I gave my fourth chair in AA yesterday, at the meeting in the west which is now one of my favourites. All week I’d been looking forward to telling them that the first time I went there, last July when I was just two weeks sober, I absolutely hated it. At that time all I could see was a bunch of happy clappy, serene individuals. I hadn’t yet got the AA message properly and so wasn’t aware that one day I would be one of those people. This is the first thing I said in my chair yesterday, because I wanted to let people know that the resentment does subside. If you want to be a part of the fellowship, you can be. Well, that’s how I felt yesterday anyway.
It was pretty much the same chair as that which I’d given the last three times. I hadn’t planned anything, I just said what came to mind. Afterwards I remembered all sorts of important things that I’d forgotten to say, as always. I’d forgotten to talk about my family and my childhood, something I know I need to say more about in recovery. I don’t know why I keep managing to avoid those subjects in my sharing. I hope that next time I can actually remember – my childhood is all I seem to be thinking about at the moment, and it’s obviously something that I have to deal with.
After the meeting they all went for coffee at the local café as usual, and for the second week in a row we were able to sit outside in a cool summer breeze whilst enjoying our beverages. I felt like I was on holiday – I can’t remember ever sitting outside cafés in London before. It was a very pleasant evening, as Saturdays always are now. Today should have been equally pleasant; technically it has been, with even warmer sunshine to enjoy and more fellowship to experience. For the first time in ages I had a free Sunday, so I decided to go to the Sunday meeting which I’ve only been to a couple of times this year. Last time I went there I was asked to do the chair at the very last minute; the melodramatic part of me almost got carried away with fantasies of being asked again today. When I got there it came as a bit of a relief to see they already had a chair sorted out – it would be given by one of those people in recovery who I don’t know very well but have always liked chatting to.
All the familiar faces were there at the meeting. It’s hard to believe that ten months ago I didn’t know any of them. When I first went there in July 2007 I never thought I’d be part of that group, I never thought I’d end up recognising everyone in the room, even though a similar process had taken place at University and other long-term situations in my life. After ten months I can finally sit amongst friends in any meeting I go to – any gay meeting, that is. Straight meetings are a slightly different story! As we sat there before the start of the meeting chattering and laughing with each other like school kids, a small part of me couldn’t quite relax. This is the part of me that still doesn’t trust the feeling that this will be a permanent thing. The part of me that thinks they might all forget about me tomorrow, that I’ll never really be a part of the group because they’re all so much better than me.
The meeting’s chair was very good, and I would like to have shared back, but for some reason I couldn’t. Afterwards a few of us went to get coffee and sit in a public square, which was absolutely heaving with attractive men. It was so easy to tag along with the group, I wasn’t even worried about not being welcome because I’ve gone for coffee with them so many times before. But still, it didn’t feel entirely natural, for some odd reason. I wasn’t a huge part of the conversation. Of course, it should be clear to all concerned, including me, by now that I’m just a quiet person who doesn’t talk as much as others. It’s not really a problem, but my mind continues to pick up on it nonetheless.
It didn’t help when we got to the square and they all started talking about this holiday to Ibiza that they’re going on in the summer. I’d known that they were planning this holiday, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise to me that they should want to talk about it whilst all together in the same place. But after a while it was all they seemed to want to talk about – no other topic of conversation had proved interesting enough for them. They talked about their plans for the holiday, which places they were going to visit, which clubs they were going to dance in and how many men they were going to pull. I’ve been in this situation so many times before, where I seem to be the only one in the group that’s not taking part in some big thing that’s about to happen.
It was just as painful today as it was the last time I felt left out of friends’ plans. Even though I knew I couldn’t possibly afford a holiday to Ibiza this summer, my alcoholic brain kept thinking: it would have been nice to be invited. Would have been nice for someone to ask what I’m doing this summer. I tried to imagine how the situation could have occurred where I wasn’t invited on holiday with people who were supposed to be my friends; I quickly realised that there had probably been an occasion recently where they were at the coffee shop or the park talking about holidays, and someone simply suggested a group trip to Ibiza. My only mistake was my absence. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not my fault that I wasn’t there for that conversation, and it’s not their fault either.
Still, I couldn’t stop the old feelings of resentment from developing as I sat on the hard, uncomfortable grass this evening. When I’m in the middle of that resentment, I can’t imagine any time in the future when I might actually be invited on holiday with these people. Summer 2009 doesn’t exist in my alcoholic mind: summer 2008 is the only thing that’s important when I’m feeling that way, because I won’t be going to Ibiza in summer 2008 and so everything’s a disaster, the world’s over and we all might as well drop dead.
The major breakthrough in all of this is that I can actually think about it in this way. A few years ago, whenever I was left out of things (which seemed to happen quite a lot) I would simply feel hateful and angry for a few days, and wonder why it had happened to me again. I didn’t have a program of recovery at that time. Today I have recovery on my side and I can see that it’s mere circumstance which has excluded me from being able to go to Ibiza with my friends. God, nine months ago I probably wouldn’t even have been able to go and sit with them in the square! I wasn’t there when they arranged the holiday in the first place, and I can’t afford to go this year anyway. I have the rest of my life to go to bloody Ibiza, and it’s not like I can’t go on any holidays until then. Next weekend I’m off to Cardiff for a much needed break from London; in June I’m going to the gay AA convention in Bristol with C; later in the year I might be going to the South of France again with P, if I can find the money by then. In my alcoholic mind, all of these things pale into significance compared to the thought of a week in Ibiza with five of the coolest people that I know in recovery. It’s like all the holidays I’ve ever been on and all the holidays I will ever go on with friends count for nothing until I’ve flown somewhere with at least three other people from AA.
It’s so silly to be resentful about it tonight, but my head still wants to cling onto that anger. It’s telling me that although there may be no good reason to feel resentful about Ibiza, there will be loads of other things in my life that I have the right to feel angry about – so I may as well just let myself feel angry tonight! But I know I can’t allow this anger to fester. I’ve analyzed the situation and I know it’s just down to bad luck and bad timing. I haven’t been left out of anything. Perhaps if I want to go away with them in summer 2009, I should start hanging around with them more and stop wallowing in self-pity.