The truth about recovery, sexuality and other pressing issues

Moving on

Went to another brilliant meeting tonight. The 7.30 at Hop Gardens, secretly my favourite AA meeting in London. I keep the fact that I like it a secret because, well, it’s a bit embarrassing. It’s a bit like enjoying the music of Bucks Fizz – millions do, but few would ever admit to it. Hop Gardens on Friday night is often like going to see a show. You see all the faces there. All the sharing has an extra layer of glitz added to it. Famous people have even been known to do the chair there. It is a hotbed of glamorous sobriety. Over the years I have found it is not all style over substance, either. Every week you are guaranteed to hear genuine sobriety in what people say. It’s a strong meeting. As well as being funny, sexy and downright cheerful, it has provided me with some bloody good life lessons, I’m telling you.

I needed it tonight, after another horrendous day at work which I completely ruined for myself. The moment I sat down at 8 o’clock this morning I knew I hadn’t gotten over yesterday yet. That lump in the throat and the aggrieved disappointment in the gut was still there. After an hour of feeling tearful I tried to remember why I was so upset, and I couldn’t. I had almost no idea what was up with me. When my team strolled in at 9, both of them cheerful as children (“it’s Friday!” they hollered, as if that mattered,) I had irritation to add to my list of negative feelings. I wanted to go home. I just didn’t want to work today. I was fed up of feeling pissed off at my colleagues, none of whom had technically done anything wrong.

As the day wore on I watched myself get worse. I was trying to listen to 90s eurodisco on Spotify to cheer myself up, but the phone wouldn’t stop ringing and people wouldn’t stop talking at me, making it hard just to think, let alone listen to and enjoy some Ace of Base. When Adam made some pithy comment about Ace of Base being played slightly too much for his liking, I put my headphones on to drown him and the world out. “Ooh, he’s putting the headphones on!” Adam squealed scathingly. I felt like hitting him.

A few hours later I deigned to take the headphones out, realising that I may be acting in a slightly childish manner. Unfortunately Adam chose that moment to start being pithy again, commenting on some things I’d said yesterday about the company. “Have you actually tried talking to these people you claim to find difficult?” he demanded. I instantly knew that he was right, of course – I haven’t tried speaking to any of the people in the company whose behaviour I’ve had problems with.

“Why should I talk to them?” I snapped, putting the headphones back in before Adam could swipe back with another point-scoring remark.

It wasn’t until 4.30 that the temperature of my blood started returning to near normal levels. Having been in since 8am I was lucky enough to have the choice of going home at 5. With just half an hour of compulsory working time left, I removed the headphones once and for all. Adam was making one of his cerebral jokes and I couldn’t help smiling. Yet I couldn’t help feeling an awkwardness with him: our friendship had been rocky all day, and I couldn’t just get over that. It was exactly the same every time I fell out with Jan. There would always be a few hours or days of unusual silence between us before things could return to some semblance of normality. To see the same pattern unfold with Adam is quite unsettling, you have to admit.

I have the first three days of next week booked as annual leave – thank God. I think a five day weekend is probably just what the doctor ordered. I don’t know if such a minimal period of rest will be enough to let me calm down and regain some peace of mind, but I’m going to give it a try. If I can get through at least one day without worrying about work, I’ll be sorted. I’ve grown tired of the nightly worrying sessions, which can last hours and get me nowhere. I don’t need that in my life. I have to find some way of getting over my grievances, most of which are really petty. I didn’t ask my manager for that meeting yet. I may never ask her. Unless I can go to her convinced that I am doing the right thing, I can’t do it. The concept of her scares me too much.

