9 months, 4 days

Yesterday started with some good news, as I bumped into my supervisor when I arrived in Uni to be told that I didn’t have to find ten more participants for my project, if I absolutely couldn’t. She said that the research would be feasible with just 90 participants; in fact I’ve probably got more participants than some of my fellow students at the moment. So, the research is finally over. All that remains for me to do is finish the report, then it’s all done! Yesterday I managed to write up the results properly, with the help of a statistics text book taken from the library. Not the kind of book I’d choose to read in my spare time! Some of it was plain foreign to me, but by the end of the day I had a reasonable grasp of what I needed to do, and now all that remains for me to do is write the ‘discussion’ section. I hope I can get that done by the end of today. It shouldn’t take very long; the other parts of the report are traditionally more difficult to finish.

No, I can’t believe it’s nearly over now. All year I’ve had this project hanging over me. It’s never been more of a burden than it is at the moment. Through my own sheer determination I’ve managed to do nearly everything on my own, and I’ve nearly finished two weeks before the deadline. I can’t imagine how much more difficult the whole thing would have been if I was drinking. I dread to think what this year would have been like if that were the case. I’d probably have left University by now, because I couldn’t have afforded to carry on with the amount I was spending before.

Last night’s meeting in town was quite dramatic. For years this guy called P has been turning up at meetings drunk; he always insists on sharing for about ten minutes, and the stuff he shares about is usually completely irrelevant to the meeting. Last night he was absolutely wasted, and after he’d taken his turn to speak he kept interrupting other sharers, shouting at them for talking about stuff which he couldn’t relate to. He also called the chair ‘arrogant’ for saying that he never wanted to drink again.

He’s been bad before, but never this bad. By the end of the meeting the secretary was forced to tell P to shut up, but P wouldn’t keep quiet. He just got louder and louder, screaming at the room about how hard it was for him. I’ve seen him cause scenes in meetings before, so I wasn’t at all shocked at his behaviour, though it was still incredibly embarrassing and painful to watch. Part of me just wanted to go over and plead with him to stop. It’s so obvious to me, and probably everyone else, that he is going out of his way to get attention. He is a true alcoholic, and he knows it. He keeps saying that he wants to stop drinking, but he never actually does. He must be so hooked on booze, I fear for him if he ever does try to stop. Alcohol withdrawal can be the worst kind of withdrawal; it can be fatal in very exceptional cases.

When I first came into the fellowship and saw him behaving like that, I was repulsed by him, and I wanted nothing to do with him. These days, I have a lot more compassion, because there’ve been a few occasions when I’ve actually stood outside talking to him, and he can be quite nice. It’s only inside the meetings that he is a nightmare, for some reason. Last weekend after I gave my chair, he came up to me outside the meeting and said I had ‘humility’. From him, that seems like a great compliment. I can tell he wants to make friends and become part of the fellowship, but he’s never managed to get to the point where he can change. He just goes home and starts drinking again.

Last night he came up to me after the meeting as usual, and I walked with him a while, as I realised that I had an opportunity to say some important things to him. He told me that he was scared of getting close to people, because it made him vulnerable; he also said that the reason he gets so angry in meetings is because he feels like people are looking down their nose at him. I reassured him that no one is looking down their nose at anyone; people are merely upset because he’s taking their chance to share from them. I didn’t quite know how to inform him that he could end up being barred from meetings, because his behaviour is going against the tradition which states that the group’s welfare must come first. He probably wouldn’t have listened if I’d said that, so I didn’t say anything. Before leaving him I struggled not to beg him to stop drinking; I simply said that it is much better not drinking, and he seemed to hear me. He smiled and said ‘thankyou’ before running to catch the tube. I have no idea if I got through to him in the end. I probably didn’t, but isn’t it worth trying? The thing is, by all accounts he’s been like this for years, and many others have tried to help him in the past, only to be let down time and time again. Why would I have any luck when all those other people didn’t?

I realised immediately that I want to help P for entirely selfish reasons. I’d love to see him get well with my help because it would make me look good. Helping him to get better would in turn help me. Yes it’s selfish, but it’s completely human for me to feel that way. Recently in counselling I learnt that in healing others we heal ourselves. Surely that’s the principle that sponsorship rests on. What I have to be careful of with P is getting too involved. After leaving him last night I went to coffee with the group as usual, and I was glad that P hadn’t come with us, because I would have ended up speaking to him all night. If I decide to help him, I could end up getting badly let down, because the likelihood is that he will keep slipping. So I don’t really know what to do now. I can’t just ignore him when he comes up to talk to me, but part of me thinks I just haven’t got the experience or knowledge to give him the help he needs.

I think the fact that I know all this shows the strength of my recovery. I’m proud of myself for staying to talk to him for a bit last night, rather than running off with the group as I had done before. Not many people seem to want to talk to him any more. That’s probably because they’ve all been in the program a lot longer than me, and they’ve all got a bit sick of him. In the end I may get sick of him too, but I hope I don’t. I hope I can keep talking to him every now and then, because I have an idea of what he’s going through. Sure, there are times when I’ve felt like screaming and shouting in meetings because I’m so furious with everyone there. I’d never do that because I’m far too polite. What’s true is that P’s behaviour is NOT alien to any of us. We’ve all done that kind of thing in pubs during our drinking. So we cannot sit in judgement, much as we’d like to.

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4 thoughts on “9 months, 4 days

  1. Thanks for not giving up on P. All it takes is one person to change anothers life.
    I don’t think of it as selfish to help another, to help ones self. Like you said, that is what the program and the steps are all about. You have to give it away to keep it.
    With 9 months clean, you have more than enough to give away – your experience on how you got sober and how you stay sober, one day at a time.

  2. I went to meetings drunk many times, and it took me about six years of drinking IN AA to actually stop. I think the group can and really should draw a line at sharing while intoxicated, though. This would be better than barring someone from a meeting. Unfortunately, there’s no good answer to this. It’s good of you to take time with this person, though. You never know when it might help, plus it keeps you sober.

  3. Pretty much every meeting I’ve been to in London has a line in the script which goes: ‘please do not share if you’ve had a drink or drug today, but speak to someone after the meeting’. I heard that the line was introduced because of this one person’s behaviour over the years. Needless to say, he’s never listened to it, which is why the group is in such a dilemma.

  4. You helping P is not selfish, it shows the kindness and caring you have inside yourself, as well as your braveness. You never know, the way you chat to him might be different to the way others have in the past, he might listen or he might not, but if you want, then take the risk that he does listen. As you say it might also help you, but this is not selfish as it will be helping him too. Good luck.

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