9 months, 10 days / …and breathe!

The theme of social phobia has kind of continued to be a part of my life in the last two days, although it hasn’t had such a negative effect on me since Wednesday. Yesterday the main thing I did was get my dissertation professionally bound, as we have to hand it in like that next week. I spent a small amount on the binding, thinking the thing was completely finished and ready to be sent off. For one annoying reason which I will go into later, the dissertation is not ready at all, so I’ve just wasted that money because next week I’ll have to print the whole thing out and get it bound again.

Last night I went to the local step 1 meeting which I’ve attended pretty much every week this year so far. As usual I shared in the final raised hand section reserved for newcomers. I think I talked about how pleased I was to have completed a dissertation that I could be proud of. I really did feel proud of it yesterday. I thought it was proof positive of the progress I’d made in recovery. To find out tonight that there are still bits which need to be changed, is like finding out that I have to go back to seven months sober. Not nice at all.

Today I’ve spent most of the day out and about. I don’t seem to feel content staying in any more, especially now that the weather’s improving. I did my usual circuit of central London this afternoon, which killed a couple of hours and brought my energy levels right down. By the time I was due to meet fellowship friends in town for coffee, I was exhausted, unsurprisingly. I was sure I’d be ready to go to sleep by the time we got to the meeting at 7.30. Unfortunately the room where the meeting is held tends to get very hot, and today it was extremely noticeable. It’s like they forgot to turn the heating off when winter ended. It was terribly uncomfortable, and I didn’t really want to be there.

P was at the front as always, doing everything he could to draw attention to himself. Nothing he said during his share made much sense, and during a few other people’s shares he deliberately piped up, determined to make it known that he did not agree with the things being said. It wasn’t as bad as last week, but it was still cringe-worthy, and some of my patience from last week had clearly gone. I realised a long time ago that people like P make me uncomfortable because I’m incredibly averse to public embarrassment. Even though I did some hugely embarrassing things during my drinking, I’ve never been able to stand awkward social situations. Weirdoes on the underground always scare me, just because I find the thought of breaking social rules so stomach-churning.

So to have P making a fool of himself every week in front of everyone makes me want to run screaming from the room. I know that has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with me. That’s not his fault. I’m the one who has these social issues that make me feel this way. He’s just acting out his own private torment. We all know that. He makes us uncomfortable because he’s breaking social rules which he didn’t write; perhaps he reminds us all of what we are capable of, under the influence of alcohol.

So I was too hot and too embarrassed to share tonight. I’m not too bothered about that now. All in all it was a nice meeting anyway. I saw loads of friends and managed to go for dinner afterwards with my new friend A, who’s been in the program for three months. To be able to chat to people freely and ask them to dinner is wonderful; it hasn’t stopped being wonderful in the whole nine months I’ve been doing it. I was going to say that tonight was like a first for me, but it wasn’t. I’ve been socialising in this way for nine months, all without the help of alcohol. Brilliant!

I was in a good mood right up until I walked through the front door half an hour ago, when I was brought back down to earth by the routine problems of every day life. The hot water here still seems to be working erratically, so my mother’s mood is on the slide once again. I’ve also switched the computer on to find an e-mail from my dissertation supervisor, telling me that I need to rewrite my ‘results’ section again, because it’s just no good. The e-mail details a whole list of corrections, and my heart sank as I read through them. I’d spent all that time yesterday getting what I thought was the final draft professionally bound, only to have this unsympathetic e-mail tonight which I should have got last week. My supervisor’s had a whole bloody week to tell me this. There’s less than a week left until the final deadline now, and to be honest I’m fucking pissed off with her right now. How dare she wait to criticize my efforts until a week before the deadline! Couldn’t she have found anything positive to say about the work which I sent her last week?

Together with my mother’s continuing bad mood, this news has put a huge damper on the end of the week. I wouldn’t mind, if it weren’t so close to the deadline, and if it weren’t so important for me to get this project right. Next week not only will I be handing my entire dissertation in – the culmination of a year’s work – I’ll be attending my last ever lectures. We’re finishing early so that we have a few weeks to revise before final exams at the end of May. I’ve felt slightly emotional every time I’ve thought about it this week. It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ll actually be finished within a month.

I’ve been in education my whole life. After May, I won’t be any more. Whatever I end up doing, I won’t be in a formal program of learning any longer. I’ll be out there, fending for myself, making my own way for the first time. I actually want to cry now, not because I wish I wasn’t leaving University. I’m really glad I’m leaving now – I’m ready to start working and earning a wage. I want to cry because I’m at a huge milestone in my life; things are changing for me, once again.

I felt like this when I was preparing to leave home for the first time at the age of 18. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew everything was going to change, and I was very, very scared, even though I was desperate for things to change. God, this is really scary for me, and do you know what, it’s OK to be scared. I have a tendency to beat myself up for feeling negative emotions, but I don’t want to do that any more. I have to own these feelings, I have to sit with them and deal with them. My life is about to change in the most incredible way, and I’m going to do it sober, with a program of recovery behind me. Right this second, that doesn’t make me feel lucky, but I know I am lucky to have what I have today. I wouldn’t change anything about my life today. It feels so good to be able to say that. I just wish I could go to bed now and let these tears out!!

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