Monday night I was to meet J again for coffee before the meeting. I was coming to appreciate his approach to spirituality, and I had an ulterior motive for wanting to see him again – I wanted to ask him to be my sponsor. We sat down to coffee with nearly two hours to go before the meeting, and in my head I’d planned to ask him straight away, but I couldn’t get the question out. Instead we started talking about meditation and silence again, and the right moment for making my request seemed to keep eluding me. I was worried about him saying no, even though he had previously said he’d be willing to sponsor me if I so desired. I don’t recall having the same level of fear about asking people to sponsor me in my early days. I can’t have done – I managed to ask five people in my first five years without a lot of fuss. Since returning to the fold it’s taken me a year to work myself up to asking someone this time. I so wanted to get it right this time; to feel in my gut that I had the right person. On Monday I thought I had the right person, but the same fear of rejection that has made it so hard to come back into AA stopped me from saying anything until the very end of the encounter when we were about to go to the meeting.
I felt awkward saying it, especially knowing it would have been much easier to bring it up at the beginning of the afternoon. He seemed surprised at being asked, but he said yes, and we agreed to meet up again at the weekend to discuss how it will work. At the time I thought he said we could work a program of my choosing and I don’t have to do the steps again if I don’t want to. Previously I’d thought it might be good to do the steps again because it’s been so long and I’m sure the renewed practise couldn’t do me any harm. But when he seemed to say I might be let off the hook this time, it was a bit of a relief because that’s a whole load of extra work I get to avoid.
A couple of days later we exchanged e-mails and he’d changed his tune. He was looking forward to working the steps with me and we could start discussing them this weekend. So I am going to be doing the 12 steps again. I must have misheard him the first time or something. I don’t mind, it will probably be good for me. I’m glad I have something connecting me to the fellowship again, an official link that I’d have to break deliberately before I could leave again. I don’t want to leave and I don’t want to break the link at the moment.
In the midst of my madness last week I had looked up local psychotherapists in London and decided to make an appointment with one down the road for a consultation. Although I’ve not talked about it here, the desire to try psychotherapy again has been floating around in my mind for a while. After hearing someone share about trauma therapy in a recent meeting, I realised that I could afford to see someone privately now, if I wanted to. I wouldn’t have to wait a year on an NHS waiting list like before. The thought of paying for private therapy wasn’t scary until I’d made the appointment and found out the fee for the particular therapist I’d chosen. She’d be charging a minimum of £50 per session, making it easily my biggest expense if I go for regular sessions. I’d have to take the money from my mortgage deposit because I don’t have enough left in the spending pot I had stored for the next few months.
As Tuesday approached I tried to ignore a rising sense of panic about what I was doing. It felt irresponsible, reckless even to be spending such vast sums of money when I have been so anxious about finding work and saving money recently. The appointment time I’d been given also clashed with the newcomers’ meeting that I’ve come to love so much recently, which increased my despair. I couldn’t bring myself to cancel the appointment, though, having gone to the trouble of finding a therapist online that I liked the sound of and contacting them. When I got there, my nerves were immediately calmed by the quiet, friendly ambiance of the health food shop that the therapist’s reception is located in. I’d arrived super early and killed the time until the appointment by studying herbal diet pills and hair growth stimulants on the shelves around me. At 7 she came down to get me and we ascended a homely, carpeted flight of stairs that reminded me of the stairs in the first place where I received therapy eighteen years ago. At the top of the building we entered a small, dimly lit room with recliner chairs and pot plant that also looked spookily similar to the room where I had therapy as a teenager. Not just that, even the therapist who sat in front of me reminded me of the first one I ever saw back in 1998, in her professional, welcoming manner and her slightly Nordic appearance.
In the standard allotted time of fifty minutes we just about managed to cover my life story, with particular emphasis on my relationship with my parents and the first therapist I saw in the 90’s, things that this one was interested in. I hadn’t expected or wanted to talk about those things so much, but I suppose when I began the session by saying that I hoped to address some childhood issues, it made her think automatically of my parents. What I really wanted to address was my faulty approach to relationships and the link to my experiences at school. We covered this in the last ten minutes. Before the end of the session she asked what I’d like to achieve from this, and I said that I hope to come out the other side no longer fearing dating and men so much, and no longer doing that subtle isolation thing I do with friends.
