry and uncertainty and need. I don’t know what I want to do. Of course I want to go to Oxford and lie in bed with him again, but I can’t stop thinking about the other night when I saw him online, and all the other indications that he isn’t in for a serious meeting of minds. Apart from anything else, the fact that we won’t see each other very often is looming larger and larger in my mind, and part of me thinks it would be easier to cut my losses and look for someone closer to home. Meh. Could someone else tell me what to do, please? Just this once?

Detox

Been writing a lot of journal entries lately, haven’t I? Only when I’m dating does the need to spill everything out on the page on a daily basis seem to come up. My obsession with this guy that I’ve known for a week is something that many in AA would put down to typical alcoholic thinking. I’m stuck in the future, waiting for the magical day to arrive when he tells me that it will all be all right, that we’ll be together forever. When I was there on Friday I was just waiting for him to tell me what he thought of me, but there was no verbal indication given of his feelings, I had to rely on his actions. And all the holding hands and all the kissing was lovely, but it still didn’t hit home like a simple “I want to be with you” would have. I was going through exactly what I went through with Jerome three years ago – pure self torture over the lack of verbal reassurance.

Jeez, it’s only words, right? What do words really mean anyway? Actions speak louder, as the ancient saying goes. But then why do characters in films always tell each other their precise feelings on the first date? Why does it feel so fundamentally important to have this connection between us properly acknowledged?

The voice of sense keeps reminding me that I have only known the person for a week, and therefore I shouldn’t be obsessing like this. In films they don’t obsess like this (because everything is out in the open from the beginning in films, no one has to wait and be patient in films!) The voice of sense that is forever telling me what I shouldn’t be doing cannot stop me from doing it today. I know this reaction to events is abnormal but I cannot switch the feelings off.

Already, I’m becoming sure that this fling isn’t going to work out long term. The fifty miles that lie between us feel like a long way, it will always be costly to go and see him; he can’t exactly come here and sleep in my bed, because what would mum say?

Since we’ve known each other for just a week I suppose he has every right to continue logging into the gay website and chatting to other men; but when I happened to log in last night and see him online, hours after he was supposed to have gone to bed (according to a message earlier in the day), it bothered me. The fact that the number of text messages coming from Oxford has decreased dramatically in the last few days bothers me. I’m not saying that I’m right to be bothered, or that any sane person would think those things an issue after just a week (“I shouldn’t be surprised he’s using the gay site late at night, we’re not boyfriends or anything!”) But I am bothered, and I can’t switch it off.

So I’m no longer sure whether I can proceed with our plan to meet again on Saturday or not. Even if he is a lovely, genuine person (which he seemed to be last week) and even if we can continue to have good times together (which we can, I’m sure) – something tells me that I want more now. It may be strange to have made my mind up on that score after just a week, but there you go.

I waver between thinking I’ll be strong and cancel Saturday, so I can go to my home group and be amongst sober friends as I have been every Saturday for the past two years, and thinking that I’m besotted with this person and I can’t possibly cancel before I’ve given him another chance. If I chuck this one away I can be certain that the next person I get involved with will have their own faults, and the next person after that, and so on. In the scheme of things, the chances are this one fling (or encounter or relationship or whatever you want to call it) probably won’t turn into anything long term and significant. I will probably have to put a great deal of effort in and face a lot of hurt and rejection on the path to finding something that sticks. Dating has always seemed like the search for a job to me. I may be quite sorted when it comes to the career nowadays but just look how long it took me to get there, how much pain and effort and goddamn stress through the years.

I could just give it all up again and go back to porn, it would be so easy, and at least I could say I tried. Most of the time at the moment I want to do that. Then some of the time I think about how much nicer it is to lie in a real man’s arms than it is sitting in front of a computer screen. It was always much, much nicer. I didn’t go back into therapy so I could keep avoiding real men. Nearly everything I’ve done this year has been about launching myself back onto the dating scene. I need intimacy in my life, whether I like searching for it or not.

