A gentle reminder

Our internet connection was somehow lost early this morning and it took the service provider all day to sort the problem out, so by this evening I definitely needed a meeting as I was going a little stir crazy without access to my normal online fixes. I went to the gay step 11 meeting in Soho which I’ve had a mixed relationship with over the years, and when I got there I was in a terrible mood. I found the usual small talk with all the smokers outside excruciating and cringeworthy (I don’t enjoy small talk, even with people I know), and to make things worse when I got inside I saw that the chair was being given by Colin, a man I’ve had a very mixed relationship with over the years (just like the meeting!) I must have heard his chair about thirty times, and I didn’t want to hear it again. Today he was his usual overly chirpy self, which I didn’t like at all. I sat down in a corner of the room and did my usual thing of folding my arms, crossing my legs and staring at the floor.

A lot of people who I would consider friends walked through the door between then and the start of the meeting, and I didn’t want to talk to or look at one of them. Until the meeting began I was at a loss as to why I felt so angry. I only ever feel that particular type of anger in meetings: anger brought about by fear of the social situation and its expectations. It seems to come and go at random. As I’ve gone on in sobriety it has probably lessened to an extent, as I’ve got to know more meetings and the people in them, but it has never left me entirely. Perhaps it was made worse today by the fact that I got up really late again and forgot to do my ten minutes’ sitting meditation; the continuing dreary weather definitely didn’t help.

I would get away with not meditating this morning as the step 11 meeting always starts with ten minutes’ meditation, a great help to me today. As soon as the silence fell upon the room I felt anxiety and resentment quickly drain out of me. Although I have found the daily routine of meditating for ten solid minutes upon waking difficult to get into this year, I have really come to appreciate the benefits that meditation can bring when I do it properly, and it was just what I needed this evening. The silence gave me the chance to ask myself why I was so angry: stopping to look at what’s really going on can only be achieved in that silent stillness, I’ve found. After the ten minutes were up Colin gave his chair and it was actually really refreshing to hear. Instead of talking about how wonderful his life has got in AA he focused on step 11, talking about what meditation means to him. After that the rest of the room was free to share back, and it was clear that we all have very personal reasons for needing meditation (and prayer). It doesn’t have to be done formally with a certain amount of time set aside every single day: it can be done when one is walking, completing errands, doing the housework, tending to the garden, even when listening to music. I’ve decided to formally set ten minutes aside for it every morning so that it becomes a regular, reliable part of my every day life. One day I may be able to part with the daily sitting on the floor, when I get to the point where I am meditating automatically at times of necessity. I can already see how it’s possible to meditate when one is in the midst of the mundane, everyday tasks that I mentioned before. Whether you are sitting, standing, walking or running, if you are focused truly in the present moment then you are essentially meditating. Thinking about one’s breathing, the movements and sensations in one’s body at the present moment is a good way of getting into the present moment; asking oneself what’s going on behind one’s negative thoughts and feelings is another way.

After the meeting I was tempted to skip another small talk-induced ordeal and rush home, but something made me stop and talk to friends. Some of them were going for coffee on Old Compton Street and I was pleased to be invited; while the coffee posse went ahead I took a moment to say goodbye to someone else, telling them I would catch them up. A few minutes later on Old Compton Street I was slightly confused not to find them in the designated coffee shop. I was angry enough to want to go straight home, but I was starving hungry and had to get something to eat. The panini that I ended up with was the worst panini I’ve ever tasted, totally unsatisfying and dreary, making me want to get home even quicker. As I was walking out of the coffee house I noticed my friends sat at an outside table that I hadn’t spotted before. I was faced with a tough choice between going home as planned, punishing their inconsiderateness in choosing such an obscure seating area, or joining them without a word of negativity. I don’t know what it is but something made me walk over to the table and sit with them.

They were talking about fashion and clubbing, two things I like to think that I know about but when it comes down to it, I’m not very good at talking about. For the next hour or so I mostly listened, nodding on cue and smiling when I was smiled at. One of the people there was a man from New York who I’ve noticed in meetings a few times over the years, a very fashionable gay man who utterly scares me. He tried to include me in the conversation a few times tonight, and when it was late and people were starting to go home, he told me that it was nice to see me smiling for once. I could tell that he didn’t mean it in a bad way: he really meant it genuinely, to point out that it’s nice when I smile. And then someone else not at the coffee house sent me a text message telling me it had been really nice to see me smile again after the meeting.

After all that I wouldn’t say I am quite on top of the world again, but it’s clear that tonight is meant to be a reminder of why it’s good to make the effort with meetings and the people in them. If I had gone straight home after the meeting, or if I had avoided the meeting altogether, I would probably feel quite low right now. As it is I feel just OK, and feeling ‘OK’ is all I would ask for. I think I hit on something a few weeks ago when I realised that daily contact with other people in recovery is necessary for my sanity. It doesn’t always need to involve a meeting; what it needs to be is an honest conversation with another human being, on a daily basis. At the moment, going to meetings and accepting invitations to post-meeting coffee are the two main ways that I get to have honest conversations with people. Outside of recovery there is a marked lack of honesty in conversations. I’ve said it before: people who know nothing about AA and recovery find the kind of honesty I’m talking about inappropriate. It’s a real shame that with most people outside of the rooms, I could never talk about how I’m really feeling on a day to day basis, but that’s the way the world is at the moment. It might change. For now, thank God there’s AA. In AA, people understand when I say that I feel like murdering somebody. They don’t simply assume that I’ve gone mad and need locking up: they know I’d never actually kill somebody. They know how I really feel without me even having to say it. It is good to say it, though.

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