Home and away

My old AA friend D got in touch last week to let me know he was in London visiting. He moved out to the countryside a couple of years ago; it had been about four years since I last saw him. The breakdown in my friendship with him and S was part of what drove me out of AA back then. Since I came back I’ve always felt that seeing them again would heal some old wounds, rebuild the last bridge in AA that I burned – so I was looking forward to meeting D for coffee on Tuesday. As soon as I saw him it was like no time had passed at all since our last meeting. We were instantly comfortable with each other again, laughing at the silly things in life that annoy us such as tourists with bad hair, talentless pop stars, Madonna’s career in the last ten years. After the humour our conversation moved on to AA and how our attitudes have changed towards it in recent years. I seem to have surrendered fully to it now, while D holds onto the reticence that I experienced in the years when I was out of it.

I always admired D for his honesty and scepticism, and I could completely see where he was coming from when he expressed irritation at the bad parts of AA, like old timers who tell newcomers what to do. But it seemed to me that he was getting fed up of it, like he was ready to quit AA and try other things after ten years of doing everything the AA way. He said he’s only been to a few meetings this year, which rung alarm bells, though I didn’t say anything. I get the impression there aren’t that many meetings out where he lives, and if the few meetings that his local area has aren’t his cup of tea, I can see how it would make wanting to keep going difficult. Whenever I talk to people from small provincial towns I’m always reminded how lucky I am to have got sober in a place like London.

I took D to the newcomer meeting, hoping he’d enjoy it and remember why he liked coming to AA before. Throughout the meeting I could tell that he was tired and not really there. I realised that I’d really brought him for my own nostalgic reasons – I wanted to go back to 2007 when we used to go there together as youngsters new to it all. Anyway, it was lovely to spend the evening with him and talk about music with someone who gets it. Who knows, maybe he’ll decide that the countryside was bad for his sobriety and come back to London for good.

*****

I’m glad I decided to go back to Lyon this year. I didn’t exactly have the best of times when I went last year. The weather and the location that I stayed in that time didn’t favour me at all. This year I was luckier on both fronts. I had a really nice time, and got to take some gorgeous photos of the city as I walked around in the sweltering sun.

I think I’ve proven to myself that travelling alone on short city breaks is fine. I didn’t find this trip stressful or all that lonely, even though there were no English AA meetings on when I was there, meaning I didn’t get to have a conversation with anyone during the three days there. I think that the new meditative stance that I’m trying to take on life pays off in situations that were once potentially stressful. I just let them play out now.

Without any other options I may have to travel alone on all future holidays. I was already kind of prepared for this, but until this week I thought that would just mean safe holidays in safe, familiar European destinations for the rest of my life. Now I’ve got to thinking about branching out of Europe again, something I did regularly a few years ago when I had more money and more adventure in me. I crave to see all the other continents and parts of the world that I’ve never seen; I also yearn to go back to America, a place where some of my happiest memories are. What’s held me back from committing to these trips is money, the fear of long haul flying, and the fear that I can’t look myself on such big trips any more. I got tired of flying last year, and part of me was ready to give up on ever doing it again. But the travelling bug has bitten me once more, and now that I’m no longer tied to the places that P wants to go on holiday, I feel like I should be ready to face my fears again.

I need to be sensible about this. I can’t just start spending money on trips to far flung parts of the globe. Just because I have money in the bank account now, doesn’t mean I can start looking at flights and hotels. I’ve reasoned that I can afford about one big trip every year. The list of places that I want to go stretches to about thirty – so that’s the next thirty summers sorted then!

Seriously, seeing the world could turn into a life project. A noble project, maybe. I don’t have to be glum at the fact of how long it’s going to take. Knowing that I’m slowly working my way through a list every year – an important, wonderful dream list – could become the thing that keeps me going. Like having a list of books I want to read, albums I want to listen to or films I want to watch, it would all be very enriching.

Now I’m home I’m looking forward to getting back to AA meetings. It’ll be six days since my last one – the longest I’ve gone without one since last year, I think. Any longer I wouldn’t want to risk now.

I’m also looking forward to having some time out of work. I’m basically repeating what I did last year when I left that job, but who cares. I have plenty still in the bank from their big payout, which will ensure I don’t have to worry about income for a good while. I’ve done really well with money this year, so I know there is no need to pressure myself to take the first crappy job that comes along again.

Talking of jobs, that place I interviewed with a couple of weeks ago aren’t progressing with my application. They called me on Friday to let me know that unfortunately they’d changed their minds and would be offering the position to an internal candidate instead. Which is disappointing, but what can you do. At least they had the decency to tell me and apologise for wasting my time. Nah, I’m not upset with them. The interview was good practise, and they did like me, they just didn’t have the job this time round.

Until something else comes along I’ve got time to do the things I was planning to do in April to be kind to myself, before the bank came along and spoiled things. I need to get back to my writing, my French practise, my reading. And I need to start preparing for the counselling course in September. If I can keep a level head about the job search, this could be a great few weeks. When I’m meant to be in work again, I will.

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