April 30th 2006

copyright don oddy

~ down at the fellowship ~

Saturday morning, yesterday, I had been up most of the night, its my luck to be an insomniac. I decided I had time to wash and wallow and shave off the beard and get myself together for a meeting of newcomers down at Park Walk. I am not a newcomer to my fellowship, I am an old comer, well actually more a fellow without any particular status other than being myself. Old in the sense that I am now well on my way to sobriety, a day at a time. I know though its good to go to newcomer fellowship meetings because it reminds me I am only a day from being a newcomer again, any day and every day. Its not something to fear, its something to be aware of, because its so easy to make an error of judgment when we forget to think. Fellowship meetings are about maintenance and being well, and meeting each day as is, real and unimpaired like I used to be what seems like a gazillion years ago.

So itís a short distance on the bus, a 328 down to Kings road in Chelsea. I am sauntering and taking my time, and I get a bus and have enough time to spare. Sun is shining and its Chelsea Football club supporters day, itís the final and they are about in force, itís the final match of the league for them and they want to win for the second year running. All seeming to congregate near pubs and ready to start their festivities. I, on the on the other hand, heading for fellowship and a meeting of minds. I get there, up the stairs and into the echoís of the big hall, a lot already there and many I know. Some with years in the fellowship and some pretty new as we find out. And some just visiting to see what its all about. Just visiting is a good name for the undecided who still try to control the urge to drink in the main or concerned friends and relatives trying to find help for their problem friends and family. All are welcome and anyone can stay. We are not shy or ashamed now we aim to be whole again. We know it takes guts to walk through the door, guts to stay and maybe many meetings before we realise there is life beyond our ďismĒ our addiction.

The meeting starts and we get to know the format, a secretary runs the show, someone shares their life story or anything that fits with making it work without a drink, life that is. We are all, apart from just visiting, alcoholics and drug users and substance users and people users, anything to fix that horrible hole inside us. If anyone who has ever had that awful gnawing empty feeling knows, filling the gap is the only thing that works to make us feel normal. Normal is a gap filled, that gap is our self confidence, our appreciation of life and love missing along the way. That gap is the thing that defines us and we know it so well. And once we have filled our gap with whatever substance, we feel able to be normal, itís a pity though as we fill the gap, we shut out the world as well.

For the most part though, today, we now have a real ordinary gap, but the normal one, the gap for today where we can lead an ordinary life. We come to this fellowship meeting to remind ourselves of the way to be ordinary and human, how to make the best of today above all and be truthful and honest as we can. And we are the few who make it to recovery. And we know how hard it is to have an ordinary gap for today. To meet all this day can bring, good or bad, something or not much, everything and be open to the possibilities.

We are not very happy clappy, we are not very much of a cult. We tend to be outsiders and loners in some respects because thatís where we ended up, but we are recovering ground and mix in with society these days, because we can and want to be included as much as any ordinary person. We lost our obsessions and we became able to relate in our recovery. Relate to the world as it is, without needy feelings and shameful hiding, without the support of something or someone to make it work. We make it work these days as we are, simply individual and to our own personal liking. A return to ordinary I like to feel and think. A return to being human and being aware of the world and our place in it, whatever we feel that might become.

I canít share too much of what goes on. Its not a secret, the process of the fellowship meeting. A group of strangers or loose friends or firm friends depending where we meet. We arrive as individuals, share and make fellowship and then leave to our separate lives for the most part. A fellowship where we learn the tools and ways of living in any environment and keep ourselves whole and able to deal with anything and everything. At the same time what is said and what goes on, we keep the content anonymous, because we like to be able to say and feel and think, and then move along to life. Anonymous we are in our sharing, some us not so anonymous when it comes to sharing our common malady, our ďismĒ our addiction. Most of us learned a long time ago that we can be in recovery and well, and by example keeping well and living life to the full and anyone knowing does not hurt us, it makes us stronger.

For those of us where anonymity or being known for who we are makes no difference that is fine. In life though there is still prejudice for many who come, if they were revealed, they would be undermined and their lives made difficult, so we keep to anonymity and we keep people safe and their feelings and their words too. For we respect privacy and we respect anotherís rights to anonymity. We try to be as safe for recovery and dealing with our stuff as possible. We donít want hurt or a return to filling gaps and a return to active ďismsĒ and addiction.

Newcomers meetings, about the newcomer and what it is like to give up our best friend which makes the gap go away. We are broken when we give up our ďismĒ, for we have such a gap, we need to make sense how it happened, our experience, what keeps us sober from our ďismĒ and our strength, that which makes us able to cope with ordinary life and be able to deal with it as an ordinary person might do. I am surprised how much I have learned in my quest to be ordinary again, I never realised how absolutely I had missed how to deal with life love and everything, including death of course. But then we only learn how if we are present and alert, and maybe this something we humans take a lifetime to learn. So I am not beating myself up too much, strange because I am a perfectionist and very able at that compulsion, or maybe I used to beÖ

So there I sat in my thoughts and listening and hearing from others the same story as my own, what is working and what is frustrating and where people are, getting to in their recovery, and going to do today. And suddenly at this meeting I forgot its format, I was asked to share my thoughts. I had the option to pass or say something itís the rule, we do what we want, we are never forced to do anything. I said a few words, how I related and how things were just then.

Just then my world was very ordinary, so I shared my ordinary feelings and thoughts, and got a laugh and a serious look, and got connection to the day and the people around me. Just a few seconds, nothing earth shattering, just that simple connection, of belonging to a fellowship. A fellowship that is free, you only turn up if you want, no one is on your case, it helps to make sense of worry and make sense of happy, and make sense when nothing makes sense. It has taken a while to get to this ordinary moment.

And looking back over the meeting as I headed away, I saw the growing numbers of Chelsea Football supporters in the pubs and spilling into the streets with their drinks in hand. I had spent many years drinking, and now I just saw their jollity. I felt good about me and what I am doing, and felt good for them and what they are doing. Glad I could appreciate their enjoyment and happy in my own enjoyment.

Maybe thatís what my fellowship has done, made me find out what is good for me. Maybe I realise I have a path and one which can be free and whole, that I donít feel I have lost anything and now could have gained everything, and that is simple opportunity to choose. Maybe most of the time I donít judge what others do or think around me directly, I have views and preferences of my own which work for me independent and individual.

In the company of a fellowship, where we are mostly anonymous, I learn a bit every day. And as I sat content on the bus going about my business, in my recovery, in no sense of pain, which was normal in the past, I was able to get on with the day. So when is comes to my loose and friendly fellowship, I have gratitude, I get wisdom and I get to be included in an event which helps me make sense of this world. I get my life back, a day at a time.

And for the Chelsea supporters, they had a good day, their team won. A win win all round.

full story