The day I’ve had is a symptom of my biggest problem, my core belief that I’m not good enough for my job. Adam threatens me because he is so clever. And he challenges me on nearly everything. You can’t say anything that isn’t true around him. You can’t make generalizations or bitch about people or moan about your lot in life: he’ll pull you up on it. I snap at him in my low moments because I fear that ultimately, he could take my job. For whatever reason, I am presently living in doubt about my job. Any threat to the little security I have – whether it comes from the boss’s lack of engagement, the company’s lack of interest, or Adam’s constant cleverness – will contribute to the ongoing erosion of my self confidence, an erosion which I know I bring on myself.

I hope I get some good sleep over this long weekend, and I hope I can return to work next Thursday feeling not so pissed off with everyone. Sleep, sleep. Please allow me to sleep!

Two journal entries in a week: now that’s something, isn’t it? I feel like writing for the second day in a row because, to be frank, I still have some steam to let off. Work wasn’t terrible today, but it wasn’t smooth sailing either. One of my supervisees, Adam, started complaining in the afternoon about all the mistakes on the website, and we ended up having a deep discussion about all the problems with the company and the general lack of progress that seems to be being made in certain areas. On that score, Adam’s take on things appears to be much more positive, in that he seems to think going to the directors with our concerns could actually solve things. Even though I’ve been an employee of the company for nearly two years, I was surprised by how negative my own opinions were in comparison to Adam’s. Unfortunately, my honest feeling is that things will never change. I never really got over the debacle that I came back to after my long break earlier in the year, when I had a long list of customer complaints to respond to. A simple bug fix could have stopped those complaints from being opened, but because the company had other priorities at the time, we had to wait months for something to be done.

Recently many things have occurred to further erode my faith in the company. Things keep being changed in the system, and every little thing they change seems to have a knock on effect elsewhere. It drives me mad, and no one seems to care. Adam believes I should march up to the directors in their next board meeting and air my concerns. “It’s their website, surely they should be made aware of things that are not working?” he says. After two years of having to put up with certain things that would make our lives much easier were they not there, I’ve started to believe that the company must know that things aren’t working, and they just don’t care.

The way we’re almost entirely left to look after ourselves suggests that this must be true to some extent. I’m not happy about it. I would love to be able to follow Adam’s advice and tell someone how I feel, but who? By the time I’d finished talking to Adam this evening I felt so disheartened by the whole thing that I was close to crying. Eventually it struck me that I ought to speak to my boss. I really ought to. Trouble is, I don’t know if she’ll like what I have to say.

I’ve had no professional support of any description since the day I started, and it bugs the hell out of me. Is it selfish to expect some reassurance from a manager that I am doing a good job? Everyone else in the company seems to get along fine without formal appraisal – is it just me? There is obviously a culture of autonomy here. Do I really need my manager to listen to my problems?

I wind myself up so much thinking about these things, it does me no good. It’s no wonder I can’t sleep any more. My part in the problem – and it is a major part – is that I don’t know how to reach out. I get so frightened by the thought of offending people, still, that I won’t ever say anything, instead allowing resentments to fester. It’s happening here and it needs to stop. I need to say something. I just don’t know what to say!

I went to a meeting tonight and found myself sharing about it all, really honestly. It was good. People listened and they definitely understood. I could see them all nodding. I did well to say those things in front of a room full of alcoholics. For some grounding and support, I will always need to go back to AA. It is AA that has reminded me, time and time again, to be honest with myself and others. I have to speak to my manager, I have to be honest. It’s no good laying awake at night thinking of all the ways I’m going to steal her job from her. I’m not taking any action.

The big question is this: what do I want to achieve? What can I achieve? A closer relationship with my manager would be a good start, but could anything else come out of it? It’s the not knowing that is the worst thing. Nothing could change whatsoever, that’s also the worst thing. If I don’t accept that things are the way they are because they’re meant to be that way then I will probably drive myself into the ground. So much could be improved on at work, but while I wait for things to happen I really ought not to torture myself about it. The job title, for better or for worse, is something I’m stuck with for the time. If I can’t accept it then I know I can’t move on and grow.

