A few hours ago I returned home from the most meaningful weekend in my sobriety. I’ve been to my first gay AA convention, over in the West of England, with two friends, C and A. C has been a close friend since the beginning of my sobriety; we’ve already been on lots of trips together around the south of England. A is a good friend of C’s and while I’ve had many conversations with him, I never felt that I really knew him before this weekend. We set off from London Paddington early on Friday afternoon. A couple of hours later we were in the city of Bristol, somewhere I’d never been before. The great thing about being in AA is that you get to go to all these different places (providing you like travelling to conventions, that is!) I would never have gone somewhere like Bristol before, there would never have been a reason. Thanks to AA I’ve discovered that it’s a lovely city, with great architecture and character. Admittedly we didn’t see an awful lot of it because the weekend went by too quickly, but we saw some of it and I’m very pleased that we did.
Quite quickly it became clear that A was not himself. I knew him well enough on Friday to know that he was behaving out of character. Normally he’s fairly quiet and reserved; on Friday he was loud and rather annoying. He kept saying things that didn’t make sense, laughing at his own quirky jokes, pointing at people and shouting. I was mortified to realise that he might be drunk; I dared not say anything in case my instinct was wrong. We went to the first meeting of the convention and apart from A’s inability to sit still, it was very good. We met and spoke to new people; I felt at home from the start, as I always do in AA. Having been to meetings all over the country I guess I’m long past the point where I worry about not knowing people.
On Saturday things became very interesting. There were four meetings altogether yesterday; we were there the whole day and I was determined to share, to prove to myself as much as anyone else that I’ve made progress. I did share in the day’s second meeting. I can’t remember what I spoke about, but it made a lot of people laugh, which was nice. I’ve always felt a bit inadequate in not being able to raise laughs with my sharing; it can be quite depressing, whereas other more seemingly popular people can get people giggling hysterically on a regular basis. I know it’s not about becoming ‘popular’, it’s about being honest, and I’ve certainly done that this year. But it was nice to be funny for once, when I wasn’t even trying to be. Well you have to laugh at life sometimes!
In the latter part of the day, A shared about his recent alcoholic relapses, and I was taken aback when he began to cry openly. I hadn’t realised how much pain he was in. C later told me that he’d seen it many times before. A announced that he was struggling but really wanted to stop drinking. Everyone immediately approached him afterwards to offer support, me included. I was rather proud of myself for managing to be supportive, rather than freak out like I normally would in that situation. It looked like A had made a bit of progress and I was pleased for him too. It’s not nice seeing someone cry, but on the other hand you know it’s helping them to get better, ultimately.
Soon after that the all too brief convention was over. All day I’d been getting to know people and in the end I was really pleased to be able to exchange numbers with people who might be coming to visit London some time soon. Until recently I don’t think I would have been able to do that confidently. I’m sure the Prozac must be working for me now, because this weekend I’ve really felt like a different person. I’m saying and doing things without hesitation, for the first time in my life. It’s like a thick, weighty layer of awkwardness has been removed from me. I’m my real self now, and I feel amazing.
Later on last night A wanted to check out Bristol’s gay ‘scene’ with me. I didn’t think it would be a good idea, given that he had clearly had a drink within the past week, but he was determined to go, and I couldn’t stop him. For a while I was going to go out with him, to keep an eye on him as much as anything else. Unfortunately, the only gay bar that we knew of turned out to be miles away from the centre of town, down the bottom of a big hill which would be a nightmare to climb back up late at night. By this point A’s behaviour was also weirder than ever, as he tried to tell us about this drug dealer that he had moved in with. Alarm bells were already ringing in my head, and then finally he pulled this small bottle of vodka out of his bag which he admitted to consuming during the day. It broke my heart to see it, but I wasn’t shocked. I’d realised that he was drunk on Friday at Paddington station, I just didn’t want to make it true by saying it.
In the past A has reached a year sober; by all accounts he was once as enthusiastic about the program as anyone could be in their early days. Sadly, for some reason, he has really struggled with it recently, and it seems he’s been drinking constantly for at least the past two months, all the while coming to meetings and not opening up about it. Yesterday he was not the A I knew. It was scary, mostly because he reminded of myself as a drunk. He told me that I shouldn’t be upset, I shouldn’t care about him so much because he doesn’t deserve to be cared about. It hurt me to hear those words, words which I must have uttered so many times in the past whilst completely intoxicated.
A was still determined to go out clubbing but I just couldn’t face it in the end. I walked back to the hotel with C, who has always maintained that he’s ‘too old’ to go into any gay clubs. I felt dreadful leaving A to go off on his own in that state, and I knew exactly what was going to happen, which is partly why I couldn’t go with him. I couldn’t bear to watch him get wasted, and at the end of the day his sobriety isn’t my responsibility, which my sponsor confirmed when I phoned him for the first time in over a week. At this point I was so emotional I almost burst into tears for the first time in like a year, but even then I couldn’t shed a tear, not for the lack of trying.
C felt that I had done the right thing too. I couldn’t risk my own sobriety by going to a strange nightclub in the middle of nowhere with a practising alcoholic. So we walked back to the hotel and talked about it into the early hours of the morning. In the end, neither of us knew what the hell we could do to help A. At this point it looks like only he can help himself. It’s a program for those who WANT it, not those who need it, and it doesn’t look like A really wants to be sober at the moment. One minutes he’s in tears, desperate to get sober, the next he’s pouring drink down his throat as if nothing else matters. I’m not at all angry with him, even though he has been very erratic and at times abusive this weekend. I feel for him because I have been there myself. To be honest, it could have been a lot worse, I know it could because I was often worse than what we saw this weekend.
I was haunted by those memories of Edinburgh 2004, when I left my mother to go and enjoy myself in the pub, then returned to the hotel at 3 in the morning and woke her up so I could obtain more money to spend on alcohol. I was sure my higher power would punish me by having the same thing happen with A last night, but he didn’t. A apparently returned at 5 in the morning quite quietly. This morning he didn’t look or sound great, but he was OK, and I was able to tell him honestly but supportively that he would need to make changes to get better. Previously I might not have said a thing. I felt harsh saying some of those things, but I believe you have to be harsh sometimes to be honest. God, if people had never been harsh with me I may never have stopped drinking.
I came home feeling that I knew A a whole lot better, which is one positive to take away from the weekend. Another positive is that I know how well I am and how much I’ve changed. I had no inclination to go out and drink with A last night. The thought of it actually horrifies me now. I love my sobriety, and I love AA. In thirty days from now, I will be one year sober, and I cannot wait. I turned eleven months today – how exciting, it’s literally crept up on me!