10 months, 28 days / spiritual Soho

It’s been a pretty average couple of days. The weather here in London is going through another gloomy patch so today I’ve mostly been indoors, curled up in front of the TV. I’m also very tired because I’m not sleeping well at the moment. I know it’s because I’m still going to bed late most nights. I can’t seem to come home from meetings without logging onto the internet for at least two hours – it feels unnatural to go straight to bed when I’ve just walked in the door. I know I have to start doing it though because I’m really paying for the late nights at the moment.

Yesterday was a bit nicer than today. I spent a couple of hours with S, drinking coffee and chatting in Soho, my spiritual home. Honestly I love Soho these days, even though I did most of my drinking there. I’ve seen a different side to Soho, and the rest of London, this year. When I was drinking I never went to coffee shops; these days I spend most of my time in them, and I love it. I love London’s vibrancy, its colour, its life. In my childhood I rarely ventured away from my drab home in North London; I remember when I started going into town around the age of 18, I was blown away by how exciting it was. Through my drinking I managed to get bored with it, but now I’m rediscovering that excitement, and it’s wonderful.

I especially enjoy sitting in coffee shops with good friends such as S. We both have the same amount of sobriety and there’s an affinity between us; we’ve experienced the same difficulties this year and I think we’re both amazed to still be here in AA. Eleven months is a long time for young guys like us. For a short time I resented S because he seemed so much better than me; I’m very far away from that resentment today. S is just as insecure about things as I am. He wishes he could meet Mr Right tomorrow, like I do. He worries about people not liking him, like I do. We talked a lot about ‘popularity’ yesterday, what it means…sometimes I think I’m not as popular as my peers in AA, because I still find myself sitting alone in meetings occasionally, unapproached. S did his best to reassure me that I’m well liked by everyone, reminding me of all the recent social occasions I had been invited to, such as his barbecue last weekend. It was a really nice afternoon; I think S and I will always be friends. It’s so important to be able to trust in that. So many times in the past I’ve thought that people are my friends, only to find that after a couple of years they drift away, like everyone else.

I don’t think friendship is that important to me just because I had a lonely childhood – I think social support is a basic human need. How do I know that after a few years S and others won’t just drift away, like many people naturally do in time? Well, I hope that at least a few of my current AA friends remain with me for a long time, because it will be nice to go on the long journey of sobriety with these people. There’s no doubt that S is part of my journey now. As is C, with whom I am travelling to another AA convention this weekend. I think we’ll always be friends, because this isn’t friendship like any other: it’s based on honesty and sobriety. It has a much firmer foundation than any relationship I’ve been in before.

Last night when I left S he told me he would be cooking dinner for D; they would be watching the final of ‘The Apprentice’ together on television. I was planning to watch the same thing last night. I half expected S to invite me to join them, but he didn’t. We parted ways, and I went straight to a meeting, struggling to avoid resentment. In the past, a resentment would have developed so quickly because of something like that. I would still be feeling it today. Right now I don’t feel resentful because I know that S and D have a very close relationship, and they spend a lot of time together. It seems natural for them to go round to each other’s places for dinner; whereas I clearly don’t have the same kind of relationship with them yet. I’ve always considered S and D close friends in recovery, but I guess we’ve yet to reach the stage where we’re cooking for each other and watching television together. I’m not angry that S didn’t invite me over last night but it did bother me for a moment. Why haven’t we got to that stage in our friendship yet? When and how are we going to get to it? I don’t know the answers to these questions yet…maybe I need to make more effort to see them. Maybe it is possible for me to change things so that I can start having dinner at friends’ places more often; in the past that was always the kind of thing I would wait for other people to instigate.

If it seems like I’m obsessed with the fantasy of spending time in friend’s homes, it’s because it’s one of those things I never really did until recently. S’s barbecue last weekend was the first time I’d been invited to any sober friend’s flat. Funnily enough, another friend in recovery has invited me to a meal at his place this weekend. Sadly I will be at the AA convention with C, so I’m going to have to miss it. I’d really love to have gone, because it would have been another one of those seemingly rare opportunities to bond with fellow alcoholics outside of AA meetings. When I hear old-timers talk about all the wonderful times they’ve shared with sober friends, on holiday, in each other’s homes etc, that’s the kind of sobriety I want, where I can do all those things that normal people seem to do all the time. I don’t just want to see friends in meetings.

Hanging out with people like S in coffee shops is undoubtedly a good start to getting that kind of sobriety; heading over to his flat to watch TV and eat cheap food would be the next step. Oh, maybe I am obsessed with this idea a bit too much. I never had friends over as a kid, you see, and I never went to friends’ houses. I don’t know why it was like that. It was a childhood marked by a sheer lack of socialising.

The good thing about all of this is that I’m not angry with S at all. Last year, I would have been fuming. I would have instinctively punished him by not talking to him again. Today, I can question why it bothers me so much that I’m not invited to every single social thing that he does, and I can deal with it. That is real progress, real recovery. The instinct to rely on other people for a social life and to punish them when they don’t meet my standards was such a strong character trait of mine before – my main character defect, if you like. Today I don’t want to be the person who does that. I don’t have to be.

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