I’ve been feeling tired nearly constantly for months. It’s starting to drive me mad. What I would love, more than anything in the world, is a good night’s sleep. One where I wake up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for the day ahead – not grouchy and exhausted like I do every single morning in reality. I’ve no idea how I am supposed to achieve a better quality of sleep. I’ve tried going to bed earlier at 9, 10pm – that can sort of help sometimes, but not always, and never entirely. I try keeping the window open to air the room at night, as it can get a bit stuffy in here; that just creates noise with the blind moving back and forth in the breeze all night. I don’t know whether the problem is noise, heat, or stress. They say lack of sleep can cause increased levels of stress, and I do believe them. But how can I ameliorate my stress levels when I can’t sleep properly?

An undeniable factor is the problem I have of being unable to think of anything apart from work, from the moment I wake to the moment I doze off at night. At least 90% of my waking thoughts must be completely occupied by work and the issues relating to it. My recent promotion to team supervisor has definitely not been great for my mental health on a number of levels. The times when I feel myself getting particularly tense about it, which happens about once a week, I try and find a moment to sit down and list in great detail all the things I’m feeling anxious about. This usually helps a good deal; but then a few days later I’ll probably be feeling tense again, and it’s like nothing’s changed.

Oh, and the number of Diet Coke cans I get through every day can’t be helping. The difficulty there is that they have this drinks fridge just outside our office which is stocked full of all the fizzy liquids you could ever want each week. Hardly lends itself to healthy living, does it? If it wasn’t free I wouldn’t touch it. When it’s permanently free, you can’t really say no to it.

If they were offering free beer I’d say no, so why can’t I approach Diet Coke in the same way? I guess I haven’t got there yet. I haven’t become desperate enough.

There’s lots of important stuff going on at work which would naturally occupy a significant portion of anyone’s thought space. I’m being asked to reconcile the huge financial loss that our department has engendered in the past few years. The cause of the loss is fairly simple; recouping the loss is another matter. It would be a lie to say I don’t enjoy the challenge. It’s a great responsibility, and if I actually manage to contribute in any way to the improvement of the company’s finances, it will go down well with the powers that be. I wish I had a little more time to apply myself to the task entirely. There never seems to be enough time.

As well as that I’ve put myself forward to run a training session next month for our customer service department, on how to handle customer complaints. For someone who used to break into a sweat at the thought of picking up the phone, this is a step forward. My manager seems satisfied with the basic structure of the session that I want to run, so from now it’s really up to me to plan and organise the whole thing. At the moment I think I’m reasonably confident about doing it, but there’s every chance that could change. As the time draws nearer I’m sure those cold sweats will start to haunt me.

I’d like to rest assured in the knowledge that my manager feels really confident in me, but as ever, it’s impossible to tell what she really thinks. When I was presenting to her today I got the same impression that I always get when I’m speaking to her: that I was taking up her time unnecessarily. A lot of this fear is undoubtedly me reading too much into the limited emotional signals that she gives out. That said, my expectations of having a supportive manager are not being realised. Before today I hadn’t spoken to her in two weeks, and I doubt I’ll get to speak to her again until next month some time. Yes, I get it: she manages over fifty people, she has a lot on her plate. In my heart I just can’t help wanting more from her.

This issue forms a major portion of the thoughts about work that keep me up at night. I’m playing what I think is a key role in my department, with everything that I am trying to do and achieve, and my contributions aren’t being recognised in the way I would like. I’m stuck with this half arsed job title that makes me feel like I am in-between roles for some reason. ‘Team supervisor’ is too ambiguous for me. I just can’t get used to it. All other department heads get to call themselves ‘team leaders’. I’m doing the job of a team leader, but so far I have not been recognised as one.

I’m aware that the role is up for review next month, and providing nothing goes wrong, I could be made a manager. Or they could decide that things are working well as they currently stand, and make me keep this uncomfortably ambiguous job title for another year. It’s in the company’s hands. I want so desperately to know what they think of me. I need to find a way of breaking through my boss’s icy exterior. But how? She never even says ‘hello’.

