11 months, 21 days / the week to remember

I’ve had an amazing week, and an especially amazing weekend. Yesterday it was the annual gay pride parade in London and I was part of the march, along with the charity that I’ve been doing voluntary work for for the past few weeks. I didn’t know the people I was marching with too well, but it was a great experience nonetheless. The weather was lovely and the atmosphere was buzzing. It always is on pride day. Thousands of people crowded in the streets to watch thousands more march through central London, with many dressed in glittery, colourful, fabulous outfits. I was in my usual get-up of t-shirt and jeans, and I wish I’d made more of an effort like everyone else. The march went on for hours, and by the end I was exhausted and hungry, so I left my compatriots to go and eat dinner before the AA meeting up west where I’d be acting as secretary for the first time. By that time I was glad to have the excuse to go, as the crowds in Soho were beginning to get a little intoxicated. That second part of pride, when everyone gets drunk, doesn’t appeal to me at all. Last year I was drinking from early on in the day, and couldn’t remember anything after about 7pm. It was one of my final drinking experiences, a rock bottom if you like. I didn’t need to hang around in Soho yesterday evening, I’d done pride, and I’d had a marvellous time already.

My new commitment up west went very well. I was able to read off the secretary’s script fluently and confidently. Having been in AA for a year, I knew what a secretary had to do, so it wasn’t a difficult transition for me yesterday. I realised that when I finally enter the world of work, the transitions I have to go through will be much like that. Getting a job and starting from the bottom will be scary, like joining AA was this time last year, but after a short while I’ll surely be more at ease, as I am in AA now.

After the meeting quite a few of us wanted to go dancing at a special pride-themed night in south London. We headed there on the tube together; travelling with friends was as enjoyable as ever. We did a lot of dancing, and we all wore ourselves out. It was a lot of fun, perhaps my best night out so far in sobriety. The fact that I rarely go out dancing these days definitely helped: it made the night more special. I didn’t get back home til 4 in the morning, the latest I’ve been out in a very long time! I felt like a teenager again, having to sneak in quietly! Saturday was the best day I’ve had in ages, thoroughly unforgettable, and it was all possible because of my sobriety.

Luckily I wasn’t too knackered today, which is a good job as I had my father’s barbecue to look forward to. To begin with I wasn’t too anxious about the whole thing, but as I got on the train I started to feel that familiar fear of the unknown. I hadn’t seen my dad for five years; not only that, but my half brothers and step-mother would all be there, and I knew even less about them than I did my father. I was slightly relieved to discover that my aunt M would in fact be joining us for the occasion, but when I got to the house in Surrey it was an hour before M and her family were due to arrive. Therefore I had a whole hour with my dad and his family to get through alone. I was so terrified as I approached the house, I thought I was going to cry. The old fear instinct wanted me to turn and run, but I didn’t, because I’ve known for a long time that my life will never change if I keep running away from things.

It wasn’t too bad, in the end. My father and his wife were very welcoming, as they always were before I broke unwritten rules five years ago. My half brothers were, on the other hand, very shy, especially the oldest one, who I remembered being very quiet the last time I saw him as well. I was strongly reminded of myself at that age. If that had been me I would have been exactly the same – it can’t be denied. Blood runs thick, after all.

It was a nice day anyway. M and her lads turned up after 3 and we all enjoyed a nicely cooked meal together in the dining room which looked like it hadn’t changed at all in five years. All the men in the group except me were drinking beer – it didn’t bother me at all, to be honest. I told my dad about my alcoholism and he seemed mildly impressed that I’d managed to stay sober for nearly a year. We spent most of the day engaged in trivial small talk, though. The Wimbledon tennis final was on television and everyone wanted to watch it, so we had a good long conversation about the history of tennis whilst watching Nadal beat Federer for the first time. It was nice, a fairly normal family thing to do, I guess. As if I know anything about what ‘normal’ families do together!

Perhaps it would have been nicer if my father and I could have talked about personal matters in more depth, but I get the feeling he really doesn’t want to go there, and so I imagine any future relationship will take the form which it took today. Friendly and informal, like he asked for in his recent e-mail. I guess I don’t mind that. At least he’s willing to keep seeing me – when I was heading off this evening he said “we must do it again soon”, which is not something he ever said to me when I was going to visit at the beginning of this decade. He seemed a lot more relaxed and sociable today than he was last time around. Maybe he wants me in his life after all, or maybe he was just extra comfortable in the familiar surroundings of his home. Who knows? We’re sure to find out soon enough. I definitely wasn’t comfortable today. I tried to be, but for most of the time I was desperately trying to think of things to say. After dinner I started to feel tired, and the small talk felt like more of an effort than ever. If the tennis hadn’t been there to focus on, I don’t know what it would have been like.

I know I’m being negative now when I ought to be positive. Today could have been a lot worse. It means a lot to me that my father actually seemed to want me there – and I say ‘seemed’ because it’s hard to know how he actually feels. He’ll never tell anyone, that’s for sure. So, we’re back on track, after all this time, but there’s work to do. I could definitely make more effort with my half brothers next time. I only really interacted with one of them today, and that was very minimal interaction. Of course, I couldn’t have expected to get everything that I wanted today. Seven or eight years ago when I got in touch with dad the first time, I expected everything to go brilliantly from the very beginning, and of course it didn’t. Results don’t just fall into one’s lap, you have to work for them, which I know now. I am willing to work at this, because I know that in time, things could turn out really well for all of us. The more I see them, the more I’ll get to know them. That’s if they want to know me, of course. The oldest one definitely didn’t want to know me today, but as I said, I would have been the same. So I can’t resent him. I can’t resent any of them any more, especially not my father, who for the first time ever just appears to be an ordinary person to me. He’s not a God or a demon any more, he’s just a man who happens to be my dad. This is a new beginning for us, and I’m going into it with my eyes open. Anything could happen – only my higher power knows what.

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