I finished work on Friday and commenced two weeks of holiday, so I should be in a great mood. But I’ve had a cold all week and it has dampened things somewhat. Normally they’re gone after a few days, but this one’s holding out, which is annoying and concerning. It can lead one to thoughts like “Oh God, what’s wrong with me? Am I dying?” Which makes it harder for me to feel good around people and keep making the effort I need to make to appear normal. At work, nevertheless, it hasn’t been too bad. Knowing I’d be off for two weeks once Friday was over helped enormously.
In AA meetings, I’ve been overanalysing my place there again, and I’ve become aware of old resentments creeping in, which I’m not engaging in too much yet because I know where they can lead. But they’re there. At the meeting on Friday I wanted to talk to more people; sharing would have been good. But feeling bunged up made me more self conscious about my voice than usual.
Outside at the end, I didn’t make any effort to stick around and socialise for once. I was tired, the weather was bad, and I was feeling very sorry for myself. As I dashed out of the building on my way I passed P, one of the big names in the meeting who has always scared me a little. He’s a big rugby player type who may once have had anger issues. I’ve never had a conversation with him, never thought that he would want anything to do with me. This year I started to think I should try and make an effort with people like that, precisely because of the fear and envy that they produce in me. P’s a popular guy; everyone’s his friend, except for me. Something in me told me I should experiment a bit with those people, dip my foot in the water and see what happened. So I became his facebook friend, liked a few of his posts, but it didn’t get us anywhere in real life. We still haven’t had a conversation. I came out of the meeting on Friday feeling that it was all either his fault or my fault, and despite there being the perfect opportunity to stop and say something, or just to smile and say “good night”, I didn’t give him the slightest acknowledgement. We were back to square one.
Thanks to our online connection, I was in for more punishment later on that night when I saw pictures of him and all the people at the meeting out for dinner celebrating his birthday. Ridiculously it still hurts when this sort of thing happens, I still question why I’m not part of these events. On Friday I wasn’t part of it simply because I’m just not part of it, that’s all. I don’t get the invites because I haven’t gotten to know these people, haven’t made the required effort over months and years to become a proper friend.
When I was a teenager I spent most of my time wondering about this. Becoming a part of the group was such a mystery to me I stayed up at night trying to figure it out. The worst times were the break times in the middle of lessons at college, when we had to vacate our classrooms and go to the common room for fifteen minutes to hang out. In those times I didn’t know what to do so I’d often sit there like a statue. One particular time is burned in my memory. Everyone around me was having fun, chatting and laughing hysterically while I stood there frozen, not knowing what to do. For a moment it was like I’d forgotten how to be human. I couldn’t look at anyone, let alone talk to them. When the bell went to signify the end of break time I could resume movement, and so I dashed back to the lesson, glad the torture was over.
I seem to have spent most of my life stuck in that scenario. When I come out of an AA meeting and I’m faced with people I don’t really know or trust, I’m still that statue of a boy in the college common room. It’s time like this I’d love an objective answer to the question of whether recovery has really worked for me or not. Most of the time this year, it has appeared to work for me. There have been dinner invitations and nice times, but clearly it’s not enough. There’s still so much work to do; always work to do. In under two weeks I’ll be nine years sober. I wanted to do something to mark the occasion, go out for dinner after the Friday meeting maybe and invite everyone I like in the rooms, but now I can only think of about three people who’d come, and I’m not sure whether it’s worth doing anything.
Although it’s tempting to go back in time and blame this all on AA again, I know I can’t. I’ve been there and it didn’t get me anywhere. Anything I might want to do to punish AA – leave meetings, drink, kill myself – would punish no one except me. I’m so frustratingly aware of that I feel forced to accept that the problem lies with me, and I can only solve it by working harder at the program. AA suggests calling someone or going to a meeting when times get tough – I still hate that the solution can be so simple, it flies in the face of all the twisted logic that I’ve picked up in a lifetime, but I’m at a dead end with that logic, and there is no other way forward. I have to keep going with AA.
Funnily enough, in comparison it was a tolerable week at work. The second one in a row. So does this mean things are going well there now? I certainly don’t hate everyone there any more, and going in every day is no longer terrible. I mean, I still hate the principle of it, but I’ve started to see the benefit again of having a regular salary, and a structured daily routine, and…
Wait, does this mean I’m changing my mind about staying there? Oh, probably not. I was probably in a better mood than usual this week because of the holiday coming up. Plus it was the last week I’d have to work with B, as she moves to her new job in the other office next week.
Someone that’s surprised me at work is this guy called S, who sits opposite us and forms part of the other team. I never spoke to him until a couple of weeks ago, and since then there’s been the occasional hello or question about something to do with computers. Last Monday he was unexpectedly nice to me when I was visibly suffering with the cold. Today he was nice again, after I managed to provide some help on a difficult query that he was dealing with. I may have said this already, but S is a typical, young masculine lad; reminds me in many ways of the boys I went to school with. Outside work he probably likes drinking beer, watching football, talking about girls and listening to hip hop. His surface appearance is the reason why I never approached him, why I would never have dared say a word to him had he not said something to me first. To have him being nice to me is one thing; later on Friday afternoon, to hear him joking about with his colleagues and confess to having a ‘man-crush’ on some male Hollywood celebrity, was another. When that happens I don’t know what to make of someone like that. Could he just be a normal, nice guy who doesn’t want to hurt people like me? It’s so hard to let go of old beliefs that formed at school.
In terms of the job, as far as they’re concerned I’m in it for the long haul. We’re already talking about things that are happening next year (because in our department you have to plan some things a year in advance), and I’m acting as if I want to be there next year, as if I’m enjoying it. Carry on this way and I see it getting more and more difficult to extract myself. No, I haven’t actually committed to being there in a year’s time, my contract doesn’t say I have to wait until a certain date to resign. But I don’t know. The extra money that I save by staying would be nice, no doubt about it.
I see this whole experience about learning to accept where I am, in a place where I don’t want to be. We’ve already established that I spend most of my life looking to the future, which makes it that much harder to get through the present. I am where I am, there’s nothing I can do about it right now. I don’t need to stress about this. I can still make a decision to leave at six months if that’s what I need to do.