With a name I’ve never chosen,
I can make my first steps
As a child of twenty-five
Snow Patrol, Chocolate
This evening I took a huge step. I went to my first Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting. Beforehand, I had a lime and soda in a pub in town, because I had time to kill. I sat there inhaling the atmosphere, longing for a half a lager and lime. Just a half but-
but it never is just half, is it?
I was invited back by some people I just met, for a “proper drink” after the “thing” I had to do (“I could tell you what it is but… I’d have to kill you,” I said. “I’ll be back.”)
At half past six I went to the back of a church, asked if this was the meeting, and stepped inside.
It was a candle-light meeting, all the lights out and just candles sprinkling the table. It made it easier to hear others’ stories and eventually, to tell a little bit of mine. The whole time I was thinking about that pint waiting for me. I heard other peoples’ stories and bit my lip for wanting to cry. I could recognise myself, and also see the differences- because every person is different, aren’t they?
I wasn’t going to say anything. I wanted to say something. I couldn’t say anything. Could I?
Shaking leafishly, I spoke.
“Hi, I’m Becky. i’manalkolik.”
I wanted to swallow my tongue. I wanted to walk out. I wanted to be sick. I started shaking. I spoke.
“I’ve been sat here thinking I’m not an alcoholic, I want to go for a pint. But… I dunno, it’s weird. Well, a few weeks ago- I have bipolar- I was high, and I got given sleeping pills to help. But instead of taking the pills, I took a bottle of wine and all my meds and I jumped out a window. And that’s how I broke my ankle. And that’s why I’m on crutches. I guess I’m lucky to still be here. So, I’m glad I’m here… and thank you, all, for being here too.”
There’s a book I read as a child: “And That’s How I Got My Bad Knee.” A little girl has hurt her knee and makes up all kinds of stories about it: she fought a crocodile, she was attacked by a bear… and then she gets home, and her mum asks what happened. And she says, “I fell off a swing and I hurt my knee,” and she starts to cry. All the bravado stripped, and she just wants a hug.
The ankle was my bad knee. The alcohol was my swing. I needed a hug. I got the hug in the form of support, kindness, and a lift home with another bipolar sufferer, who knew all too well what the alcohol can do to you.
I’ve done it.