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The rather bearable lightness of just… being

This week I got asked to do my first chair at an AA meeting – for those of you not au fait with this, each AA group meeting starts with a chairperson telling their story of addiction and recovery. There are many reasons for this, paramount I guess being the opportunity for those in the meeting to connect and associate with the chair’s story, and also draw similarities in the tale of recovery.

It’s part of what makes AA such a success – when addicts realise they’re not alone it’s easier to ask for help. It also helps strip away some of the shame which underpins much of addiction – by knowing you’re not a lonely fucked up mess trying to be ‘good’, but that you’re an ill person trying to get well and you’re in a room full of like-minded souls, it becomes a safer haven within which to face your demons.

Being asked to do a chair is, for me, a milestone. In my first few days in recovery, outside of the safety of rehab with all its doctors and counsellors to support, I felt alone, scared and worried about the future and whether I could stay sober. Listening to people’s chairs at each meeting was an opportunity to further reinforce the key elements above – namely I’m not a bad person trying to be good, and I’m not alone. I always held in the back of my mind the objective that one day I wanted to be the chairperson, and now it’s going to happen.

This has also given me a chance to reflect on the last nigh-on three years (I am approaching my third year sobriety anniversary). When I think back to how I was before getting dry, I was angry (I still have my grumpy moments, as my regular column The Rant  in CALMzine will testify), I was trying to get through life at 100mph and I was hell-bent on wallowing in self-pity as everything that the world threw my way which I felt was terribly unfair (it wasn’t). I wanted everything to happen right fucking now, and to happen my fucking way, or I was out.

Fast forward to today and I’ve realised that life isn’t a race; it’s not about looking for happiness at every corner or a constant search for extreme emotion. It’s about contentment and being, well, calm. There are shit days, sure, but hey – without these would the good days not stand out more? Plus, now I just tell myself that that’s just what it is, “it’s just a shit day. Deal with it”. Three years ago and a shit day was an excuse to drown yet more sorrows.

I had dinner last night with my two dearest and closest friends from rehab – they were in recovery at the same time as I was. They came to the cottage I share with my girlfriend on the outskirts of Windsor and we sat around chatting as we have done regularly over the last three years. We realised that we’ve gone beyond the ‘we were in rehab together’ stage, and are genuine, lifelong friends. And the reason why? We’re relaxed now, we’re not manic, we’re not trying to do everything right fucking now. We’ve got our sense of perspective back.

It’s strange how being invited to do the chair has brought this front of mind – I’ve mentioned the contentment and calm before to friends and family, and it’s something which I genuinely look to remind myself all the time. ‘Nothing is everything’ a wise man once said to me, and life isn’t a race. It’s also not a quest for constant, high octane euphoria – that won’t last. There’s much more to be found in just, well, being.

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