It’s one of those days when I seem to feel a number of emotions all at the same time, so I’m posting just a day after my last blog, because once again I have a lot to get out. Last night I attended another great meeting where the atmosphere was extremely friendly and warm, which made me grateful to be there. I got a lot from the chair and I was able to share some more about my progress in recovery as well as some of my experiences with alcohol. I think I’m slowly learning to connect with the meetings more easily, and most of the time now I feel a part of it right from the beginning. There will be times when I desperately don’t want to be there, but the realisation that I need to be there comes more quickly now.
Once again I resisted the temptation to go for coffee afterwards. The reason I try to go home straight away these days, rather than hang around for an hour or so and practise my social skills, is that I still believe I need to come to terms with this ‘going home alone’ thing. I know that when I automatically accept those invitations to coffee I’m not just doing it because I want to be sociable. I’m prolonging my evening out because it’s a way to avoid going home and being by myself; in the past I was staying out even when I had no money and I was really tired. So for the last few weeks I’ve kind of enforced this routine of saying quick goodbyes to people and heading home almost as soon as the meeting is over, so that I’m away and on the bus home before I’ve had the chance to say ‘yes’ to any invitations. In time I’ll start tagging along to those coffee gatherings again, when I’ve learnt how to be comfortable with going home on my own. At the moment it still hurts a bit when I’m turning the key in the front door and my watch tells me it’s 9pm; if the illness could have it’s own way, I’d be out until 3 in the morning, clinging onto every vague opportunity for socialising so that I don’t have to be alone in my own company. Towards the end of my drinking days I’d consume six packs of beer alone at home quite regularly, and at the time I thought it meant that I loved my own company, but what has become clear is that I actually hate my own company. That’s why I need to be making the effort to spend more time with myself here at home. I can’t learn to love myself if I’m out all the time focusing on others.
Having said all that, I somehow ended up spending all of today outdoors. Another lifelong issue of mine has been going places by myself. It might sound odd, but sitting on my own in parks and cafes and so forth has always scared me a bit. Other peoples’ opinions of me have always been important to me, and when I’m sat by myself on a bench in a busy park or at a table for one in a nice restaurant I can’t ignore the voice inside that’s whispering : ‘Get out! They’re all think you’re a loner!’
These days I’m really trying to ignore that voice, and so today I chose to go for a long walk around London, stopping off at various parks and cafes on the way for the odd rest. I had a whole day with not much to do, and I didn’t actually fancy spending the best part of it at home, so I set off this morning and ended up staying out til the evening, when I attended a great meeting in the west.
Once again I totally identified with the chair at this meeting, who talked of being a bit of a ‘victim’ during his drinking days, using his troubled childhood as an excuse for all the trouble he caused when drinking. I did that a lot too. As time goes on it will probably come out that my childhood was very lonely, isolated, and full of anger. When I turned 18 and received the freedom to start doing what I wanted, I regularly used my hard done by life as an excuse for the extremes to which I went in my boozing. All the stupid, embarrassing and nasty things I did whilst drunk were OK, as long as I was having fun. For a long time I couldn’t begin to imagine my life without alcohol, because I never wanted it to go back to how it was before.
The chair also mentioned honesty, and it really seems to me that the whole AA program is designed to promote honesty. In every AA meeting you can say whatever you want, there are no taboos, and so the majority of people use this freedom to tell the room things they have never told their closest friends and family. I’ve spoken about things in the rooms (and to an extent on this blog) which my own mother doesn’t know about. In AA you can’t put on a front, you can’t keep anything a secret forever, because it doesn’t work if you hold things back. If something is important enough, it will slowly eat you up if you let it. So I’m taking the opportunity more and more to express these painful feelings which have weighed me down for years, because sharing the pain really makes it better. By being as honest as I possibly can be in every share, I am bringing down the barrier which has always existed between me and the rest of the world. Without that barrier, I’m not alone and isolated any more. Of course, removing the barrier is very scary, as I’ve said many times before, because it leaves me open and vulnerable; but right now I don’t mind that so much.
Like last night, I didn’t stick around for long after tonight’s meeting, but I made sure I stayed long enough to say goodbye to everyone before leaving. I hope never again to rush off without making the effort to show all those friends my gratitude; by spending the little bit of time it takes to say the words “goodbye, it was nice to see you,” I’m not only being polite, but I’m firming up that connection between me and the world. It’s a connection I will always need, and there are always little things I can do to make sure it stays there.
The journey home was a bit fraught, I’m afraid to say. It’s Bonfire Night this week, meaning that every night until Monday there will be fireworks going off everywhere in London. On the road where I live there sadly seems to be a gang of teenagers who must be very bored because they’ve taken to putting on their own firework show for the last two nights, even though it’s very built up round here and every firework is a health risk. Personally, I’ve never liked fireworks. To me, they’re just brightly coloured, controlled explosions. I can’t stand the noise of them, so to have them going off around me as I approached home made me quite panicky. By the time I’d reached the front door I felt quite sick, and I wanted to cry. I realised I was beginning to have a panic attack, which was probably compounded by the fact I was tired, and the fact I’m an excessively anxious person already.
When I got in I was greeted by my equally panicky mother, who during the day had received a pile of bills in the post which she wasn’t expecting all at once. At the moment she’s concerned we won’t have enough to pay those bills this month – she’s not earning quite enough yet, and I’m not earning anything. This situation has occurred so many times over the years, we should be used to it by now. But every time the financial situation gets a bit difficult, it tends to become the most important issue of the day in our house. My mother isn’t very good at dealing with stress. She’s terrible at hiding her feelings, so that the slightest upset will go on for days with her. Due to my own circumstances I’m still dependent on her in many ways, which means that whenever she’s upset or worried, I get upset or worried too.
Somehow, tonight, the fact that she has a load of bills that she can’t pay isn’t as upsetting to me as it would have been a few weeks ago. One of the AA promises tells us that fear of economic insecurity will leave us upon successful facilitation of the program – perhaps that’s starting to happen for me. I think I’m feeling more emotional now because of the horrible fireworks outside, and the fact that I’ve opened myself up to emotion in general by opening up in meetings all week. But actually, feeling emotional tonight is OK. I’m allowed to be upset, or scared, or whatever. Emotion is part of being human, and I can’t help that. What’s changed with the program is my reaction to those emotions: I have an outlet for them now. And it’s wonderful.