The night before my first AA meeting I called one of my closest friends to tell them I was thinking of trying the programme. I’d called secretly hoping, expecting them in fact to talk me out of it. To tell me as they had done so many times before with each story about my drinking and where it had landed me, that things were fine. I remember pacing around the house as we were speaking, it would turn out to be a very important call.

There was no judgement or exasperation in his voice, he was one of my best friends after all, we’d been through a lot together. Instead he just calmly reasoned with me. Tomorrow was just one meeting, one hour out of my day. If I didn’t like it there was no pressure to ever go back, so what did I have to loose? Looking back I’m so incredibly grateful for how he handled that conversation, here’s the story of my first AA meeting and the beginning of my recovery journey.

It’s 7am and I’m trying to find a community centre in East London. Being January it was fairly dark, the postcode from the AA website had taken me to a quiet set of streets with absoltuely no community center in sight. I asked a couple of people for directions, but they were very much headphones-in and clearly in no mood to speak to me this early on their morning commute. Fifteen minutes later I start to panic, the meeting would be starting soon and I was wandering around aimlessly. Thankfully after turning a corner, I finally spotted what had to be the venue.

Surrounded by residential flats on all sides, a small, square ground floor building had its’ lights on. There was some movement inside and a figure in an overcoat stood by the door. I smoked another cigarette and looked-on from the safety of the corner of the road wondering about what I was about to do. Wondering whether it was too late to back out. It would be all too easy to carry on walking, head to the office and pretend today was just another day. I found some resolve, fuck it, I’d come this far, I headed slowly for the door.

At the door the figure in the overcoat asked me if I was here for a meeting, I vaguely nodded, they gave me warm smile and told me to head inside. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that room. The circle of plastic chairs each with a book on top, the harsh fluorescent lighting, the kitchen in the corner with a few people huddled around mugs of tea and plates of biscuits. Someone came over and asked if it was my first time at this particular meeting. I mumbled something about it being my first-ever meeting and on hearing this, they lit up, introduced themselves, told me everything was ok, that I was in a safe space and took me over to the kitchen for a coffee.

I sat down not knowing what to expect as more and more people arrived. Everyone seemed to know each other, they were smiling, some hugged on arrival like old friends before grabbing a tea and taking their seat in the circle. Shortly after it began, the person leading the meeting asked if there were any newcomers or visitors. I remember the awkward silence, I was looking at the floor and trying to avoid eye contact with anyone in the circle. They were all patiently waiting for me to introduce myself, it was excruciating. It felt like a long time to me, but eventually I said (or blurted out) something along the lines of “Hi my name is Jay, and this is my first AA meeting”. Everyone said “Hi Jay” back in unison and welcomed me before they carried on the meeting. It was hard, but I’m glad I spoke up.

I’ll remember that meeting for a long time. It was so incredibly eye-opening. The people here weren’t crazy at all, they were well-dressed, spoke and carried themselves well and seemed utterly normal. The crowd was mixed, but there were people there my own age from similar industries to me and regardless of who was speaking, almost everyone was sharing experiences I could relate to.

After the meeting finished any fears or worries about me not belonging were instantly cast aside. I felt relief after the meeting, although I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself for the next four days when the group said it would meet here again.

That was six months ago today and I’ve not had a drink since.

My life has changed a lot these past six months. I’ve decided to write about my experiences with the programme here on intheday because AA and my recovery journey has been such an incredible experience in so many ways and so incredibly different to what I thought it would be.

The people, the meetings, the spiritual side of the programme and the new outlook I have on life, a life without alcohol or drugs, it’s been nothing short of incredible and something I want to be able to share as my journey progresses.

By sharing my experience of early sobriety, how it works, the ups and downs, I hope I can help shed some more light into what it is like to help people either thinking about joining a twelve step programme or those who are too in their early days of recovery.

Everything on the blog will be my thoughts and experiences as a newcomer to this way of life. I’m sure this will change over time as I experience more of the programme and get out there and start living my life without alcohol and drugs.

If you’re looking for deep and intellectual insight into the programme or serious spiritual guidance, then I’m afraid you’re almost certainly in the wrong place. However, if you’re interested in reading about what life is like for someone who’s learning more and more each day then feel free to look around.

I hope the words in this blog end up being able to help someone else in their recovery journey, or can help a close friend or family member better understand what a loved one is going through. I honesty can’t put into words just how and how much the programme is changing my life, but I’m going to try, one day and one post at a time…

/ Jay

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