July 15th 2006

copyright© don oddy

~ Fellowships and Fridays ~

Thank God its Friday

Where would I be on a Friday night? These days usually at home doing something constructive like relax and watch TV? Most likely, because by Friday I have been out most nights or days seeing people in my fellowship here and there around London. There are thousands of fellows in my fellowship. As we say, men and women who have a desire to stop drinking and live soberly. But what on earth does this mean? This thing called sober. It really is a puzzle sometimes because sober implies a certain attitude and approach to modern day living above and beyond using anything to fix our feelings and anxieties about our world, our life.

Madness about life is our malady, and our insane behaviour where we are driven once we start, to keep on drinking till we drop. That thing inside, the off switch has long stopped working, if it ever did. Our lives have become a hell on earth. As if modern life were not hellish enough for the sensitive at heart. Indeed our toughness and resilience are what make us survivors, we are the last standing at the end of the party and wonder when the next one will begin or where we can go to keep this one going. Or we have migrated to our lonely desperate place of singular indulgence where we are literally round the clock imbibers to stave off the madness of life in our insane world.

Thatís how it was for me and many like me. We just were tough enough and still alive to keep our insanity going. Most like me, if they had less of a constitution retired long before the party ever ended like this. Or they expired through poisoning themselves. An addiction to life, an addiction to living and driven mad by living in a mad, mad world. The party has been over for me for a long time, but I am still young in my fellowship.

Last night, well for some its still Friday as I write for their party is still going somewhere, it was a night to go out and try a new meeting. I felt like it, and thought the nearest is easily walked and just down the road. Iíve been where I am for two years and never been to this particular meeting so going would be an outing for me and a new look at my fellowship and somewhere to share whats on my mind if i feel like it. Not so new, this venue, I go there for other meetings but Friday always seemed a bad night for me, I would rather be alone and not reminded of times past. I feel good anyway and going out will do some more good. Well it did, to cut short my story here and you may leave now if preferred.

I get there, the roads are clogged on the way and itís a rush hour so slow its nearly stopped completely. Down leafy roads and big old houses, to a really pleasant venue in the middle of suburbia in the heart of my world in Chelsea. This meeting is one of several I could go to but as Iíve been to all the others, a new one might offer some new insight and calm and a meet with some people I know and many I donít.

Odd, it was great with over fifty attending, I know a few and many by sight from around my area. We smile and nod and get coffee or tea, and hang for a few minutes before we start. The hall is pleasant and there is an air of old familiar about the meeting I like. All familiar the format set and the meeting starts.

Its all about experience strength and hope. How the meeting works is quite simple, someone speaks of theirs, the experience of addiction, how they got clean, what keeps them strong and what keeps them sober a day at a time. The hope part is what we feel because we are there and sharing life experiences together and finding our common ground for being sober people. We all have been driven mad by living and insane in addiction so we feel quite at home in our company. Well most of us do. We'd be mad if we didn't.

New people are about and they donít get the idea of sober too well yet. As the insanity is still there, the need for a drink, a fix, a way to feel differently. Addiction keeps us busy wanting to change our feelings and get rid of anxiety. Our anxieties are twofold, first we just like being out of it and out of it is fair because thatís what most people do these days, and the second anxiety pile is life itself. Our way of life might not be the best and our ability to cope surely tested as life is unfair is it not? We might be rich, we might be poor and in all that we donít like our living too much, and there is always fear in there too about something, usually being found out that we are les than we think. Paranoia abounds in our heads too if we are lucky enough in our early days of recovery. So new people have a healthy sceptical outlook at all that goes on.

Fifty odd people from all walks of life, from rich to poor and boardroom to back room, from healthy to sick, and just plain sick and tired of this gig. We all share the malady and strive for a day of sobriety. And what is sobriety?

If you asked us all alone, we would all come up with our own ideas on what sober means today. I guess thatís the bottom line we all get as we keep off the booze and sort ourselves out. We find our modern way to live with everything we have thrown our way, without the need to change or alter our reality. We have as many versions of living as there are people thank God. And as many versions of God or no God as there are people as well. We are all different yet similar, and sober means what it means.

For me it means being able to deal with life as it comes, a day at a time, with my wits as best they can be. And to find peace and some way of enjoying the day, or making the most of bad days as they happen, just taking the good and bad of living as it happens and accepting life on lifeís termsÖ

Anyway our speaker speaks, and itís the usual story, and somehow they get here to the rooms of change and our fellowship. And the story is similar, for we know with certainty what makes us drink and become what we are. And for us in recovery we keep coming back to find out better ways of dealing with the things we all encounter.

Our speaker is great and I hear every word, sometimes I do and then I donít depends how much is going on in my head. Just like ordinary people sometimes we hear and sometimes we are so lost in our own thoughts nothing seeps in. Except maybe the fact we are in good company and people know how we feel when we feel good or bad or just plain pissed off.

Our speaker hits the right chords and found their way into my head with similar experiences of life. From breakdowns in work, to breakdowns in relationships and using to fix our feelings as we all had done. And with several difference which made no difference to me, our stories are quite easy to follow and find connection.

