8 months, 27 days / routine

It’s been a great couple of days, mainly because I’ve finally managed to instill some routine in my life. I’m going to bed earlier at night and I’m getting up earlier in the morning; I’m not spending all day surfing the internet any more; I’m making plans for the day and sticking to them. The other day I think I was terrified of not being able to get things done because of a cold that I was coming down with; luckily, it hasn’t been that bad.

Tools such as routine would be suggested to be me if I was taking a course of cognitive behavioural therapy – instead I’ve learnt about them from AA’s 12 steps, which seem so similar to CBT now I’m finding it hard to separate the two. I can’t say my life is perfect now, but having this new routine just takes so much anxiety away, I can’t believe I didn’t attempt to have one before. As an alcoholic, it’s not in my nature to stick to routines, so there are bound to be times when I don’t want to get up until 1 in the afternoon. There are bound to be times when I don’t complete tasks that need to be completed; times when I let myself slip back into ‘acting out’ behaviours, such as surfing the internet all night. That’s the way I’m wired and it always will be. Just because I feel like doing those things, doesn’t mean I have to keep doing them. I’ve seen the benefits of changing my behaviour this week, and I am much happier today.

Installing a daily routine in my life really began with going to regular meetings last year. This week I’ve been to a meeting every day, and it feels perfectly natural for me to do that now. On Wednesday I ended up at the step 11 meeting in town, where they have ten minutes of meditation at the beginning. It was good to have those ten minutes; I’m hoping to make it a part of my day before I go to bed now. When I allow myself to have ten quiet minutes in my bedroom before climbing into bed at night, I always feel better, because it gives my head the space to deal with thoughts that have been troubling me in the day.

On Wednesday afternoon I went to my sponsor’s flat for our weekly step 5 session, something I’m coming to regard as real therapy now. We finished dealing with my resentments towards the people I went to school with. I had an awful lot of resentments towards my school days; I believe I was bullied continuously for five years, and step 4 has shown that I remember EVERYTHING. I had forgotten nothing, recalling every name and insult that was thrown at me during those five years.

On Wednesday it became clear to me that most of what happened to me at school wasn’t actually bullying at all, it was merely childish name-calling. Something that happens to everyone, even in adulthood. This is what my sponsor said, and I was able to be adult enough to agree with him. In life, people are childish and spiteful sometimes; at school, it’s just like that all the time. What happened to me wasn’t very nice, but because I had no skills as a child to stand up for myself, I simply internalised eveything and allowed myself to be the victim of it all.

Going through step 5 I’ve found myself flabberghasted at times by the lack of awareness and self-worth that I had as a child. Every single thing that everyone said to me, I was wounded by, and it was all a disaster, and I ended up giving so much of my power away that I turned into a seriously underweight, suicidal wreck. I was a ghost of a person at the age of sixteen. It’s no wonder I tried to commit suicide twice. I had no idea that there was a simple way out of the situation; I had no idea I could just say something back to these people.

My mother and my teachers kept telling me to stand up for myself, and I didn’t think I could because the words wouldn’t come to me. Every time I thought of saying something for myself, I was immediately drenched in shame and embarrassment, so I just continued to soak the ridicule up. Of course, the boys who bullied me were nasty, sick people, but I was sick as well. In adulthood, I have continued to play the victim at crucial moments, refusing to take responsibility for myself, determined to let others do everything for me because I still feel like that helpless, lost child.

After leaving my sponsor’s flat in North London, I caught the bus down to the step 11 meeting. On the bus, I had a bit of a shock: I saw someone who looked remarkably like one of the people I’d gone to school with. I can’t be sure if it was him, because he had a lot more facial hair than the boy who had made my life hell for five years. Whether it was him or not, doesn’t matter. I wanted to believe that it was him, because I wanted to show him how grown up and ‘normal’ I had become. Over the years I’ve bumped into other boys from school in London, purely by accident – clearly London isn’t that big a city – and my instant reaction is always to feel that old sense of embarrassment and shame inside, which makes me feel like I have to stand tall and prove myself to them somehow. I can’t just pass them by and ignore them; it has to be a dramatic and memorable event.

Anyway, on Wednesday I didn’t say anything to the guy on the bus because I didn’t know if it really was him or not. If it was him, he’s looking hot these days. I’ll never see him or any of them again, which is probably good for me. I know of friends who are invited to school reunions occasionally; if I was to be invited to one of my own, I’m sure I’d want to go out of morbid curiosity, to see how the bullies had changed and to see if I could cope with it. Perhaps that’s my masochistic tendency. In reality, I don’t think a reunion would be good for me. Not until I’ve forgiven them properly. They were just boys who used to call me names and push me around on a regular basis. As adults, I’m sure they’re fine specimens of humanity. I don’t need their validation now, and I don’t need to hate them any more. It’s the past; I have the tools now to take care of myself.

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