7am yesterday headed out to Waterloo for the second Sunday in a row, as I had agreed without much reluctance to accompany Earl on another epic train trip to the south west of England. This time we would be joined by Gary, a fellow alcoholic with terminal cancer who happens to be a massive train enthusiast. I didn’t know Gary very well and was mildly nervous about spending the day with him. He and Earl are good friends (they share the fanaticism for trains) and spent most of the journey down to Devon talking about old Great Western branch lines, trying to spot junctions off the line which must have been cemented over decades ago but which could still be seen by the knowledgeable eye. The topic of Gary’s health was not completely out of bounds; somewhere towards the end of the journey Earl was brave enough to enquire about it, and Gary told us that he didn’t know how long he had left to live. He then talked about the unpleasant nature of chemotherapy and his determination not to lie down and surrender to the disease. Gary is clearly very healthy in the spiritual sense. He is fully accepting of the fact that he might die soon, though he doesn’t want to spend the rest of what time he might have left crying and moping about it. I grew to like him a lot yesterday.
In our destination town of Plymouth we were greeted by a friend of Earl’s called Brent who kindly drove us around all the sights. Again, we weren’t really there to see the place, it was more about the train journey, but since the weather was so bad we didn’t feel like sitting in one place. Brent like us is in the rooms and we spent some time talking about the key to good recovery. It was agreed by the group that one cannot recover unless one is willing to accept the shit that life inevitably throws at us. Gary and I managed to bond in complaining about the attitude you get in some meetings that one should never share negatively. If one cannot share honestly about one’s feelings because it is ‘living in the problem rather than the solution’ then where are you supposed to express the darker feelings that are a natural part of the sober person’s emotional life?
Before we knew it our time in Plymouth was up. The journey back to London wasn’t so much like a trainspotters’ anonymous meeting, which I was grateful for. Gary and I talked about our families a bit. If he wasn’t in the situation that he was in, I might have considered asking him to be my sponsor. All things considered I think we each had a thoroughly pleasant day. Earl seemed to be in much better shape than last week: no complaints about sharp pains in the side, though the lump on his throat has clearly got bigger in the last seven days. He’s finally going to get it checked out at the hospital this week, thank God. Spending the day with two older men at the end of their lives could have been an upsetting experience, but it really wasn’t. Recovery really teaches you to appreciate what you’ve got.
The calming aftereffects of a pleasant day out weren’t to last. I woke up today to discover that I had been whacked with a £30 overdraft charge by the bank. Didn’t see that coming. I’ve been exceptionally good with money this month, I know I have. I left another bank earlier this year because they kept charging me when they knew I couldn’t afford to lose that money. Now the same thing is starting to happen again. It seems almost as if all banks are determined to conspire against me. Whatever the transaction was that took me past the agreed spending limit, it should have been declined. Thankyou very much, bank, for allowing me to go over that limit so that you could take £30 from me. It almost amounts to stealing because they never tell you that you are about to go into the red. The first you find out is when you see £30 charges on your balance. Sneaky bastards.
My instant reaction to the news was to explode with anger. I screamed at the computer screen for a few minutes, scaring the hell out of my mother, before remembering that I had to go out and meet a friend for coffee. Luckily it was a friend from the rooms who would understand all about the rage that bank overdraft charges can cause. I just wanted to go to the local bank and rip someone’s head off. I’ve had years of this petty wrangling with them. I cannot tell you how sick I am of being ripped off. It was fair enough when I was drinking and I willingly spent more than I could afford, knowing full well that I was going past my agreed limit all the time. I’ve worked bloody hard to bring my spending down to a reasonable level this year, I have a daily budget that is not always possible to stick to but I will only go over that budget when I absolutely have to, and the main thing is: I’m honest with myself about my spending now. The fucking bank don’t need that £30, I do!
I spent a few hours with Andy in the coffee shop this afternoon and our entire conversation was marred by my resentment towards the bank. We dreamed of a utopian future where banks and money don’t exist, before being brought back to reality and the knowledge that the world will probably always be unfair. I know I will survive without that £30, I don’t need to be told that there are millions of people worse off than me in the world. At least I have a roof over my head, food on the table, a bed to sleep in every night. Why should it matter to me that I don’t get to go on nice holidays with friends? What’s the big deal that I don’t get to see West End shows and concerts every weekend like most of my AA peers do? If I could just find a fucking job then none of those things would be blocked to me any more, but after a year of searching I remain at the back of the queue when it comes to most jobs because of my lack of experience. Being unemployed really, really sucks and there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop being unemployed, other than the things I am doing at the moment. I don’t need someone telling me that I ought to be doing more, I don’t need to be told to work the program more, I don’t need well intentioned platitudes about how things will improve when the recession is over. It’s fucking hard to be spiritual and accepting of the situation when I have a greedy bank taking money from me. I’ve tried meditating, I’ve tried praying on it, and I know that there is no point in feeling sorry for myself because I’m never going to get that money back. Feeling angry and upset is not doing me one bit of good tonight, but for God’s sake I can hardly help feeling like the world is crumbling around me right now. I’ve been to a meeting where I couldn’t bring myself to share because I knew a lot of shit would just fall out of my mouth, and I couldn’t bear the thought of coming across that way. So here I am writing all this shit on a blog that probably no one will read or care about. I’ve probably been a terrible recovering alcoholic tonight, doing nothing that I’m supposed to do. But you know what, I don’t want to drink, and I guess that is something.