I said in a meeting the other day that I was fed up of looking at my phone every five minutes to see if T had messaged me. This morning I had a brainwave concerning that very subject: instead of taking my phone to work as I always do and spending the day being constantly distracted by it, I could have a ‘phone detox’ and leave it at home. There is rarely a serious reason for me to take my mobile phone to work, I don’t get phone calls or urgent messages in the day time. If I could leave the phone at home for a day, it would be a day of not picking the stupid thing up every minute and looking to see his name on the screen.

I was so tempted to leave it at home this morning you wouldn’t believe. In the end, I still took it with me because at the back of my mind there is always the possibility of there being some urgent phone call from mum, or someone who knows mum, telling me she’s ill or there’s been an accident. I would leave it in my bag all day, on airplane mode, only switching it on at 5pm to check for such urgent messages (because somehow that seems a likely time for me to receive them). Through the day I thought about taking the phone out of my bag and just checking it for a minute many times; I stuck to my guns and left it where it was until 5pm on the dot. When 5pm came around, wouldn’t you know, I had not a single message. Not from mum, not from T, not anyone. Had I been checking the phone all day, as I normally would, it would have been torture. As it is, I only had to bear five minutes of pain at 5 o’clock, then I could go straight to a meeting and be reassured by sober fellows.

Madness pt.2

After writing on Thursday I managed to calm myself further by watching the DVD of The Queen, one of my all time favourite movies. The time called for a nice relaxing film, during which I was to switch my phone off and keep it off for two hours. After the film the feelings were nice and tranquil, and I could go to bed almost without thinking about my man troubles. When Friday came I was sort of normal again, as I went for my regular swim in the morning. I’m managing to swim a mile every week now, and it’s certainly paying off in a reduced waist line. In the past couple of weeks I’ve managed to go down a belt size, which makes me inordinately happy.

Once swimming was done I could think about T again, as I had a coach to Oxford to catch. Problems on the tube made me almost miss the bus I had a seat booked on; the rain was pouring as I ran out of the station towards the bus stop, and I was soaking wet when I stumbled on the bus that was luckily a couple of minutes late and waiting for me. If I’d missed the bus I would have had to buy a ticket for another one, which would have meant more money spent, more money that I couldn’t afford; as I was running in the rain I was actually considering whether it was really worth it. Sure, I would have a lovely time in Oxford that day, but then I wouldn’t see him again for at least a week, time would always get in the way of us properly getting to know each other; and it would never be a real relationship, would it?

The ticket I had booked stupidly only took me to the bus stop before the one where T lives, and I was expecting to have to walk a long way to meet him. Except when I told him about the mistake, he kindly offered to drive out to pick me up, which was nice of him. Despite myself I entered a dreamy state when I got off the bus and found him waiting for me at the stop. I ought to have kept calm, remembered what my sponsor had told me about playing it cool. On the surface I think I just about looked normal, but inside it was like an electric storm.

We drove around the city for a while, stopping off at an aquarium where T showed me piranhas and baby sharks and clown fish. It’s nice to know he’s interested in doing things other than sex; a large number of other men would have just taken me back to the flat for a shag. T isn’t like that, which is great. But given our limited time together, I felt an impatience to get back to the flat, which is unlike me. I could only think about lying on the bed and being held again. Maybe it wasn’t necessarily the sex I was impatient for, maybe it was just the holding. In the arms of a man like that I can feel safe and warm, like a child being held by a loving parent.

We got back to the flat eventually, and there things got really interesting. T loves to take his time – another point in his favour – so we were laying on the bed, fully dressed and just kissing, for at least an hour before anything else happened. All that I’ve craved in the past three years happened that afternoon, as well as all that I haven’t craved. T’s gentleness and patience wore a bit thin after a few hours when we were both naked and he was ready to come. Having had a thoroughly lovely time so far, I could have almost forgotten the main aim of sex for most men, which is to penetrate and to come. T had given me plenty of time to prepare, but all the time in the world wouldn’t have been enough on Friday. Here my sexual dysfunction was finally exposed: my habit of freezing up as soon as it comes to the point of completing.

Throughout my adult life I’ve been plagued by these things – they are the reason I’ve never sustained a relationship with anyone. Even with men like Martin, who said he wasn’t interested in those things, I’m sure it played a part, because what else is there to enjoy when you’re in bed with someone you don’t really know?

