On Monday I went to my first meeting. I made my way to Central Hall, a large public building that looks deceptively small from the outside. It’s the kind of place where youth projects are based, girl guides meet and kids have tap lessons after school. I walked through the door and realised I had no idea where to go. I looked at the guy on reception but I couldn’t bring myself to ask for directions. Just as I was beginning to think that not being able to find the meeting was maybe a sign I shouldn’t go, someone came up to me and asked “Are you lost?”
“Yes,” I replied, “I’m looking for a … err… meeting?” Fortunately he picked up on the considerable emphasis I’d given the word ‘meeting’ and he said, “Well if it’s the AA meeting you’re looking for then you can follow me….”
He did introduce himself but I was so nervous I instantly forgot his name. He also introduced me to the person chairing the meeting and gave me a meeting list. I didn’t say anything for the entire 90 minutes, I just sat and listened. Part of me just wanted to disappear, but these lovely strangers who’d never met me before kept referring to me in their shares, saying how good it was to see a newcomer.
Last night’s meeting was different. Most people were a lot younger and several had only been sober a few weeks/months. I felt like we had a bit more in common. It was chaired by a nice guy called Anthony who I’d actually sat next to at the previous meeting. Towards the end he asked a few people if they’d like to share. It was clear he was asking them because they hadn’t said anything. And then he asked me.
I did have something to share. What I wanted to say was:
“I’ve been sober for two and a half months. This is my second meeting after trying AA four years ago and deciding I wasn’t an alcoholic. So far I’ve stayed sober by reading blogs, books and looking for support online. I did 90% of my drinking on my own, isolating myself from the rest of the world. Recently I’ve begun to feel that I’m isolating myself in my sobriety too. I haven’t told my friends or family that I’ve stopped drinking – they just think I’m on a health kick. I can’t tell them the truth because they’ve never known the real extent of my drinking. Although I’ve received great support online, from strangers all over the world, I’ve started to feel like I need to confide in people face to face. I need to make this feel more real and I need to meet people going through the same thing.”
Like I said, that’s what I wanted to say. Instead I burst into tears and gave a sobbing, snivelly version of events that probably didn’t make any sense.
The meeting finished pretty soon after my share. I was going to run straight out but a couple of people stopped me to check I was ok. Two women gave me their numbers and said they’d been touched by what I said. One even text me after to check I really was ok.
I was pretty touched that they cared so much. Until the crying incident it had been a good meeting and I’d really related to lots of things that people said. My next one will have to be Saturday now, as I’m working long shifts for the next three days and there aren’t any meetings in my area that would fit round my lunch hour or before work. I do want to go back.