Tuesday, 18 November 2008

My first A.A visit

Yesterday evening I attended my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I rang up the helpline and spoke to a lovely young man with a West Country twang called Mike. He himself was an alcoholic and he shared a few of his experiences whilst I nodded furiously and more or less concurred with everything he said. I don't think I have ever spoken to anyone else who has recognised this addiction before and it was....refreshing. He kindly informed another member that I would be attending so as to soften to blow a little.

I arrived half an hour early so locked up my bike and positioned myself on the church steps. Half expecting my buttocks to singe as I sat down I couldn't help but notice the prominent crucifix hanging above my head in the window behind me. What would Jesus do indeed.... After chain smoking about three cigarettes I began scanning the passers-by for possible group members. One man stumbled across the pavement swaying from side to side and I thought he must be the real deal, but no, he waddled on past the entrance-obviously not ready to embark upon the journey I am about to (and I can't really blame him as that was me two weekends ago, or was it last weekend-I can't remember).

Two men approached and this time, they were going in. One of them confided to me that he was just stopping by on his way to 'CA' to which I replied, 'Sorry what's that?' He explained Cocaine Anonymous to me and continued on the same note with all these other turns of phrase and vocabulary which were utterly foreign to me, 'the steps, sponsor, a share etc' I didn't want to appear completely stupid so I just let him chat. It was nice.

I got to go to the beginners meeting and so took up my seat, started frantically chewing my nails and waiting for the other four people to come in. I thought there would be more!? The leader (?) opens proceedings with a prayer (?) and then opens up the discussion with the group. I listened attentively to the other men speak ( I forgot to mention I was the only girl) and their stories were above all touching. I didn't think I was going to say anything but I did. My name is.... and then the next phrase 'and I am an alcoholic'. What happened next completely took me by surprise; I burst into tears and blubbered my way through a series of jumbled explanations. the man next to me offered me a tissue and to my surprise, mutterings of 'well done' could be heard. I am sat in a room with four other strangers and I don't think I've ever felt so laid-bare. The man after me spoke and referred to his situation and kept referring to me, always using my name. Isn't it underrated how nice that is? When someone directly calls you by your name.

The pre-meeting ended and as I went outside to wait for the main one to begin, I saw a LOT of other people. Older women, older men, younger women and younger men. A woman then approached me and told me she was expecting my arrival, so I clung to her (not literally) for the rest of the evening. She is only a little bit older than me and is perfectly content with her life-the best it's ever been she said.

My cynical self led my mind to believe I would be entering a room of over enthusiastic, hand clapping hippies. Not the case. No dishevelled old men, no tearful outbursts from a woman called Janice with too much make-up (I don't know where this idea came from) but simply an eclectic mix of people who seemed to be all friends.

We listened to the speaker, I listened to the others talk about their experiences and heard one thing that really stuck in my mind
'It's the only illness that has the ability to tell you that you aren't suffering from it.'

I'm going to go again on Thursday. I can't wait.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Questions left unanswered in the bottom of a bottle..

Did I turn to drink because I was already damaged? Or did drink do this to me? My head feels dense and my thought processes seem to be rotting-I can feel myself becoming less coherent. Is it too late for me to turn things around? There is one feeling that remains which is so immense and consuming that the only remedy is to drown it out with copious amounts of that warm, thought-numbing liquid so readily available on nearly every street corner.
After all, after having pushed so many people away, what is the only thing you can rely on to distract you from the problems you face? Whilst loneliness is feared, it is also craved. The sacred kind of solace which leaves you free to drink to your heart’s content; regret and shame are minimal when there is only your reflection to judge you. I drink socially and to excess. When everyone else has made their way home, I’ll pocket the bottle of wine we shared and sneak off to the comfort of my own bedroom. If we are in a pub, I’ll cautiously find my way back to the bar between rounds and neck a few more safe in the knowledge ‘I’ve got one over’ on the rest of my drinking chums. House parties are easy pickings for me and perhaps the saddest but simultaneously hopeful thing about all this is that I am aware of how ridiculous I am behaving.

This blog is an account of my struggle with alcohol. Amongst the girls who we so often see in newspaper images of ‘binge-drinking’ Britain, there is one who is neither proud nor boastful of how battered she gets. Every day I am forced to remember and re-live the consequences of my drinking. Whether it is the scars on my wrists, my blotchy red face and yellow stained teeth, the keepsakes from relationships I’ve ruined or the empty inbox in my phone- there is no end to the damage I have done. However, amongst all this, I have hope and I want things to change.