At the meeting on Friday the chair talked about self belief and how recovery has given her some of it for the first time. I had to share back on the subject because it’s quite obvious to me that I have never had self belief. I don’t mean to say that I hate myself or that I deliberately shut down any positive thoughts I may have about myself. I just don’t have positive thoughts about myself, because that type of thinking was never introduced into my life by anyone. Other people in the meeting talked about learning to love themselves and be kind to themselves in sobriety. I’d like to learn to love myself, to be kind to myself and truly believe that I deserve it, but the concept seems completely alien. My second sponsor in AA always used to say that to build self esteem you have to do estimable things. I’ve tried doing things that scare me, take me out of my comfort zone, and it’s made those activities easier to approach over time, but it hasn’t made me like myself any better. Being really honest, I don’t think I have any feelings about myself. When I think of myself as a person, I feel nothing positive or negative.
The reason I’m curious about it is because I often see people doing things I can’t do, such as get into loving relationships, and there’s a really old cliché around that that says to be loved you have to love yourself first. I used to think it was a load of crap, but as time passes and more and more people achieve fulfilment in front of me, I do wonder. The trouble is, how do I start to love myself? Look in the mirror every morning and say “I love you”? Is it that simple? See, if anyone were to suggest that to me I wouldn’t be able to take it seriously. I mean, I could do it for a few days maybe, but it would always feel really silly, and then I’d forget to do it one day, lose the momentum, and then I’d have no motivation to go back to doing it. I think self love probably comes from more than just saying a few words, anyway. At the moment it seems that this will just have to remain a mystery to me.
By the time I got to the meeting and shared on Friday I was still sad about the job situation, and I could easily have gone home straight afterwards to sulk some more. Recently I haven’t been going straight home from meetings that much, I’ve been hanging around and changing my routine, and on Friday I automatically stopped at the door at the end and waited . After a few minutes a newcomer who’d liked my share came over and started chatting to me about things. We got talking about life and meetings and he asked if I’d be going to dinner with the group. I ought to have said no, saved the money by going home at that point because it had been a tight week and I had a budget I was trying to stick to. But it’s like I’m a newcomer in AA again, I don’t feel able to say no to social invitations. About ten of us went to a Thai restaurant nearby, the same place I’d been three weeks ago with the group, and I compromised by just ordering an expensive smoothie.
I talked with the newcomer for well over an hour, while the rest of the group conducted its conversation a little separately. I’d have loved to get more involved with the group – there were some faces there who I’d known in meetings for years but never actually spoken to. They were encased in their own little bubble and we were encased in ours, and that was the way of things. I could be glad I’d had a nice long chat with one person, anyway.
On Saturday I shared honestly again about my current predicament. It had been another depressing day in which all I seemed able to think about was how uncertain everything is. It’s still embarrassing to share negatively, but I knew that the resistance I was feeling towards sharing it meant I had to share. Others in the meeting were able to share about the difficult things they were going through, so I wasn’t alone. At the moment I think it’s getting easier to open my mouth in meetings and overcome the resistance. Considering a year ago, I could barely say hello to anyone there let alone think about sharing, I’ve made some progress for sure. The importance of using my voice in meetings has finally sunk in, along with the knowledge that no one actually minds whether I share positively or negatively.
About a year ago I started meditating for ten minutes in the morning, with the help of an app that allows you to download packs of guided meditations based around themes like anxiety, relationships, change, acceptance. Every time I meditate, I’ll spend at least the first seven minutes thinking about things that I’m currently worried about, before my ego will allow me any peace. It’s clear to me from this practise that my brain is hard wired to worry, and a lot of the battles I have to fight in life stem from self obsession. Yes, the 12 steps could have told me that years ago, but it’s like I forgot everything when I left AA three years ago and I’m having to learn again. I’m obsessed with the future; I’m obsessed with whether everything’s going to be all right for me. Nothing makes this clearer than the feelings I have about my current search for a job.
I had to rant about it the other day because it was driving me nuts and I always have to be honest about my feelings. In the midst of those anxious, obsessive episodes I’m rarely aware of just how much I’m focused on myself to the exclusion of everything else in the world. My world can become so small when I’m just thinking and writing about myself, my problems. When every sentence starts with an “I”. Course, I’ve always done that. I keep this blog primarily to vent my feelings because there are very few avenues in life for me to truly get those things off my chest. I couldn’t have said all of those things in an AA meeting, that’s for sure.
