It’s very late and I’m at the end of my third fun-filled day in a row. I’ve had busy weeks before, but none have been this much fun. Early this afternoon I went to the National Film Theatre on the South bank of the Thames, where they are currently hosting the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. I’d known this was going on but had no plans to go and watch anything there, until my friend J invited me today to see the classic Bette Davis movie, ‘Now, Voyager’. Apparently Bette Davis is a huge gay icon which is why they are showing her films as part of the festival. I have to say I loved the film that we saw today. It’s a typical 1940’s camp Hollywood melodrama, but it was also a story I could relate to, the story of an ugly duckling who leaves home and grows into a confident and loveable person.
I don’t want to compare myself to Bette Davis – I’m no Hollywood starlet – but I did feel like an unwanted ugly duckling who would never find love in my teenage years, as did Davis’ character in the movie. I was actually impressed that the film dealt with some of these issues. I never thought Hollywood in the 1940’s was daring enough to talk about themes of depression and social anxiety. As I said, it was full of camp melodrama but there were also a lot of touching moments which I just adored. The film’s title comes from a line in a letter that someone has written to Davis’ main character: ‘Now voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find.’ What a beautiful analogy for life’s journey of discovery and growth.
After the film J and I sat in the swanky theatre café drinking tea and talking about all kinds of things. Because John is not in AA, I was surprised when we discussed other friends’ alcoholic tendencies, to find that he is as repulsed by their excesses as I am. Since coming into AA I’ve fallen into the mentality that everyone outside is in denial about the consequences of heavy drinking; it turns out that I have a non-AA friend who actually agrees with me about that side of things. J himself drinks sometimes, so we don’t hang out an awful lot these days, but maybe we will from now on. I enjoyed his company immensely today, and I feel a bit bad for neglecting him and other similar non-AA friends during the past 9 months. If I can sit with someone all day and talk about things that interest me, surely it doesn’t matter if they’re in AA or not. Last year I experienced a dilemma over whether to ditch my old drinking friends or not. Today I’ve found that there are hidden depths to some of them which I never knew about!
I was on such a high after leaving J this evening that I didn’t want to go home. I felt like more socialising and a bit of dancing too, even though I went out dancing last weekend and said I wouldn’t do it again for another month. I sent a text message to my good friend P, who isn’t in AA either, to ask if he was free. He said that he was, but couldn’t come out for another hour or so, so I went to sit in one of the coffee shops in Soho that I’ve frequented a lot in sobriety. When I got there I wasn’t surprised to bump into some AA people, including the sweet newcomer D who’s about two weeks sober. He was there waiting for a friend too.
I discovered that he was entertaining the idea of a night out but felt nervous as he hadn’t been to any ‘wet places’ yet in sobriety. For the next hour I listened to his fears and anxieties, and tried to be a comfort to him, by reminding him that the night’s course was completely up to him. If he wanted to go out he could, and if he wanted to go home he could. To be honest I thought that going into any wet place at two weeks sober might be unadvisable, so I wasn’t too encouraging of that option, though it seemed like the friends he was waiting for were OK, and as two young people we both seem to find the idea of ‘going out’ a lot more attractive than other people in AA might.
By ‘going out’ I simply mean dancing in gay bars – not the AA sense of ‘going out’ to drink. For some reason there are certain parts of the gay ‘scene’ in London which still appeal to me and D and our peers in AA. Even though we had such a bad time with the scene in general over the years, there are still places where the music is good and the people are cute to look at. I’ve certainly found it impossible to avoid that part of London completely in sobriety, and as time goes on I think I’m slowly becoming a part of it again.
When I first ‘came out’ at the age of 18 and discovered gay bars and clubs for the first time, it was a huge journey of discovery for me. I was amazed that these places existed; they seemed so free and fun and exciting. Now I think I’m going through that process again; I’m rediscovering what it’s like to be young and attractive. After coffee with D tonight I met P and we went dancing for a couple of hours in one of the bars where I’ve always enjoyed the music. I really felt 18 again, a feeling I’ve had a lot in recovery. I caught guys looking at me, and I remembered that I have a body which some people might be interested in.
Towards the end of my drinking, I allowed my body to be abused by all kinds of men, which at the time I thought was making me feel attractive, but in reality I was living in cheap depravity. Now that drink is out of the equation I am in control of what I do with my body, and I can make a choice about who I end up with. Tonight, I came home before midnight on my own because no one appealing caught my eye. That must sound so shallow, but I mean it in a good way. I didn’t just go home with the first person to show interest in me, like I always did when I was drinking. I chose not to connect with anyone, and I’m very happy with that decision now. I’m at home, preparing to sleep in my own bed, and in the morning I will wake up on my own, in familiar surroundings, without the shock of any unfamilar faces in the bed next to me. These are my wildest dreams, again.