8 months, 4 days / people, places and things

11am This is going to be a different one. I just copied this old diary entry to my computer. It was written on the 20th September 2001, the day after I left home and went to University. I was 18 years old, brand new to the world. It strongly reminds me of things I’ve written about my experiences in AA; in a way it’s like history is repeating itself in 2008.

The euphoria I talked about last night wasn’t to last. Tonight at dinner the boys asked me if I wanted to go out with them again, and this time I said “no”, because I was still shattered from last night, so they went off into town, and I was left to wash up on my own, feeling like a bit of a loser. Five minutes later they came back for some reason, but they didn’t ask me if I wanted to stay in the kitchen with them. Right now I’m sitting in my room, listening to them having a wail of a time in the kitchen with the girls from upstairs.

Up til a few minutes ago I was too upset to write about it, but then one of the boys from the group knocked on my door to ask if I knew where everyone had gone. I said “aren’t they in the kitchen?”, but he didn’t seem to know who those people in the kitchen were. There are certainly people living here who I don’t know yet. I assumed that the people we both knew must have gone back into town. This feeling of not being the only person left behind made me feel perversely better. I mean, he could have gone out to find the group by now, but I don’t get the feeling he’d do that. Through today I’ve noticed his quietness; he isn’t as outgoing as some of the group. Before I got here I thought I’d never find someone shy like me, but maybe I’m about to be proved wrong.

Of course it would be nice if I could just be outgoing like everyone else, rather than have to look for someone who seems a bit shy, but it was always going to be this way. My problem is I get so paranoid about what people think about me that I retreat and hide from them, rather than stick around and attempt to make them like me. That’s why I’m too scared to step outside my door right now. I know I’m worrying for no reason. Why on earth would these people be offended by me not wanting to go out with them? Unfortunately, nothing’s going to make me want to go outside of my room right now. They’ve most likely forgotten all about me by now, and that hurts as much as the thought of them being offended does.

This reminds me of what happened to one of the characters in last year’s series of Big Brother. He retreated into his own world while the others got on with their drinking and shouting. None of them said they were offended by this character’s shyness; in fact he seemed quite a well-liked member of the group. Am I well-liked by my group? I thought I was up until a few hours ago, but now I’m really not sure. Offending people isn’t my main fear, it’s being forgotten about that I’m scared of in the end. I’m probably so forgettable that even the guy who just knocked on my door won’t bother with me any more.

When I stepped into AA last summer I was forced to make friends in a brand new situation all over again, and the fear was exactly the same, seven years on. Every time I have to meet new people and find my way on my own, it terrifies me, as the potential for rejection continues to haunt me. When I went to University in 2001, I hadn’t started drinking yet; that would soon find its way into my life, and for the next six years alcohol would be my crutch in the social situation. In Alcoholics Anonymous, using alcohol is never an option, which is why I’ve had to go back in time and learn those social skills properly. Slowly, I’m getting there. People seem to like me now, lots of them are interested in my progress; I don’t think I will be forgotten about in AA. That fear remains all the time, though, at the back of my mind. In my heart and in my gut I am still that scared teenager, who had never properly grown up with a full set of life skills. I’ve only been learning how to function in the world as an adult for eight months – it’s going to be a long, long time before a real solid foundation of inner strength and belief is created.

10.30pm I’ve just come back from a date. Sorry for not warning you about these things in advance! It was arranged about a week ago. This is that guy L, who I met at my gay social event the weekend before last. We were clearly attracted to each other that first time, and I was keen to meet up with him again, to see where things would lead, despite knowing the whole dating thing is a thorny issue for me at the moment. We met tonight in the East of London, where I hadn’t been for about three years. The last time I was there, I was with friends from University, very drunk. Going back was a strange experience for me. I never thought I would experience the area sober; it’s not the type of place I’d normally hang out. L and I went for a quick coffee, then we walked around looking for a good place to eat. As L knows the area better than me, he led the way, and we ended up walking for about twenty minutes, unable to agree on anywhere at first. In the end we found ourselves in a hilariously bad fast food joint where the chicken was very boney and there were no menus. I knew of better places in the area nearby, where I am based at University, but L wanted to stick to his area this evening.

Conversation at first was natural and flowing, but as time went on we both grew increasingly quiet. I was preoccupied with deciding how I wanted the night to end; did I want to go home on my own, or did I want to stay with L? The sensible part of me knew that going home by myself would be the right action to take, but my physical side wanted to go for the other option.

By the time we’d finished dinner neither of us was speaking much. All of a sudden I felt uncomfortable, and I wanted to leave. We had only been together for about an hour; it seemed a shame to bring everything to an abrupt end, but in my gut I knew that things weren’t going well. Dinner had been awful, and we weren’t talking any more. I became convinced that L must have gone off me, and so I didn’t want to try any more. I thanked him for dinner and came home at 9 o’clock, telling myself I’d be amazed if I ever hear from him again.

I’m pissed off with L and even more with myself right now, I can hardly write about it. But I have to. What the hell went wrong? Recovery has taught me that I need to be honest and get to the bottom of things when I’m not feeling right, so this is what I’m trying to do. What has upset me tonight? To be totally honest, I can’t remember a single date I’ve ever been on where I haven’t come home feeling miserable or angry afterwards. I laughed a little when I realised that on the train home.

I’m upset because the date seemed to begin so well – as dates usually do. I couldn’t understand why L suddenly went quite halfway through dinner, but now I think I might have an idea what went wrong. I talked about being poor far too much. L mentioned some of the countries he had travelled to recently, and I kept saying stupid stuff like: “I’d love to go there, if I could afford it.” I probably gave such a bad impression of myself, and it probably didn’t help that I didn’t offer to pay for anything. He probably went home thinking I’m some kind of gold digger. Stupid, stupid me.

My higher power is telling me I’m analyzing things way too much, being too negative. Maybe L hasn’t made his mind up about me yet, or maybe he really likes me. I’d have no idea. If I wanted to be adult and normal about this, maybe I’d try and think of all the things that went well tonight. I suppose it was interesting to eat somewhere I wouldn’t normally eat. I guess it was good to get to know someone a bit better. L’s an attractive, intelligent guy with a lot to offer, that much I can tell. Would I like to see him again? Yes, I most definitely would.

I’m really frigging angry that I can’t be positive in any way about tonight. This is why I’ve avoided dating for months, because I can’t bloody handle adult relationships. I can’t stop analyzing everything to death and I can’t stop getting over-attached. The reason why I went on the date tonight is because everyone I’ve spoken to says I should not be depriving myself of affection, as I have done for eight months. I really believe it’s natural for humans to pair up with each other, and by avoiding seeing men for so long I’ve torn myself apart. I can’t not go on dates when they come along – but what’s also evident is that I have no romantic skills whatsoever. I don’t know where to start in relationships, I wouldn’t know how to be part of one.

Anyway, when I got home I sent L a message online, thanking him for dinner etc. It would have been rude not to. If I wanted to give the impression that I wasn’t interested in him, I wouldn’t message him at all – but that’s not the impression I want to give. I won’t sit here waiting for him to message me back. If I never hear from him again, so be it. At least I’ve tried.

You just know it’s going to be like this every time I go on a date. My head isn’t going to stop being screwed up, until I’ve gone out and got some real experience. My problem is I’ve spent so long running away from things instead of experiencing them properly. Tonight could have gone a lot better, but at least I went through with it, completely sober. Can you imagine how disastrous it would have been if I’d been drinking?!

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