I had already worked out that I’d have to have a conversation with every future partner about it before we’d gone too far, and so was the case on Friday. T was magnanimous, describing my problems as ‘technical issues’ that can be resolved with practise. He’s right, but I’m not sure if he knows just how much practise and time it’s going to need.

These are the things that never get talked about in films and in books. For a man to experience this issue is extremely rare, according to brief online research. Ironically, having this problem ensures that I will never enjoy sex with someone who isn’t incredibly patient and genuine. It’s like my body refuses to perform for someone who is just there for the climax. On Friday it was hard to tell, despite everything, whether T really was there for something genuine or not.

He wanted to come on my chest, which felt a bit mechanical and forced, but what can you do. Once he’d climaxed we could relax again. We had some dinner, a goulash that a friend of his had made, and then lay and talked together for a couple of hours until it was time for my bus home. As we talked about European history and communism, T reminded me of people I’d met in Bulgaria, with that slightly sardonic and cynical Eastern European temperament that so many of them seem to have. I wonder if it’s a legacy of communism or something else. It was a nice reminder, as I had grown to like many people like that during my travels. Perhaps it’s part of the attraction.

T drove me back to the bus stop out of the city and waited with me in the car for twenty minutes, as the bus seemed to be running late. We carried on talking and had a bit of a laugh at the expense of these bus companies. As we talked we held hands, unafraid of the stares of anyone who happened to be passing. In 2017 it doesn’t seem to be an issue, as no one stared. When the bus came he got out of the car and saw me off right at the bus’ door, then waved to me in the window. Our next rendezvous will be next Saturday as that’s the next time he’s free. I will have to miss my home group, and ask someone to cover tea for me as it will be my turn to do the commitment. I wish there didn’t have to be sacrifices, but it seems life is asking that of me at the moment. I will make up for it by attending an extra meeting in the week.

Yesterday I met with my sponsor before the meeting and we talked through everything for an hour. Well, I mainly listened while he talked at me. His advice was still spot on, but he has a habit of forgetting what he’s just said, so that he says it again and again and again. When it was time to walk to the meeting I was glad of the break from having the same message hammered home endlessly.

My intention had been to share about my experiences in the meeting, as you could guarantee that a lot of people would relate. Except the usual thing happened where a lot of other people shared in a far more interesting and eloquent way than I could hope to share, and I was put off from opening my mouth for most of the ninety minutes. I don’t know why after ten years this is still happening, this belief that I’m going to offend someone with what I have to say. With a few minutes to go at the end I finally opened my mouth, knowing that it would be two weeks before I’d have another opportunity there. I talked about everything, and at least ten people came up to me afterwards to express their identification. By then I was tired and had a bit of headache, and I was tempted just to go home, but having joined the big group at the restaurant every week for the past few weeks, I knew it would be good to connect with more people. It’s always a similar group of people that goes to the restaurant, but you can never guarantee who you’re going to sit next to, and when there are newcomers to the group there’s always a chance you’ll be sitting with people you don’t know. Not for the first time, I ended up in a group of newcomers, and so for an hour I had to seem as if I knew what I was talking about. Even though some of the newcomers present looked like they could give me more advice about dating than I could give them!

It was a nice evening, and as always I came away glad that I had engaged, glad that I hadn’t avoided like I used to. I was still thinking about T on the way home, and after a bad night’s sleep, I’m still thinking about him. Last night I talked about this obsession with the phone, this constant waiting for text messages to arrive. Having got it out there and having laughed about it with numerous people, I’m still watching my phone, waiting to see his name on the screen. It’s crazy. I suppose all I can do is keep talking about it, keep sharing.

Madness

It’s all well and good saying I mustn’t go crazy and start living in the future, but with a head that simply won’t shut up, I have spent the day at the mercy of future-obsessed doubts and fears. When the alarm went off at 7 this morning and I realised it was back to my normal working routine, yesterday instantly became a strange and glorious dream, of the sort that isn’t meant to be repeated. I have been on an emotional comedown ever since. Yesterday’s surplus of oxytocin has turned into a lack, and while I may have seemed perfectly calm on the surface at work, I was undergoing an inescapable turmoil.

