Against all expectations, I managed to get quite a lot done yesterday, the most important thing being my dissertation, which is now just about finished. It hasn’t sunk in yet that it’s over – I keep having to remind myself that there’s nothing left to do! I’m almost expecting something else to come up, because it’s been a part of my life for so long I suppose. I’ve been building up to it in this degree for three years. Of course, I’ll have to go through the report again before I hand it in, to iron out any mistakes. But the hard work is all done now. I don’t feel free, because there are more challenges ahead of me, such as finding work after graduation. I’m still a bit nervous about that, as I always have been, but it’s not nearly as daunting as it was a year ago.
In the evening I went to the meeting in west London that I’ve always really liked. It doesn’t usually get very busy, so everyone gets to share for a bit longer than normal. The chair was really good, given by a woman who’s been in the fellowship for nearly fourteen years. She mainly talked about the perspective and security that long term sobriety gives you. It’s funny how I seem to identify with every chair I hear now, even though I’ve only been around for nine months and many of these people have been sober for years. One thing the lady said last night really stood out for me: that long term sobriety doesn’t make you a better person or make life any easier, but it does give you insight and perspective into situations and behaviours that you’re not comfortable with. I suppose if one was to relate that to the 12 steps, step 4 teaches us about our character defects and in discovering these things we gradually identify and change behaviours which are bad for us. I’m definitely becoming aware of situations and behaviours that have never served me but which I keep doing, like the isolating, which comes from paranoia about what people are thinking of me. I keep slipping into that mindset because it is my natural way of operating, but the difference now is that I know exactly what it is, and I know it doesn’t have to be my only way of interacting with people any more. I feel a lot more secure in the fellowship now, and it’s not such a struggle to be sociable any more, whereas in the beginning it was always a struggle.
I wanted to share last night but unfortunately I left it right to the end, and the secretary ended the meeting just as I was about to open my mouth. I keep managing to do that, and it’s annoying, and I know I need to assert myself and open my mouth earlier in meetings to avoid it happening in future. In the past I wouldn’t have been aware that I could even change the situation myself – I’d have just been resentful at the secretary for ending the meeting too quickly.
Because I hadn’t shared for a few days, there was a moment last night when I was quite resentful, and I didn’t want to speak to anybody when the meeting was over, I just wanted to go home and remain invisible. But very quickly I was able to snap out of it, as my higher power reminded me that I was among friends. I didn’t have to isolate to deal with the situation. I knew that going for coffee and speaking to people would be much more beneficial for me, and this is what I did. In the café it turned out that I was able to help some of the others, by talking about my feelings and my experiences. I told the group about a new AA cliché I’d heard the other day in a meeting: ‘you wouldn’t care what others thought about you if you knew how seldom they did it.’ One of the guys in the café was so keen on this cliché that he got me to write it down in his notebook for him, so he would never forget it. He said I’d helped him out by passing this piece of information onto him. I really like the AA clichés, because they’re all so true. I’m glad I was able to help that person out last night. It shows me I don’t always have to be in the perfect frame of mind to help others – I only have to say one thing and it might be useful to somebody. So I got a lot out of last night, despite the fact that I hadn’t shared in the meeting.
I love that Saturday meeting now because it’s not quite in central London, so it’s a bit out of the way of the classic gay ‘scene’ which we’ve all felt disillusioned with over the years. They go to a nice little café nearby where the staff all know us, so it’s very relaxing for me. It’s nice to have that on Saturdays. In my drinking days I used to get so disappointed when I couldn’t go out clubbing and drinking into the early hours of Sunday morning. Now I can go west of town for a few hours, spend time with genuinely nice people, then go home at a reasonably early time and get to sleep sober. My life isn’t ruled by Saturday night clubbing any more!!
Today it was my second training session in phone counselling, which I will be starting soon for a lesbian & gay charity organisation in North London. There was a lot of role play, which was very nerve-racking, but over all I really enjoyed it. I feel like I’ve learned a lot today. Even though it’s very different to face to face counselling, a career I eventually want to go into, I can tell phone counselling will be a great preparatory experience for me. We had to talk about counselling skills today, such as empathy and acceptance. The people I’ll be working with are all very nice, so I’m really keen to get going with it now. There were slight nerves before the day had started, but by the time the session was finished I’d forgotten all about fear. I think because I’ve done quite a bit of voluntary work in sobriety so far, I’m used to that kind of role now, so I know there’s nothing to be nervous about. Soon I’ll be training as a befriender to autistic youths as well, which I can’t wait for. I only hope I haven’t given myself too much to do this year!