London

My final few hours in Nice were perhaps the most memorable of my life. I spent the evening walking around, discovering new parts of the city that I hadn’t seen yet. I walked into the Old Town, through the large flower market, past all the trendy outdoor cafés, up to the port where I decided to climb a long set of steps up to a cliff with a view of the entire city. At the top I only stayed a few moments, exhausted and thirsty and without any water left, but I was glad I had persevered up all those steps. The view was breathtaking; I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so beautiful in my life. The sky and sea were perfect blue, the sun was beating down on me, and the city was alive. I fell in love with it. I was sad to only be able to spend a few minutes up there, and I was even sadder that the batteries in my camera had run out, so I couldn’t take any pictures. But the image is etched on my memory, and I will never forget it. I have every intention of going back next year to take a picture of that panorama. I was completely aware that it would have not been possible to get to that place, to see that view, if I were not sober. Not only would I have been unable to afford the holiday if I were still drinking, I wouldn’t have had the courage to go there in any case. Not on my own. With a year’s sobriety and many challenges behind me, I was determined to enjoy my time in Nice despite being alone, and I did enjoy it.

Friday night’s journey home was a nightmare from start to finish. My flight was delayed by an hour and a half, due to the bad weather back home. I finally arrived back on English soil at half past 12 yesterday morning, and I had a long train journey to look forward to as the airport we’d landed in was not one of London’s main gateways with a fast express train service of its own. I had to wait an hour for a train to show up at Luton Airport station; it took an hour to get to town, then another half hour from there on the bus home. I finally collapsed into bed at 3am, thoroughly relieved and exhausted.

I was still able to do all that I planned to do yesterday. A gay AA convention had been organised by one of my home group’s regulars, which I’d been looking forward to for months. It was the reason I hadn’t stayed longer in Nice. It felt strange as I walked there, knowing I’d be seeing all those familiar faceas again. I felt different, even though I hadn’t been away for long. I was thrilled to be able to show off my tan when I got to the convention. I had never tanned before in my life. I could finally get one over on S!

The convention consisted of several speaker meetings, lots of coffee and cakes, and also a meditation session, which we all found rather useful. I had to leave early at 5 to go and take the meeting in the west, which I had decided to run despite the probability of everyone being at the convention. On the way I met a good friend visiting from America, who I first bumped into at a meeting in London last year during his last trip here. We got chatting that night and hit it off instantly. We’ve kept in touch by e-mail ever since. This week he’s here on his latest annual trip, and he had kindly agreed to chair the west London meeting for me. We were aware that it might be quiet, but neither of us was too bothered about such a prospect. We’ve both always preferred quiet meetings, in any case.

Just ten of us showed up in the end, which is a very low number even for that meeting. I was surprised that quite so many had chosen to go to the convention in town instead – I’d spoken to many who had no interest in conventions, who I thought might beef up the numbers in our meeting. We had no such luck. Still, it was a nice, intimate meeting. My friend’s chair was beautiful, as was a lot of the sharing. I was impressed that we nearly managed to run to time in the end – it might have had to finish very early. Afterwards we all went for coffee at the local café as usual, and I was glad that I’d chosen to come here instead of stay at the convention. It might have been fun in town, but west London was so nice last night, with such a small group of good friends. After coffee I walked with my American friend for a while and we were able to enjoy each other’s company as much as ever. The wonderful thing about the fellowship is that I can have friends around the world like that. He’s going back to LA next week, but I know we’ll keep in touch for a long time, and I know I’ll go to LA one day to see him. Before recovery I had no reason to travel anywhere, other than to experience getting drunk in other countries. These days I love everything about travelling: seeing different places, meeting different people. AA has made it possible for me to travel and experience fellowship everywhere I go. I might not be able to afford another holiday until next year, but that doesn’t matter. I’m just as happy staying in London when I have to. That’s the other great thing about AA, it’s made me love London again. This might be as close to happiness as I’ve ever got.

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