I’m being told by the voice of common sense that it’s one of those relationships I’ll have to work at. Like with managers who’ve gone before, I’ll need to be patient with this one. Even though I’ve seen the benefits of being patient before, I can’t bear to just let this one be, with so much seemingly at stake.

Maybe it’s the job title that I need to get over. If I could wholly accept being a mere supervisor for the rest of my life – let’s face it, it would hardly be a bad life – then the need to get into the boss’s good books would immediately become less desperate. I’ve got it into my head that becoming a proper manager is the only way forward; anything else would be a step back. Since my first day at thje company I have been making slow but sure progress. I feel as if the status quo is holding me back. I’ve come to feel stifled by my in-between job title and my boss’s unresponsiveness. If I were better at accepting things for what they are, none of this would be a problem. If I decided to focus on the positives, of which there are many, I’d be OK. Only that’s not my style, really, is it?

A quick poem

Glass heart 21/8/2011

Stony heart

How do I enter you?

Cold heart

How do I soothe you?

Oh, icy heart

How do I melt you?

Glass heart

How do I break you?

I have a new flatmate. The smell emanating from his room seems to get worse every day. When he’s here he does nothing except drink and smoke all the time. It’s hard to imagine him without a can of Fosters in his hand. I don’t know if he is an alcoholic – his life seems manageable enough. He gets up and goes to work every day, and he seems relatively happy. He isn’t rude or uncouth when he drinks, and he doesn’t barge into my room and make scenes. He just can’t seem to live without booze. And it smells. He must have had a heavy one last night, as the bathroom this morning stank to high heaven. I had to hold my nose to stop myself from puking. Only once I’d blasted the room with Febreze could I take my hand away from my face. It wasn’t nice.

I don’t think I disapprove of his lifestyle choice. I lived that way for years myself. It’s how it reminds me of those years that I don’t like. When I was drinking I never thought I smelled, but I must have. Poor guy. How is anyone supposed to have a relationship with him? They’d have to pry the can of Fosters away from him just to get near him.

The stereotypical gay man drinks a lot: it annoys me that this one seems so unconcerned about falling into that category. I’m sure he’d argue that he is a free agent, allowed to drink as much as he bloody well likes, which is why I never plan to bring it up with him. It’s none of my business, in the same way that my not drinking is none of his business.

But when you live with someone you can hardly help noticing their habits, especially the habits that don’t agree with you. With my old flatmate it was the constant noise; with the new one it’s the smell, and the sight of empty beer cans in the recycling bin every morning. I haven’t lived with alcohol for years, which is probably why the reminder has come as a bit of a shock. God, I was just like him. How fascinating it would be to get into his head, find out whether he really is happy or not. I know some topics are designed to remain off limits forever, so I don’t expect to ever have this conversation with him. In reality I’m not sure I really want the conversation.

It just shows the bizarreness of human nature. The things you must never talk about, the importance of letting others self destruct without interference, the elephant in the room: I’ve known these things in my life, and with my innate tendency to see things from the outside, I can’t help but find them quite odd today. No, odd’s not the word. Sad – that is how I find them.

*****

Last weekend I went on a couple of dates with a much older AA. Both occasions were nice enough. Then he e-mailed me on Thursday, to break the news that he didn’t think we could or should become lovers. He would like us to remain friends: to share our ups and downs in sobriety with each other, platonically and faithfully. “You don’t need an old codger to keep you warm at night,” he told me. “You need a virile young man who’ll sweep you off your feet, wear you out in the bedroom and make you breakfast in the morning.” Perhaps he’s right. It doesn’t make me feel any less dejected. I think even before he sent me the email, I was beginning to realise that we weren’t matched sexually. In spite of his sobriety, he would have been another false father figure. I didn’t need another one of them.

