I would do anything for the Monday afternoon crew who saved me from myself
Knowing you’re not alone is the first step to changing your life.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt separate to the world, at one remove.
This was much more pronounced when I was very young, and had just started nursery school.
Peering at the passing show like a quiet spectator, trapped inside my own cranium, I looked down and saw the tip of my nose, constrained by the bony arch of my brows when I looked up. I clearly lived inside my head.
Inside there’s me, and outside, you, and everyone else. My body is my home, and my head is my bedroom.
I marshalled this border assiduously, at the edge of myself. Fastening windows and shutting doors, granting a set of keys or extended stays only to those I love.
For everyone else, it’s a short-term renewable visa, subject to the usual scrutiny, with immediate deportation always an option. These visas are not cheap either. They take a long time to process.
Over the years, inside my lonely head, I’ve learnt to play to the crowd, then retreat.
I have spent an inordinate amount of time manipulating perceptions of who I am, performing well in order to avoid scrutiny and receive a simple accolade. Moving on, nothing to see here. Show’s over.
I’m an extroverted introvert, strangely comfortable in front of others, but not for too long. I need to withdraw to recharge.
Back to the relative safety of myself. Unsure if you’ll put up with me if you know who I really am. So let’s avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Yet for many years, my own company was also its own particular kind of torture.
I didn’t much like myself, to put it mildly, and learnt some unhealthy distracting techniques, which eventually hardened into a life-threatening addiction.
I needed help. But my trust issues prevailed. I thought I might simply die an addict. I’d do that the best I could.
I was well on my way, and almost succeeded, on more than one occasion. Life was cheap.
My friends had other ideas – one in particular. She took me to recovery meetings on a Sunday morning, picking me up from my house.
At first, surveying this group of friendly people, I thought – no, these are not my people. I was full of judgement, as was my wont. Always something wrong with other people, see.
But over the months, even if I didn’t stop using, I developed some affection for them. I was routinely welcomed.
I felt I could be myself, whoever that was – I’d forgotten, to be honest. I wasn’t so special, after all.
I even made a couple of new friends. I opened up my borders.
With the support of this and many other groups, I am five and a half years clean and sober today. I belong, at last. I have a new home, outside of myself.
Now, every Monday afternoon, I meet with a group of addicts of all stripes.
We share intimate details from our lives, our challenges, our experience, strength and hope. We hug each other.
We are largely the same, even if the details differ. We all struggled to be with ourselves, and found each other.
It is said that if you like everyone in the fellowship of recovery, you’re not going to enough meetings.
I chafe at some of the people in the room. Yet I’m reminded time and again that whenever a discomfort emerges, it’s mine, stimulated by something inside me.
It usually has nothing to do with the other person. I’ve also learnt that what other people think of me is none of my business. It’s the most massive relief imaginable.
It is also said that the quality of your life is determined by the communities you belong to.
While that may be true, the quality of this particular community is beyond anything I have ever experienced.
I would do anything for the people in my group. I know they would do the same for me, at the drop of a hat.
I no longer exist for myself, but to serve my community. Writing about this is part of that healing.
The chains of addiction are too light to be felt until they’re too strong to be broken. Anyone can become an addict.
Not everyone can recover, but it’s not because of any particular ability that I did, and yes, I could relapse tomorrow. Just one day at a time is how I’m clean and sober today.
I suspect that honesty plays a massive role. When I was alone, I didn’t need to be honest.
I could lie to myself, and did, for years. And lie to others too. But I can’t do that with my recovery community. They would never let me.
Today, I am comfortable with my own company. I am myself.
Having known the torment of active addiction, I cherish my freedom, daily. I cherish my life.