There’s a big meeting in the centre of town that I always went to in my early days; I’ve been going again recently to try and find what I once loved about AA. When I went tonight the smiles and hugs from fellow alcoholics couldn’t save me from the mood I’d been in all day. As always, I felt a desperate urge to share from the start of the meeting to the end, and I couldn’t open my mouth. Everyone was jumping in quickly to share, which I used as an excuse to say “Well it’s too difficult to share in meetings like this. There are other people with more pressing needs than me.” It’s a load of crap, though: I’ve managed to share there in the past, and my need is as pressing as anyone else’s.
What I can’t seem to learn is that it doesn’t matter what I end up saying in the meeting, no one’s expecting me to be witty or funny or memorable. I’m the one putting that pressure on myself. Some of the sharing there can be quite entertaining, but it’s not like every single one could be turned into a Broadway monologue! It’s always a mixture. People share all sorts of random there. Tonight someone shared in some detail about a recent medical procedure. In my head I bar myself from sharing because I think that what I have to share will probably break some unwritten rule, it won’t be positive enough or it won’t focus on drinking enough; someone shares about a bloody operation that has nothing to do with alcohol whatsoever, has the whole room in stitches, yet still I can’t jump in and share my shit, despite the proof I’ve just seen that no one gives a shit what you say.
Of course I came out of the meeting feeling angry, and I’m still angry now. There were at least five gorgeous men in the meeting, all of whom I knew I would never speak to as soon as I saw them. All these Grindr dates I keep going on, that keep leading to nothing, I do wonder if it would be different if I dated someone in AA. The meetings I’m going to prove week after week that AA is full of hot gay guys; yet I know there’s still a pretty big taboo around dating in AA, and I am the last person who’s ever going to break a taboo, real or imagined.
One of the hot guys tonight was quite clearly partnered to P, this guy who came into AA around the same time as me in 2007 and who is now doing extraordinarily well. I’d heard that he met his new boyfriend at one of the US roundups last year; to realise that this was that boyfriend, sitting there tonight, the both of them looking super hot and healthy, was like a small punch in the stomach. I mean, just going to the States and picking up a hot guy who then wants to travel across the world for you in itself is a fascinating thing; to do it sober, at an AA roundup – that’s another level. It would be quite obvious of me to say I don’t know how P did it, so I won’t. And to think, the last time I saw him in 2009 or 2010 he hated his life, and he was on the verge of drinking again. What the fuck did he do? What the fuck do I have to do?
I know, I know, I know what AA would say: share in meetings, get a sponsor, do more service, go for coffee after meetings. Do it repeatedly for years and maybe I’ll figure out how P did it in the end. Well I don’t want to do anything like that repeatedly for years. Just imagining the vulnerability I’d have to put myself through, time and time again as I leave my comfort zone, week after week, it’s unbearable. I can’t do it.
But I know that if I don’t do it, I simply won’t ever get better. Life’s taught me that in the past few years. There’s literally no other way for me. I either do AA properly, or I give up and stay where I am. I can’t throw another tantrum, disappear from meetings for months and expect anyone to chase me up and rescue me. Nor can I sit there every Friday for the next five years, trying to pluck up the courage to share and missing every single opportunity. I have to throw myself into the deep end.
When I’m about to reach out in a meeting my mind always tells me: your voice sounds weird, no one wants to hear what you have to say, it won’t be as funny as what that other person said, it will be off topic, you’ll offend someone. It happens every single time.
Sorry to be nostalgic, but I really can’t remember this being so much of a problem seven years ago. In 2008 I was sharing nearly all the time. And do you know what, I was experiencing something of the joy in recovery that P and lots of other people at tonight’s meeting seem to be experiencing. I had numerous sober friends, I was going for coffee and dinner after meetings, I was going on holidays with sober people, I was able to hug people when I went into meetings and really feel a part of things. OK I had no hope with boyfriends back then, just as I have no hope now – but it didn’t matter then. I guess sometimes I thought it did, but most of the time I was happy anyway. What happened?
All of this is what I wanted to share tonight in the meeting; if I do ever manage to share it, no one will mind, any true alcoholic will understand. But I can’t share it because it feels like too much, it all goes out of my mind when I’m sitting there and what ends up coming out feels like a pile of made up crap. So here I remain, stuck and alone.