Why should I be dejected? I’m free, once again, to find someone who can make me really happy. Well, technically, yes I am free, but in my heart of hearts I don’t feel free. I feel as tied by fear and loneliness as I ever did. I don’t believe for a minute that this guy’s prediction of a ‘virile young man’ will ever come true. I’ve never believed it, and nothing that’s happened this year has made me any more likely to believe it. Perhaps my refusal to believe even in the possibility of it is precluding it from happening, but my ability to believe in it is severely restricted by the fact that the type of man who has been described – a young, fit and healthy male like myself – would never approach me. In my world, young men don’t approach me. It’s always the older, caring types who at first seem very appealing, until I realise that we have nothing in common. The men I have stuff in common with – the young 20- and 30-somethings who like the same music and books as me, wear the same clothes as me, think the same thoughts as me – are put off by our similarities as much as I am.

I find young men so much more threatening than older men. The years have only intervened to convince me more and more that I should find them threatening because with them, I stand a chance of happiness. It is the chance that threatens me – it is the slight possibility of real romance that I am put off by. Older, hairy men with big arms and other fatherly qualities are a fantasy. I am attracted to them because the tired fantasy scenario that I envisage with them is all I know how to do. With someone my age I’d be lost! I wouldn’t know how to behave. Should I be the older or the younger one? Should I be the man or the woman? These choices I conveniently don’t have to face with older men because with them I can automatically relax into the role of the passive, effeminate boy.

My friend’s advice has struck at my heart and I am tempted to hate him for it. But I can’t because I know he is right. In sobriety I can’t help but recognise the truth when someone tells me it: to carry a resentment towards that person is illogical. What will I do? I feel as stuck as I ever did. I crave and need love as much as I ever did, and I feel as far from it as I ever have. I don’t know if I will ever kiss a man again, to be perfectly honest. The thought of taking any action to bring a man into my bedroom seems as alien and impossible as the thought of walking naked through the streets. How could I do it? After all this time, I have become safe in solitary celibacy, using porn most nights. I’m frozen. I know the truth of what afflicts me and I can’t change it. I can’t.

*****

My sexuality is like an illness that I have ignored for fifteen years. I don’t particularly want it, but I am stuck with it. I have no fricking clue what to do with it any more. In recent years it’s gone through a change: I’ve become interested in younger men, i.e. men of my own age and constitution, which is novel and somewhat concerning. I’ve started to believe that my only chance of true happiness lies with someone in their twenties or thirties, with whom I have many things in common, someone I can engage with on a cultural, emotional and physical level. And yet I’ve also started to believe strongly that true happiness is a lie that has been made up by a sick society, propagated by Hollywood and the pop industry to keep us unconscious.

The conflict in my mind between the two ideologies outlined above has scarcely abated since I’ve begun to grow and evolve as a sober gay man. No, it’s become worse and worse, thanks to my growing self-awareness. What am I to do? God says ‘let go’, again and again. But I can’t! Letting go – truly letting go and accepting potential celibacy for the rest of my life – seems like suicide to me right now. And yet God keeps telling me to do it, because it’s the only way forward. To let go and accept that God knows best, that I can’t control my future any more than I can control other people, is the biggest personal challenge of my life. It is very easy to write about it, here in the safety of my quiet bedroom on a Saturday night. To practise it in real life is akin to pulling teeth on a daily basis. Mental torture.

I have been obsessed with love, relationships and sex for more than fifteen years. It has filled everything I’ve ever written in my journal; nearly every day has brought some new romantic disappointment to me. Nearly every word that I write seems to scream out with need. This need to be loved is my most human trait, and it does not get fulfilled, because for fifteen years I have got in the way of it. In my sickness I have blocked anything truly fulfilling from ever happening to me. I am still blocking it. This sickness in me – this constant fear-based refusal to let go of the future – has to die. I have to forget about love, relationships, sex and romance entirely. I know it in my heart of hearts more than I have ever known anything. I have to swallow fear and embark on the future as if anything could happen. As if I don’t need anything except the validation of my higher power. As if I don’t care for men. Killing this obsession – letting go of my sick need – blindly moving forward in the face of fear and possibility – will be my only salvation. Not knowing and not thinking about what might happen is the only route to happiness. I have no proof for this, except the conviction which is swelling in my heart and in my soul right now. The future is ahead of me, and I shall have no say in it. God will decide.

