Today didn’t get off to the best of starts. I was booked in to do a shift for the voluntary work that I have done all year, and not for the first time, I didn’t feel like going in. Last time I did a shift about a month ago I had a panic attack and had to come home before I’d finished for the day. I was terrified of the same thing happening today, because it was so unexpected last month – the shift had been going so well, it really came as a shock to feel that way after nearly a year of doing the work.
This morning I couldn’t stop thinking about all the negative consequences of another panic attack on shift, so in the end I decided to stay at home, resolving to make a donation to the charity to make up for the latest let down. I also decided that I would no longer continue with the work. I’ve done it for the best part of a year and not once have I enjoyed a shift, I’ve always been so nervous. I think I realised today that my other commitments in life don’t make me so nervous, because I actually enjoy them. On Friday night when I was speaking to people on the phone as part of my other voluntary role, I felt like I was enjoying myself, like I was getting something out of it.
Of course the work that I have done one Sunday per month for the past year is equally worthwhile, and a lot of people would have been affected by my no show today. I could have gone in for one last shift quite easily – I should, dare I say it, have gone in. It wouldn’t have killed me to give a couple more hours of my time, but as usual, my head was telling me that it would kill me. When I’m in the middle of this panic all I can think about is trying not to die. Running away is such an old behaviour, such a usual thing for me to do. All sense of perspective goes out of the window in those situations.
I’ve made a rather significant donation to the charity which I probably can’t afford, and I’ve been honest with them about not being able to work for them any more because of the panic attacks, which has eased my conscience somewhat today. Where do I go from here? Well I know my sponsor would tell me that any regret is pointless because I’ve done the deed now, I’ve made the decision not to go in again and I have to live with it. I will live with it. Will it happen again? I can’t guarantee that it won’t. I thought I would have got over this persistent fear of panic attacks as soon as I started taking medication to deal with them, but that hasn’t been the case.
As part of my ‘amends’ I also decided to share about the situation in the meeting that I went to this afternoon. My relationship with my higher power has provided me with many answers recently, and today I realised that as well as making a donation to the charity, I ought to own up to what I’d done within the safe walls of AA, to let the world know because I wouldn’t be able to move on otherwise. So for the first time in ages, I shared in a meeting about having done something wrong. I said that I had run away from responsibility once again, had chosen to hide under the covers rather than get up and go to work like I said I would.
There had been a lot of sharing about anti-depressants in the meeting, and so in the second part of my share (which happened to come right before the end of the meeting) I talked about anti-depressants, admitting for the first time that I take them every day. I’ve never shared about it in meetings before because I didn’t think it was relevant or appropriate, but today it was appropriate because people were talking about suicidal friends who had been advised not to go back on Prozac because it would ‘compromise’ their sobriety. Talk like this always annoys me because at the end of the day, AA is just a bunch of alcoholics, not medical professionals. No one has the right to tell anyone that their sobriety would be compromised by a medication that tackles feelings which can drive someone to suicide, not even someone with thirty years sobriety.
So I said that I had been taking Prozac every day for nearly seven weeks, and I said that it was helping me, and that I’m not ashamed of it. Although I still deal with anxiety and depression on a daily basis, I don’t think they’re as bad as they were – something’s certainly changed. I felt empowered by my sharing today. I don’t think I was that person twelve months ago, the person who shares in that way. I was more honest today than I have ever been, and I walked out of the room with my head held high, despite the feeling that certain people were not so impressed by my honesty.
I know how sober I am and I still love being in recovery in the fellowship. I hope I always will be. Yesterday I volunteered to become the new secretary of the meeting in west London that is one of my favourites. At the moment, I look forward to serving that meeting for the next year. I’m certainly moving onto the next stage of my sobriety, of my life. I’m still grateful.