Positive steps

Apparently this month is National Novel Writing Month! The challenge is to finish a novel by the end of the month and upload it to the official Nanowrimo website, where someone will win something with their freshly finished piece of work. You’re supposed to start the novel afresh on November 1st – but I’m going to use the novel I’ve been writing for the past two months because I definitely wouldn’t finish it by the end of November if I wasn’t planning to enter it. If I at least set myself this goal, I’m sure I would have a greater chance of finishing this book. I’ve been trying to write it for years.

 The rules say no editing, no going back and changing things, you just write non-stop until the end and forget about whether it’s bad or good. I already know there are things in the book that need to be changed – but that knowledge cannot matter to me now. I will never finish it if I keep worrying about stuff that’s already been written. It’s an anxiety that holds me back in all areas of my life: anxiety about the past, things I wish I could go back and change, things I might regret later on. I can’t afford to think about that now, I simply have to keep writing the book until it’s done. I’ve been trying to write without thinking about mistakes that may need to be corrected for the past two months, and I believe it has been a successful tactic so far. I’ve written nearly 100 pages now, something I have rarely achieved with other stories over the years. I’m excited as a seven year old right now!

 I went to my sponsor’s flat yesterday evening to go through my step 8 list. It was a nice evening. We talked for hours and cooked dinner together later on. I’m a terrible cook and he’s going to try and teach me. Though he says he’s not the best cook in the world, the roast chicken meal that we had last night was delicious, far better than anything I could currently cook.

 My step 9 work will hopefully not take long to complete. The person I have to make the most amends to is my mother. My sponsor and I have agreed that I’m not going to sit down with my mother and talk about the past, because I know it would make her uncomfortable to drag some of those things up. I’m simply going to try and be a better son from now on, taking on more responsibility for the housework and being consistently nice to her. I’ve been working at those things for a while, and I am getting better at them slowly. I wash my own clothes these days, I usually wash up after myself at home and I make a conscious effort not to snap at her when I am in one of my moods. It is good work that can easily be built upon.

 The other amends will mostly consist of e-mails to former friends, lovers and flatmates who I pissed off with my drunken behaviour over the years. With most of them, I already know what I’m going to say. There will be a couple of difficult e-mails that I’ll have to run past my sponsor before sending. One is to Paul, the ex-boyfriend who I cheated on and dumped when he came to visit me in Norwich for a week in 2004. That was without a doubt the worst week of my life, when I was at my lowest in terms of powerlessness over alcohol and unmanageability. I wouldn’t have treated Paul the way I did were I not drinking. I broke his heart, and I have lived with that guilt ever since.

 The other difficult e-mail I have to send is to Andy, the University flatmate with whom I was infatuated for a year and whose life I made incredibly difficult. That was another low point, when I was at my weakest and most co-dependent. I went out of my way to make him feel uncomfortable for most of that year, I never apologised properly, and I feel it would be worth at least an e-mail. I did see him last year, when I went to a reunion barbecue hosted by one of the guys who we had both lived. Seeing Andy again last year was good – we got on fine, it was as if nothing had happened. I still think I ought to apologise.

 The point of step 9 is to make me better. It’s not for those other people’s benefit, it’s entirely for mine. I need to clear my conscience – in AA they call it ‘cleaning house’. Once my side of the street is clean, I’m less likely to go back to those old behaviours. I am changing fast, and I am ready to take this step. On Thursday night I heard the changes in my own voice, when I did my tenth chair in a meeting this year. I spoke about my life honestly and openly, and I said exactly what came to mind rather than carefully rehearsed lines that I thought would sound good. Everyone shared back about how wonderful it has been to see me grow and change this year. AA is the only place you would ever get that kind of feedback – I couldn’t live or grow without it.


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