Four years

Four years ago yesterday, I stopped drinking. I wasn’t going to celebrate, given the noticeable decline in enthusiasm that I’ve experienced for sobriety in 2011. I haven’t felt positive about AA in months: why would I bother to go to the effort to celebrate a meaningless number?

By Thursday, somewhere deep inside I realised that actually, four years does mean something. It means that I haven’t taken a drink for a very long time; that I’ve managed to avoid temptation and keep myself on the straight and narrow for all that time. I never expected to last nearly as long, but I have. Given how rocky things have been this year, there’ve been moments where I very nearly didn’t make it. But I have made it.

So I decided to celebrate. I sent a message out to five or six old AA friends, inviting them to a meal in Soho on the Friday evening. We’d meet at Hop Gardens first, hear a bit of honesty, then go for dinner. When it came to yesterday, I actually felt like celebrating. It would be a special day. Work was a breeze. Then I came home, got dressed in my nice suit and shirt, and headed off to the meeting looking like a fashionable, healthy young man. There I found my friends and we all sat together to listen to some really good sharing. The chair talked about the basics of sobriety: first things first, not taking the first drink, keeping AA close, all the things I’d do well to remember in my dark moments. I was glad that I’d decided to go.

Afterwards six of us walked to Old Compton Street, to eat in the Stockpot, my favourite restaurant in London. It’s hard to put a finger on why I like it so much. The food isn’t the best, the seats aren’t the most comfortable, but there is something about it I’ve always found endearing. I guess it’s one of those places, like Costa Coffee two minutes down the road, which I’ll always associate with sobriety, because everyone from AA goes there.

The meal was delightful, as was the company. It was nice to see Dean again – I haven’t seen him more than twice in the last year. I invited him out of courtesy, as he’s always been there for my sobriety birthdays and we’ve grown up together, in a way. He seemed happy to be invited, and we caught up on our lives and times thoroughly.

After the meal I had a couple of hours to kill before a midnight screening of the final Harry Potter film, which I’d pre-booked tickets for. I was knackered after eating so much food, but I was too excited about the film to think about not going. While everyone else went home for the night, I decided to walk back to Waterloo and get changed into some comfortable clothes for the late movie. The best thing about living here is that it really is close to everything. I wouldn’t have been able to pop home and get changed were I still living with mum. I’d have got home and not wanted to go out again.

At 11.30 I went back out; the night was still warm. I walked across the river, my favourite walk in London, and twenty minutes later I was at Odeon Leicester Square. The place was absolutely packed. Everyone was obviously thrilled to be part of such an experience. I was taken back to the night exactly four years ago when I queued up for the final Harry Potter book. The circumstances that night were astonishingly similar, if you think about it: I’d just come from the Hop Gardens meeting, and there I was standing outside in a queue with thousands of other squealing Harry Potter fans. It’s as if the intervening years hadn’t changed anything. I guess that excitement for the conclusion of the story could never be taken away. Though we all knew what was going to happen, seeing it on the screen was an experience you could not be prepared for.

The film, in the end, was by far the best in the series. I’d go as far as to say it was better than the book. They’ve brought to life all the best moments, and the acting was spectacular, as were the special effects, which blew me away. I was on the verge of tears from the beginning to the end. Knowing that this part of my life was finally over made me feel somewhat emotional. The link between last night and that night four years ago when I queued up for the book in my first week of sobriety made the whole experience seem very meaningful. It enabled me to measure how far I’ve come, as well as see how far I’ve got to go. Harry’s growth as a character seems to mirror mine in some ways. The whole journey of the films is about him coming to terms with death and change and the end of things. I too have to come to terms with those things. Everything in my life has changed, is changing, and the comparison between me now and me four years ago is truly startling, as is the comparison between the final Harry Potter film and the first one.

