I didn’t have a very good Friday evening. Right up until I arrived at the meeting in town I felt fine; then as soon as I got there I saw everyone laughing and joking, hugging and smiling at each other, and it brought up resentments which I had not felt for months. I don’t know why I felt that way last night, but it didn’t leave me throughout the entire meeting. I’ve been to this meeting many times in sobriety; no one there is a stranger to me, yet yesterday I felt like a newcomer again with one day’s sobriety. Every time someone approached to speak to me, I closed myself up, folding my arms and looking at the floor, just like I did the first time I went there last July.
I found it hard to listen to any of the sharing in the meeting; when I did listen, all I heard was people talking about death and illness and depression. I knew I ought to share to bring myself out of my rapidly worsening mood, but the idea of sharing seemed alien to me. I would have felt silly sharing about my trivial issues when people were talking about dying friends. One lady burst into tears in the middle of a share, and the person next to her held her hand for the rest of the meeting. I felt incredibly jealous of this act of kindness, and I kept looking at it, willing it to stop.
When the meeting was over I wanted to walk out unnoticed, but I’ve clearly been in the fellowship too long to be able to do that. I had to say goodbye to at least two people, and just as I was heading for the door someone I’d never seen or spoken to before told me they had found my sharing last week helpful and inspirational. I couldn’t even remember what I’d shared about last week. That’s what made me the most angry as I walked home in a rage, what that man said to me. What was so inspirational about my sharing? How could it mean anything when I was still feeling this way after nine months? My irrational and angry inner child wanted to believe that the man must have been making it up, to taunt me. I couldn’t think of any reason to believe him or to appreciate his words. I was beginning to lose sight of why I should even be in the fellowship any more.
I tumbled into old paranoia and self-centred self pity very quickly, convinced that no one would even notice if I stopped coming to meetings. I knew lots of people to say ‘hello’ to last night, but with many of them it may never develop into anything more. None of them felt like real, genuine friends any more, not even the one or two people who I’ve considered close friends before. All of a sudden the whole thing seemed fake to me, as if I’d been pursuing a fantasy for the past nine months.
I couldn’t remember why I was bothering to go back to meetings, why I was bothering to stay sober. I kept thinking: we come into this world alone and we die alone, so why do they keep saying ‘you’re not alone’ in meetings? If I’d been determined to have a drink last night, nothing anyone said could have stopped me. I was sure that I really would have fight my illness alone, if it came down to it. No one from the fellowship is ever going to come home with me and see me through the dark nights; I’m always going to have to go to sleep alone.
When I finally got home last night I somehow knew that I was being irrational. I caught something funny on the television, and my spirits were magically restored, and I could start to think rationally again. I realised that I’d done all the wrong things. I should have shared in the meeting, or spoken to somebody afterwards, rather than isolating myself and running home. I still don’t know why I lost that connection with the fellowship and my higher power last night, and it scares me, because it had been a long time since I felt that way.
I think a part of me had become complacent; maybe I was resting on my laurels and assuming that I’d got better, when the truth is that I might always have mood swings like that. Technically I’ve had a very good week – I’ve done lots of work for University, I’ve been to six meetings and shared in three of them. Yet my mood has been all over the place. I’ve felt spite and anger and fear several times every day.
What I’ve learnt from last night is that I need to take my illness more seriously. I thought I’d lost the urge to drink entirely, but to be honest I was thinking about it last night. I wouldn’t have drunk last night, but I was starting to think that maybe isolating myself wouldn’t be such a bad thing, maybe it wouldn’t lead me to a drink like they all say it would. I began to question whether I really am glad to be sober.
Coincidentally, there was a man in the meeting who shared about a bad slip he’d had this week. I think he said he was five years sober before that slip. I remember him talking about the isolation and fear which had led him to the slip. When we take a drink, it’s the end of a slip, not the beginning. I really, really have to bear that in mind. Because I can’t afford to drink again. I know exactly where it would lead me – it would be no fun.