A month ago, if you had told me I would be going to see my new home in the centre of London today, I wouldn’t have laughed at you. I would probably have burst into tears, collapsed to the floor and proceeded to have a fit of tragic hysterics. Today, against all previous expectations and beliefs, I saw my new home, and of course I fell in love with it. Not because it’s nice, or cosy – just because it’s going to be mine, in a month from now. It is in an amazing part of town, round the corner from the South Bank and Waterloo station, on the same road as the famous Old Vic theatre and a plethora of fancy shops and restaurants that I will undoubtedly be trying out with eagerness in the New Year. The price for the room is so reasonable, and the room itself is amazingly big, with a view that incorporates all that the South Bank of the River Thames is famous for, including the London Eye, the Imax cinema and the towering industrial chimney of the Tate Modern. I can’t believe I’m going to be living there by the end of this year. I’ve been saying ‘I can’t believe…’ a lot this weekend.
I also keep thinking how it’s all dependent on me continuing to do everything that I’m doing. For the first time since early recovery, I feel like I’ve been placed in the cockpit of a plane, and in order to survive I have to learn to steer the aircraft to safety. Two and a half years ago just having to live without alcohol was like flying a plane – today it’s growing up, taking responsibility, keeping a job that feels like the hardest flying lesson anyone ever took. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I won’t crash the plane. I’ll keep it in the air, I’ll get to dry land and everything will be OK. If for some reason something goes wrong – if I give into the feeling that I can’t go on, if I let go of the wheel and retreat to the familiar safety of my old life, then I won’t get to live in Waterloo. I’ll be a child forever.
It seems as if the past two and a half years have been bringing me to this point. This is what recovery is for. I didn’t stop drinking to be happy, make friends – I got sober to become an adult, find my place in the world. If I hadn’t got sober then I would never have spent all that time working on my sleeping patterns, daily routines, applied for all those jobs, picked myself up from all those rejections. It’s such a cliché, but I wouldn’t be here today if I were still drunk. Everything I’ve done in recovery has been about this moment: it’s made today possible. I keep repeating the fact that this is SO important because it really is. I can’t afford to fuck it up in even the slightest way.
Again, I wonder if it’s all happening too soon, if I’m jumping the gun when I should be waiting a while to save some money, pay off a few debts. If I’m supposed to be waiting, why did I get that phonecall from Ethan on Friday, asking if I was looking for a place to live? It’s well known that things happen in God’s time, is it not? Whether I’d waited a few weeks to move or a few years, I would have had to do it eventually. I’ve lived here for long enough. I need to go to Waterloo and start my new life properly.
What if I lose this job next year? What if my colleagues really hate me and don’t want me there any more? What if? What if? What if? Oh, the doubts are endless. I’m so used to them, I’m hardly listening to them. Behind that wall of fearful noise in my head I see a small child – the scared little boy I have recently started trying to get to know. He doesn’t want to leave home, he doesn’t want to go out in the world and be without mummy any more. It’s my job to become his parent. All of this stuff I’m doing, it’s all completely unknown territory to the child inside me. Last time I tried independence, my three year stint in Norwich failed spectacularly because I didn’t listen to the inner child. I drank my independence away trying to shut those childish, dark fears up. Now I have to ration my income, make budgets, pay bills, purchase my own provisions, clean my own clothes, make my own bed – and I can’t fail. I don’t want to fail. I came back to London from Norwich five years ago thinking it would only be a year or two before something came my way and I’d be able to skip off into the night again. Five and a half years later, a chance has finally come, after hardship and tears that less tough souls wouldn’t be able to weather. I have waited so long for today. Independence is here at the door when I least expected it. It’s the end of a monumental decade in my life; a decade in which I’ve been a practicing alcoholic, lived in East Anglia, studied for two full degrees, had a handful of disastrous relationships, made some incredible friends, got sober and found spirituality. Now I am sailing off into unknown and unknowable waters, for the first time or the millionth time. When I move to Waterloo next month the world won’t change; London will still be the same beautiful, crazy, scary city that it has always been. For me it might as well be destroyed and rebuilt, such is the significance of the changes about to take place in my life. These changes are necessary, I know they are – they had to happen some time, because I got sober and set God’s true plans for me in motion. I don’t know what’s in store for me. I don’t need to know – after all that’s happened, I can’t help believing that God isn’t about to let me down.
I’m going straight to the heart of danger now, looking for safety. I’m about to start, or I’m starting to live a life beyond my wildest dreams. The AA promises ARE coming true. Who’d have thought?