When the film came to an end everyone in the theatre cheered and clapped wildly. There’s something you don’t see every day. At 2.30 in the morning I came home on a high. Harry’s dark days are finally over, and so are mine. That final scene in Kings Cross station had me at the heartstrings. We’re both grown ups now: childhood and all its traumas are gone. We’ve made it.

*****

I woke up on edge today. The weather is thoroughly miserable, and my mum was expecting me to go to this party for one of her colleagues who turns fifty today. We went to Westfield a couple of weeks ago to choose her outfit. Mum never goes to parties, so I guess she was excited about this one. As soon as I woke today I knew I couldn’t face it. I fucking hate parties. I wasted years trying to pretend that I enjoyed them, but I don’t. The only parties I go to now are at work, where I at least know people. The thought of going to Crouch End with mum to celebrate the birthday of someone I will never see again was so off-putting that I had to risk upsetting her by cancelling. She wasn’t happy. I sensed her whole body drop as I said the words to her. “Oh, OK then.” She said before abruptly hanging up on me. She’s never done that before. Well, that’s that then. If she never talks to me again I’ll have to live with it.

Oh I’m sure she’ll forgive me. We’ve fallen out over worse stuff before. Even if she doesn’t forgive me, perhaps it would be good for us to have some sort of break from each other. I don’t feel bad for cancelling tonight: I have to put myself first. Even though I’ve got to four years sober, the thought of drinking is still there, and I just can’t afford to put myself at risk at the moment. My mother could never possibly understand that, which is why I had to tell a white lie about having a headache. To me it’s not much of a lie – my head is in a funny place today – calling it a headache makes it easier for lay-people such as mother to understand.

I’m annoyed that she would get annoyed over something like this. There was no “are you OK?” or “you should get some rest.” It was just “oh, OK then.” She could probably tell I wasn’t being completely truthful. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d taken the trouble to explain what’s really going on for me. She would never understand. Non-alcoholics don’t understand why putting sobriety first is so tantamount. I need a meeting this evening: if I’d gone to the party I would have had to miss it. The chair last night talked about having to cancel important engagements so that he could get to a meeting. Thank God I was there to hear that last night.

I’m not going to chase my mother for forgiveness. A few years ago I’d have been desperate for it, at the time when I needed it so much more because she was my financial and emotional support. Today I support myself. Not just financially: I am entirely my own person today. This sort of thing was bound to happen eventually. Her co-dependency remains toxic. I have to break away from it. I have to be a different person with her. I’ll still go and see her every weekend, but if the neediness starts to get in the way of my sobriety, then I have to put sobriety first.

Of course I feel bad for her being upset. But don’t you see it’s not my fault? I didn’t do this to her. She can still go to that party by herself. She’s a grown woman, she doesn’t need me to hold her hand. God, I wish she could see that. I wish she could grow her own personality and build a life. For years my growth in those areas has gradually come between us. It’s so clear to see now. I don’t really know where we’ll go from here. But things have got to change.

Hi again

Not posted anything for a while. Not intending to post regularly again, but somehow I feel the need to reach out today. Anyone who comes across this, feel free to get in touch.

From my journal:

“These days work is just about the only place I like being. I don’t enjoy going to meetings that much any more; weekends mostly just pass me by now. I attended the most boring AA meeting ever last night. Afterwards I wondered properly for the first time whether it’s worth going any more. I’ve been secretly wondering this for a while now. The brief period of renewed enthusiasm for AA that I went through recently has passed again. I only said hello to a couple of people last night, even though I knew everyone in the room. Because of the poor acoustics in the room I could hardly hear what anyone was saying; I couldn’t be bothered to make the effort to listen. I kept asking myself what I was doing there. Halfway through the meeting the thought of leaving became really appealing. I knew I wouldn’t be missed if I went. Then I thought about getting a bottle of wine in Sainsbury’s on the way home. Why? Because this is where my illness takes me. By getting me on my own, isolated from the world and from AA, it can make the thought of drinking seem really appealing.

