I found myself with no plans this afternoon and seemingly the natural thing to do was go to Notting Hill for my former home group. Since my secretaryship there ended last month I haven’t felt such a strong part of the meeting, and going today wasn’t the thing that I most wanted to do, but I couldn’t think where else to go. Staying at home wasn’t an option. When I got there I saw a lot of familiar faces as well as some new ones. The person making the tea had to go out to take a phonecall for a few minutes and asked me to take over while he was gone. As soon as he had disappeared about twenty people suddenly appeared in front of me wanting tea. I managed to avoid panicking as I have made tea in an AA meeting before, though I felt a bit out of practice and thought afterwards that I hadn’t done a good job. The usual teamaker there is always so friendly and charming to his customers, while I could barely manage a smile pouring people’s beverages.
As a consequence I started the meeting feeling quite off, wishing I hadn’t come. The main chair talked a lot about social phobia and people-pleasing, just what I needed to hear. Some of it was actually quite close to the bone and when they had finished I knew I would benefit from sharing back. The usual panic about jumping in and opening my mouth hit me, and I couldn’t do it until the meeting was nearly over. Finally I talked about the damage done by my experiences at school, the nightmares I sometimes have about being forced to go back, the fear and resentment in people situations. Feeling as if everything about me is being judged: my hair, my gait, my shoes. Wanting to be invisible at the same time as craving love and attention. I shared it all and felt much, much better afterwards. At the end of the meeting everyone was heading around the corner for coffee as usual. I had planned just to go straight home to save money, but part of me remembered this recent promise I made to myself to engage in at least one honest ‘recovery’ conversation per day, and I had to ask myself: would I be going home to save money or would it really be a way of avoiding fear? Sometimes I really do need to save the money, but tonight upon honest inspection of the situation, the cost wasn’t such an issue. I decided that I would give coffee a chance: if I didn’t enjoy it then I could go home and never go for coffee after that meeting again.
At the café I was surprised to find myself sitting next to someone who I hadn’t spoken to for a long time, and we ended up having a really good chat about all the things that are going on for us. We confided in each other about our other addictions, namely sex, love and fantasy. It’s always good to talk to people in AA about their views on other fellowships. My friend had to leave the café early so all in all I wasn’t there for very long, but I’m glad I went tonight. The fear was there the whole time, especially on the way home, surrounded by teenagers on the bus most of the way. It has occurred to me that certain situations are like drugs, producing reliable emotional and physical effects in me every time. That’s why alcohol worked so well for me, because it directly opposed the effects that the anxiety-provoking environment produced in me. I have a faulty response to my environment that does not seem to be getting better with time, I’m just becoming more aware of it. It begs the question of whether I will ever learn to overcome that faulty response. When it is triggered by these various environmental cues it is quite upsetting. It’s no wonder I feel sad and depressed so much of the time. I won’t go into the whole medication debate again; needless to say, I am still undecided on whether to talk to my doctor again or not.
Paranoia, anxiety, anger and sadness have been daily companions for some time now, and it seems likely that they will be for some time to come (I’m talking years, not months). But there are times when I can see through the fog now, when I suddenly realise that I have a clear mind, something so unusual that it makes me jump. That is when the fear is able to creep back in and fill the space. But the fact that I am experiencing more and more moments of peace is reasonably encouraging. It is entirely down to recovery. Sobriety is painful and frustrating and boring much of the time, but today I am starting to think that even the worst of it is OK, because it’s all real, and I’m surviving it. When I am able to empty my mind and experience the simple beauty of life, the hardship all suddenly seems worth it.