We agreed to give it six months and then see where we are. She clearly thought I’d need more than six months to explore such complex issues, and I agree with her on that, but in truth I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford more than six months, if I can’t get a job in that time. Optimists may say of course I’ll get a job in six months, but the recent wall of silence that I’ve been getting from recruiters has left me feeling less certain than ever on that front.
I’ve no idea if I’ll be able to achieve what I want to achieve in therapy, but I felt excited about it on Tuesday. At least I did until the end of the session when we had to discuss money. I was prepared in advance to hand over the wad of cash I’d taken out of a cash machine beforehand, but giving it to her felt a bit dirty, probably because I’ve never given a therapist money before. She explained that when I’ve got a job we’ll need to renegotiate the fee because other clients who are working normally pay more than £50. I didn’t express the disgust that I was feeling inside as she said it, I simply nodded and accepted the implication. Well, I guess therapy doesn’t come cheap and I’ll have to pay the price. All the free therapy I’ve had before has been time limited and CBT-focused, apart from that first bout in the late 90’s which was more analytical (much as this latest bout will be). I liked my first therapist precisely because she was willing to analyse me and take me to the root of my issues. As an analytical person, it appealed to me. Since then, I’ve never found anywhere that was willing to provide the same type of therapy for free. It was a charity offering psychoanalysis for young people under 25, so I could never go back now.
The cost of this one will be coming out of my mortgage deposit as I mentioned. I’ve accepted that I’m probably not going to get a mortgage for a long time, maybe not for another decade, so the money is just sitting there and part of me thinks I might as well use a bit of it for something. I don’t need to see this as reckless or a waste if I don’t listen to the view of society which says it is. I haven’t told P about what I’m doing, I know exactly what he’d say. P / society shouldn’t have any say in what I do with the money, it should be up to me alone.
The coincidence between starting therapy and starting the 12 steps with a sponsor at the same time hasn’t been lost on me. I know some in AA may think there are risks to doing both in conjunction, risks that are vague and undefinable but still risks. Personally I know it’s going to be challenging and there could be some conflict, though I hope there isn’t. I’m committed to both now, my HP has put both things in my way, so I’m not questioning the timing just yet.
The latest news on the job hunt is that there is no news. It’s been two weeks since the last interview invitation. I’m trying every moment of the day to hand it over to God and every day I am struggling. I only have to think for a second about a friend or former colleague who has a great job and I fall into despair at what they must think of me. The lesson in this is obviously that I need to stop comparing my situation to that of others, but the thoughts won’t stop coming. So in any given moment, if you could see my thoughts you’d see me repeatedly pushing them towards my higher power.
I attended the gay topic meeting in town tonight for the second week in a row. Last week I found the number of loud, extrovert gay men in the meeting a little overwhelming, and it was no different this week. Unfortunately my friend M wasn’t there this week for some reason, so there was a danger of me going in and out without talking to anyone. For the first ten minutes after I sat down I experienced the resentment that I usually feel when I’m in big gay meetings. It’s an old story: everyone else looked happy and confident in their groups while I sat on my own feeling anything but. I realised for the first time that I only get this resentment in gay meetings: it never happens in the mainstream ones. I think it’s because I feel more vulnerable and exposed walking into gay meetings, whether I know people in them or not. The reason for the vulnerability? Maybe it’s because of the decreased anonymity there – as well as my alcoholism my sexuality is known in gay meetings, and knowing this the people in them can guess a lot of other things about my background and my story. People can get closer to me in gay meetings, where we all share many experiences that straight people don’t, and perhaps I find that uncomfortable. Perhaps it makes me see them as a threat. Now isn’t that interesting?
Five minutes before the start of the meeting I realised there was a newcomer sitting next to me, and without thinking too much I used the opportunity to introduce myself. For the second time ever in an AA meeting, I managed to talk to someone first without them approaching me. I was doing what old timers and experienced AA’s did to me in my early days, introducing myself like a normal person and sharing some of the principles of the program, and it felt as unnatural and scary as it did the first time a few weeks ago. Somehow I got the words out and I don’t think the guy saw me as a fool.
When the meeting started I felt just about normal and I was open to hear the sharing without the judgement that I’d walked in with. At the end I didn’t stay around for coffee, mainly because I didn’t know anyone there and I was rather tired and I wanted to save some money. I don’t have to go for coffee after meetings all the time. If I can talk to someone in the meeting, make an effort to say hello and goodbye to people, I’ve achieved something.