Honesty is important and I have to give space to the anger and fear that I’m feeling. But at the same time, I’m trying really hard every day to sit and meditate and find an inner stillness that shows how meaningless those transient emotions are. I can’t do anything about my job situation other than the things I have been doing, that’s the truth of it, and wallowing in it serves no purpose. But still, I’m drawn to the fear and anger because they’re my oldest reactions to everything, they are what I know.
My new friend in the program J gave me a book about silent prayer which was written by a Christian monk, said I might find it useful for this stage of my journey. I started reading it at the weekend and I’ve been surprised by how much I’m enjoying it. It talks about sitting still, waiting for God to show him / herself, letting go of thoughts, feelings and all temporary things that we identify with. The message fits nicely in with the meditation app that I’ve been using since last year, although it goes further, as it says that once you’re in the stillness all you have to do is wait. Don’t be afraid of silence and nothingness, for that’s where God is to be found.
This journey into silence, into spirituality, is the longest and hardest journey I’ve ever been on. My mind, my ego, fights it at every step of the way. I suppose I first discovered an attraction to spirituality several years before I came into AA, when someone I’d spent the night with randomly gave me a book about the Kaballah. I understood nothing that was in it, and I never pursued the subject, but a seed of sorts was planted, as I began to think about meditation and silence and how they could one day offer an alternative to the frenetic state of mind I was permanently living with. Once I got to AA and discovered that meditation and prayer were to be a fundamental part of my recovery, I didn’t immediately start doing those things with any regularity. It took me until last year to find the willingness to make a permanent gap in my daily schedule for them. And even then, when I meditated I couldn’t stop my thoughts from carrying me off, away from the silence that I was trying to focus on. These days, I consider a meditation a success if I manage two minutes of silence without any thinking.
My mind is programmed to get carried away on trains of thought, as I’m sure the minds of most people in the world are. The problematic thing for me is that it fiercely resists every attempt at stillness, at focusing on the breath and the sounds around me. It tells me again and again that I need to be focused on this worry or that anxiety, because if I don’t then everything will fall apart. Despite that engrained tendency I’m still drawn to the silence more than anything in my life. Indeed, in my current difficulties I understand I need it more than ever.
I recognise that I need to find God now; I need to fall in line somehow with my higher power’s plan for me, instead of desperately clinging to my own plans. Does this mean that I finally believe 100% in a higher power? Could this be letting go of cynicism, after all these years? Possibly not. That cynical ego is as old as I am.
But I feel that something has certainly changed in me this year. I’ve become more willing to accept things, even if I’m not actually more accepting of them. It’s definitely easier to sit still for ten minutes in the morning than it was last year. In fact I think soon I might be ready to up that to fifteen minutes! In short, I feel like a real recovery in AA has finally begun.
Today I haven’t been able to stop thinking about how unfair my job situation is. In spite of the new desire to embrace spirituality and acceptance that I was just talking about, there’ve been many moments where I’ve wanted to jack it all in and plan for permanent unemployment.
Let’s face it, though – my situation isn’t unfair at all. It only seems unfair when I compare myself to other people who’ve apparently done better than me. When I do it endlessly of course a sense of hopelessness and utter despair is going to start to sink in. It’s so tempting to keep looking at other people who’ve walked into jobs without the slightest bit of effort, and worry that there’s some mysterious skill they’ve got which I’ve never been told about. It’s like when I was at school and everyone else seemed to be able to make friends easily, while I could only watch and despair in my solitary little corner. I’m hard wired to think that the world in general knows what it’s doing and I don’t.
According to the book I’ve been reading and the meditation app I’ve been using, everything is in God’s hands, things will happen in God’s time whether I spend all day worrying about them or not. Comparing my lack of success to others’ won’t make things happen faster, nor will thinking about what I might be doing wrong. That’s just a fact.
Going round and round in my head with the same thoughts is obviously pointless but I can’t bear to stop doing it. I’m as terrified of letting go of that need to control as I was eight years ago when I first came across step 3.
Just today, I had to take back control of the situation by chasing up the guy at the bank who interviewed me over the phone last Tuesday. I still had no news from him about my intelligence test and I wanted him to respond to me, give me a date and time for a face to face interview like he promised. Would you believe it, chasing him up with another e-mail made not the slightest bit of difference today. I still haven’t had a response from him, hours later, and it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll never get a response from him. The job just wasn’t meant to be, and it’s probably not a bad thing considering how shit the salary was. But because I was told I had got through to the second stage of the process, I desperately want to cling onto that bit of hope like a life buoy at sea, because I can’t convince myself that there’ll ever be another opportunity like it. All I can see ahead of me is a lifetime of daily job applications and let downs. For a second this afternoon I actually pictured myself e-mailing S and asking for my old job back, or any job. The madness must be bad if I can entertain that thought.