My worries centre around the lack of time that I’m shortly going to have in which to embark on a relationship, and the likelihood that T will lose interest because of this. This is what it all boils down to: him having the power to determine my future happiness. Work being incredibly busy after a week off, there should have been ample opportunity for me to find distractions at the office, but instead it made me think about my problems even more. I was rushed off my feet all day trying to catch up on a long to do list, when all I wanted to do was go to Oxford and lie in a handsome man’s bed again.

Before I met T I had been receiving regular whatsapp messages from him on a daily basis. Since yesterday, there has been hardly anything in comparison. It’s a familiar story. The eager messages always stop when you meet a person and move things into the real world – I didn’t expect it to be any different this time. That didn’t stop me from checking my phone every five minutes at work, wishing for the impossible. I knew that being sensible and reasonable required me to wait, to not bombard him with messages, but by lunch time I couldn’t take any more waiting. We had agreed that I’d go and see him again tomorrow but I didn’t know what time he wanted me around yet, and so far he didn’t seem all that keen on letting me know.

He could have been busy this morning, or he could have been asleep, enjoying a nice lie in on a day off. Any number of reasons could have satisfactorily explained why there was no stream of messages like there had been earlier in the week. Now that we’d met there was simply no urgency for him to get in touch the day after I’d seen him. That was what sense and reason kept telling me. Even so, I fired off a message at lunch time asking him what time I should plan to arrive tomorrow, and then I eagerly awaited his response, hitting the home button on my phone every five minutes to see if his name had appeared yet. It was exquisite torture, and admittedly far more interesting than the work I had to do.

He got back to me eventually and things were arranged. His enthusiastic response indicated that he still wants to see me again, that we will have another lovely time together.  But it’s not enough to quench the madness. None of it’s enough. Towards the end of the day I was entering a mental frenzy, unable to believe that he hadn’t lost interest and that it would ever work out. I was regressing back into the abandoned child, whose love has been taken away without explanation.

Only one thing could get me out of my hysteria: connection with AA. As soon as I got home, sober fingers dialled my sponsor’s number. It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything interesting to call him about. Luckily it had only taken a few hours for me to understand what I had to do in the situation, when I could see my sobriety wobbling and the danger I was in.

Now I know that only one thing can make my sobriety wobble: romance. The last great enigma of my recovery, the last mountain that I have to climb. Once I had explained the situation my sponsor knew exactly what to say, which is everything that I already knew. Keep it in the day, keep it simple, don’t get ahead of myself, stop trying to play out possible futures. All I really needed was to hear a calming sober voice, it felt like weeks since I’d been to a meeting even though it was just two days. As I spoke to him it became even clearer why I need AA, as clear as it’s ever been. All my calm, sober, adult reason comes from AA – the wisdom that will always talk me down off the ledge.

After the phone call I felt much better, much more like myself again. Life started moving once more, yesterday no longer seemed like a huge chunk out of my life; I could begin again to think about the important things I need to do in the coming days, the things that don’t involve T. Before I see him tomorrow I will go swimming, to keep up the healthy regime that’s helped me to lose nearly half a stone in the past six weeks. Over the weekend I need to start preparing for college, and I need to complete and send off my first application for a voluntary counselling placement that will be a requirement of the diploma. I should have been thinking about that tonight, but I just wanted to call my sponsor and use the time to relax.

The fact that I don’t know when I’ll next be free after tomorrow still plays on my mind. My sponsor won’t like me thinking about this again, after all we talked about. But the truth is that once I’ve said goodbye to T tomorrow I have no idea when I’ll be able to see him again. My diary is about to become fully booked. With things I want to do, of course. Things I can’t sacrifice, like college, AA meetings that I am committed to, as well as the swimming, the reading, and all the writing. There’s nothing I can do about it tonight so one could say there’s no point in thinking about it, but it’s a conundrum that I don’t like. I somehow feel as if I’ve started something that’s too nice to stop, and I don’t know how to square it with everything else. My sponsor definitely doesn’t want me worrying about this tonight, so I’ll try and stop, but it will come up again, mark my words.