I know what drinking would do to me, so I didn’t buy any alcohol last night. I didn’t buy any Ben ‘n’ Jerry’s ice cream either, as I normally would at the weekend, because I’m trying to give up sugar again. It is most likely because of the lack of sugar in my system that the need to fix on alcohol became salient at all. I can’t have sugar any more, so what else is there to use on?

Having left the meeting without speaking to anyone as usual, I already felt miserable and alone. Knowing I couldn’t fix on anything made it all so much worse, and I ended up with a splitting headache. I went to bed remarkably early at 10 o’clock, too ill and depressed to want to face much more of the waking world. This morning I didn’t feel much better. The sugar cravings are well and truly on me. I’ve been virtually free of sugar and sweet things for a week now: a remarkable achievement, really. I know I can’t give in now. I’ve reached the same realisation with sugar that I reached with alcohol four years ago: it wouldn’t make any difference whether I stuff my face with cake or not. Nothing would change. I’d still be faced with myself and my problems. After all this time, I finally understand that I’m powerless over sugar, and that it makes my life unmanageable.

What of my relationship with AA? Have I simply felt isolated in meetings this week because of my sugar cravings, or is there something much deeper going on? All that I wrote about the other night concerning the work I need to do, that still stands, but since yesterday, I’ve really been questioning what the right thing to do is.  I could get a sponsor, do the steps and feel a part of AA again. But what if I could be OK without AA? What if I stop going to AA and free up all that time to start doing all the other things I want to do, e.g. more writing, drawing, reading, studying? I could go to evening classes, learn a language, or I could write another book. Having to always set aside three or four evenings a week for AA means that the rest of my time is in high demand. Even if I was to cut down to one or two meetings a week, I’d still feel busy all the time.

It’s impossible to know if this is just the illness talking, or if it’s common sense. I guess I could only know what life without AA is like by trying it. Over the years I’ve heard so many people in meetings talk about what happens when you leave AA. You end up drinking again, basically. There’s no two ways about it. If I was to stop attending meetings I’d lose all those friends, of course. Andy, Dean, Javier, Joe, Paul, Amanda, Colin, Luke, etc. Though given that the only time I see them these days is at meetings, could I really call them friends any more? I noticed a posting on Dean’s facebook wall this morning, about a brilliant party that he had last night. No, I wasn’t invited. I knew our friendship was dying already, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to learn about this thing I wasn’t included in. Still, it might say a lot about the state of my current relationship with AA over all. I don’t get invited to anything any more. I might drag myself to the odd post-meeting coffee, if I’m in a really good mood, but apart from that, I never see anyone outside of meetings, where it’s hard to talk to people anyway because I don’t really like the large milling crowds.

Someone shared in a meeting the other week that being in AA is like being married. The relationship goes through phases – of course it does. Currently I feel like I’m going through a separation. I’m bored and restless, and I want things to change. I’m angry with AA: that’s the truth. I’m angry because I don’t feel part of it any more, and I feel let down. Sure, I’ve allowed myself to drift all year, to the point where I don’t get invited to these events any more. But surely any true AA friends would have noticed me drifting? Surely someone should have intervened by now?

Maybe it’s dangerous to expect interventions when you’re nearly four years sober. Perhaps I’m being too much a victim, expecting to be rescued when I’m perfectly capable of doing the rescuing. I don’t know what to think any more. All I know is, I don’t want to go to AA meetings at the moment. I want my evenings back, so that I can have the time go home and cook a proper meal and watch TV and read a bit before going to bed. Is that dangerous alcoholic thinking?

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