I went to an online 12 step meeting earlier. There were a lot of newcomers, so for me it was a good meeting. I enjoy listening to newcomers talk because I sense an authenticity and lack of polish that people who are later in recovery lose. That said, I try and think about how I can be of service to people who have less experience of being clean than I have. Less years of trying. I don’t know how helpful that is to others, but I think it helps me because it means I’m assigning value to my experience, whether or not anyone else does.
Now I’m at that age, with years of trying to recover behind me, where I do have some experience under my belt. That means I have a greater sense of my own limits and ability to get what it is I think I want or need.
The serenity prayer always used to make me feel a bit confused. I understood it at the level of not being able to change that I’m an addict, but beyond that, I was pretty much mystified. Now I can see that was because I didn’t actually know what I had the power to change, and what, above and beyond being an addict, I didn’t. I only got that through experience.
Take M. M was a guy I knew in my recovery from 2006 — to about 2014. It’s actually pretty confusing to think about M, but lets just say that I wanted a relationship with him (to keep it simple). It isn’t that simple, because I was kind of ambivalent, but deep down, I really wanted to go out with M.
I used to day-dream about him. I wrote countless stories about him. I loved to see him in a meeting, which is how I knew him, and to hear him share. I tended my memories of M like they were a precious ore. The fact that he asked me for a coffee made me feel like I must be really cool. Every time we crossed paths it was like magic.
Now I’m going to make an about turn and say: I wasn’t in fact available for a romantic relationship with him because M was actually nice to me, so I wouldn’t have chosen him. In the end, he stopped being nice to me, which really hurt, but for a long time he treated me like a human being, unlike the bloke I was obsessed with. That man was wonderful/terrible, like mum. Nonetheless, M was a good fantasy safety-net, when Wonderful/Terrible was getting a bit threadbare or absent. I must have spent hours thinking about M.
Back then I didn’t know the difference between what I could change and what I couldn’t change. For example, I lived in hope that one day Wonderful/Terrible would love me. Surely I could do something to change reality? I imagined that if I could just wear the right lipstick, pair of jeans or jacket. If I could become a novelist. If I was 100% reliable and committed to my recovery. If I was always nice to him. If I never demanded anything or got angry. If I was always available. One day he’d love me back. I actually kept all that effort at control up for six years. We were friends (until I got pissed off and turned my back on him).
Having been through all that, and more, I now know that you can’t produce romantic love. I can’t, anyway. I haven’t been able to do that in spite of some very dedicated attempts.
If I’d known back in 2006 what I now know I would never have stuck it out with Wonderful/Terrible. I would not have chosen him to fixate on. I had a proper friend in M at least, until I didn’t, and he would have been a much better fantasy romance (as that was all I appeared capable of).
The thing is I didn’t know then what I now do know. What a shame that is. And now it does feel too late to meet the love of my life. I just cant work up any enthusiasm for that project now. It burnt me out.
Before I sat down to write this blog, a thought I had was that M would never have gone out with me; I had wondered about it and wondered about it and time had told the truth. But the actual truth, I realise now that I have actually unpacked the issue, is that I will never know because I never took the risk of trying to find out — until it was too late. And that is what I can’t change. The last time I saw M he completely ignored me, and I can’t say I blame him, to be quite honest.
But I don’t need to write a novel about it. I can just let it go. It’s something I can’t change. The end. Finito.