What happened for me last nightg was seeing the feelings so raw for many who were listening and making sense of their day. We deal in days, rather than lifetimes, we can resolve days not whole lives at a time! And what became the theme was how we are feeling about things right now and how feelings come up from the past.

Feelings, those fucking annoying things which make life worthwhile and get in the way of good times we can all agree. Feelings mainly about ourselves and others close who we care for and love. Unresolved and hard feelings and things to do with our personal stuff so deep you might not even tell your shrink in case he locked you up. Or worse feelings about those we love and their feelings about us, and how we get on or donít is more usual for us.

And who really wants to bare their souls and describe their angers, their loves and their losses? Why we do of course, because thatís most likely what got us here, and we never resolved our feelings as we went along.

Our biggest problem though is our openness here, because we deal with our feelings these days far better than we did. But our nearest and dearest, not me at the moment I might add in case family and friends read this, are not part of the programme, thatís the hardest thing we have to deal with in our steps back to ordinary living.

Our programme helps us to get on with our feelings and how to make life work. And this transforming and understanding of ourselves and our feelings can be bloody hard on everyone we know. As we get better and start living well, as we mend and repair and make ourselves whole, our outlook and behaviour changes most likely to the good, but we can be difficult to get on with as we are becoming ourselves. Others in our lives may enjoy these new changes, yet there will be many we find hard to get on with or ditch for they do us no end of harm.

And letting go old friendships and loves where we have less sober friends, and family stuck in impossible attitudes about us or their own living, we all can get stuck and screwed up. We might be getting on and recovering completely, the rest of the world we know may not be so lucky. And then we are out of step with them. We face hard choices when this happens and we keep to our path. We know we look for tolerance and love, and its hard to love others when they are so stuck in something we cannot be part of, not anymore.

This hardest of transitions where we become well and we see others maladies as clear as a bell, well this is where we need our fellowship to keep us on our straight and narrow and let people be, just let them be, especially those we love. We know we cannot change anyone, we can merely change ourselves and accept as consequences where we can live and let go. And letting go hurts as badly as ever, for in sobriety we get every nuance of our potential sensitivity back, we might fairly break our own hearts as we encounter our loves and cannot do anything to repair them as we repair ourselves. And especially as no one is likely to take notice of us as we are the reformed and sober, and they know us with their prejudice and their attitudes.

So we understand too well that living is indeed compromise on some things and letting others alone to get on with their living as best they see fit, and we need take caution and we need be careful as we keep our fellowship and sobriety safe.

An we get angry about much we encounter and need our fellows to keep us from fixing those awful feelings and gaps as we let others go from our living and make new and safer and most likely sober friends as we go. And we donít judge and yet we are stricken by unravelling sadness and keep our faith in the programme of living a day at a time. We ainít no saints and we know every sin, we need our strength in fellowship and companionship to stop our return to insane thinking and madness we encounter, every single day we live in our world and our communities. No one is immune from the madness of self obsessed outlooks and we recognise our own dangers and others too well as we get more recovered.

So our speaker this night did a bloody good job, sharing as honestly and openly as they could on the day. And we know we need keep on working at being the honest "Joe", and its easy to backslide and let things go. We know it and heed our desires and are learning how to be careful with ourselves and everyone we encounter. After all we end up agreeable that everyone is equal in all matters as we get well. Well some us do and others return to their old prejudices before drink drove them mad.

So how was my Friday night you may enquire? It was great, we talked of madness and insanity and recovery and family and work, and our partners and our living and our wealth and our poverty, and our sobriety as we go.

It is without doubt so worth it to work at sobriety, just to get good at ordinary living. We have some simple ways to keep ourselves safe, and the world remains as dangerous and more so as we learn the truth of living a day at a time. It odd its weird its sad its joyful its hard work its gratifying and its often heartbreaking too. Because we have our feelings back full force as we get with our fellowship and the programme. And the programme is all about dealing with our feelings and our love of life and people. And often the opposite as we all know too well. So these steps to modern living and an ordinary life go on, just a day at a time, and slowly and surely we learn how to cope.

And thatís why my Friday night was complete, with a little bit of telly to top off my day. Some good food and simple, some quiet time to think, to put my feelings in order so when you encounter me, I can be myself as much as I can.

And the benefit, is simply what you see is most likely what I can give, no hard manipulations and no denials in me. I find a gentle way to make the most of my day, and observe your choices whatever they may be. And I make my choices and get on with the day, and do what I can to help me and others this way. Sounds simple and straight, its as easy as that, and you know as well as me it ainít really quite so rosy, as life can be a bitch, at least though I see it for what it is and can mange myself through it.

A good meeting and connection to keeping to truth, a friendly fellowship completely designed to help anyone anywhere who may be inclined to find their own peace, their own way, and see the similarities which bind us together.

For new people and old timers, we know life is hard, we just know its better when we keep ourselves straight. And we know how easy it is to return to old ways if we let our guard down and donít see our fellows and avoid meetings. We thrive in fellowship and drown on our own, maybe thatís what we learn most that we cannot do it alone. Or inflict our madness on our friends and family who need never know the pain of recovering and recovery, they need only find room to love us once again. If they can of course, and that is their choice. We may be forgiven or forever ďunforgivenď, those are our consequences as we live a day at a time.

Copyright © Don Oddy

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