Thursday, January 4, 2007

Anticipation and Anxiety….

The evening’s anticipation and anxiety grows. I cook a simple supper of two ground beef patties, mashed potatoes, greens beans with almonds, a banana, two slices of bread, and a glass of milk. I eat and then take my nightly medications that are so key to my health these days. I then crawl into a hot shower, washing my hair, and lathering up. I get out, towel off, blow dry my hair, shave, and dress. I am ready to go. This is an important step to making me feel less conspicuous.

The last hour passes by in a blink of a notice as I watch the clock and nervously smoke cigarettes while listening to the radio. It is time for me to drive over. I walk out into the cool night air and get in my car. I am so nervous with anticipation. I sit for a moment after cranking up the car wondering if I should go. “Can I do this?” I think as I sit there. I put the car in drive and make my way over to the meeting hall after building up some more courage.

Once arriving, I get out and walk to the door. I had remembered it was a Big Book study and I stand at the entrance with that big, blue book in hand. Moisture forms on my forehead which is uncharacteristic for such a cool, winter’s night. I can hear the chatter of many conversations beyond the closed door as my heart beats in fast palpitations. I am at the point of no return. I either enter or climb back into my car and go home. I reach out for the door knob and open the door as the fluorescent lighting from inside floods out upon the floor and the ground below me. People look to see who is entering. The strong smell of brewing coffee hangs heavy upon the air. I try my best to ignore the limelight as I walk to the safest, most isolated seat I can find; a place where I will not have to make small talk. I am relieved when the normal chattering of the meeting goers resumes and I am seemingly ignored once again.

The meeting starts. We go around the room and introduce ourselves. This part is especially hard for me as all eyes look on when it comes my turn to speak in the crowded room.

“Hi, I am Andrew and I am an alcoholic,” I say meekly turning to the person beside me to pass the limelight as fast as I can.

The introductions conclude and the normal proceedings of a meeting commence. We talk of how important a spiritual awakening is to overcoming this allergy of the mind and soul that is alcoholism. There is much speaking of God and higher powers which makes me uncomfortable.

I try to believe,” I tell myself. “I just cannot grasp this God thing.

One person speaks of the spiritual awakening they received during rehab:

“I knew I was safe once that big, steel door on the psych ward closed behind me,” He says. “The compulsion to drink was no longer with me. It was a true spiritual awakening.”

“Not all alcoholics have it so easy,” Another argues. He is an old timer. The old timers are often very opinionated.

“They lose everything and hit rock bottom before getting better,” He continues. “It takes years of spiritual recovery to start getting better.”

This exchange of differing views makes me uncomfortable. The tension in the air seems to be so thick you can cut it with a knife. I look for an argument to break out. None ensues. The normal meeting resumes.

We all gather around at the end of the meeting, hold hands, and say the Lord’s Prayer.

“Let’s bow our heads and pray for all the suffering alcoholics inside and outside these rooms and hope they may find these halls and peace,” He says.

We conclude and I slip quietly out the back door to escape to the safe and quiet confines of my car as the after-meeting socializing starts in earnest. This is the most dreaded part for me as old timers come up to shake your hand and ask you your name once again to urge you to, “keep coming back.” I sigh deeply as I crank up my car and light up a cigarette cracking my window. I feel safe again.

“Baby steps, Andrew,” I say. “Baby steps.”

Thus ends the ordeal for one mentally ill man who suffers from extreme social anxiety and who also happens to be a suffering alcoholic. He just completed one of the harder things he has to do in life at the moment; to walk into a crowded room of very extroverted people and join in. He is proud of himself and drives home relieved. Maybe after a few weeks of doing this continuously he will have the courage to start volunteering his time helping others.

“Baby steps,” I repeat again as my mind mulls over tonight’s events as I drive home to retire to the bed exhausted. Baby steps...

20 comments:

simonsays said...

I am so PROUD of you! You can do this, and one day soon, you will be able to help someone suffering the anxiety of going to his/her first meeting. WTG!

greglo said...

Mes félicitations!!!!!!!!!!

("congratulations" in frogs' language) :-)

Laurent

austere said...

BRAVO!

*claps*

PipeTobacco said...

Sir:

Very good! A question I pose to you however is... why do you think you are experiencing such strong bouts of social anxiety right now? There were many other meetings you went to and did not seem as anxious.

To me, it seems your social anxiety ebbs and flows in a pattern that does not mimic the changes in your schizophrenia. Do you have any particular pattern that you can see to the social anxiety?

Perhaps if we can identify particular circumstances when the social anxiety appears more strongly, we might be able to find ways to have it occur less often.

PipeTobacco

Cheryl said...

You should be so proud of yourself. You made a decision and followed through, even though it was extremely hard to do. You succeeded and your worst fears did not come true. Bravo.

SKQBDOO said...

Way to go. I am just now reading about the new kitten! Can't wait to see a picture.

latibug said...

I need to get caught up here, but I'll get back to read all of these soon.

Blessings,
Lisa

PS you have been busy blogging...that is great!

Sue said...

WAY TO GO!!! Congrats on giving yourself a push in the right direction.
Sue

D-Monk said...

Thanks for sharing this story! You have no idea how much you help other alcoholics and addicts who also experience great anxiety in going to meetings!

Perhaps this is the forum where you Twelve-Step the best!

Again, thanks!

rich said...

Good for you dude you did it!! it's freaking hard isn't it?

Annabel said...

I am very proud of you Andrew. Yes, sometimes it's just those few baby steps and a new world will open up for you. Just be open to the possibility of God's existence... you never know what will happen.

Anonymous said...

Good for you!!! I can relate to SO much of your post...I used to go to AA and NA myself...for me with all of my social anxieties and such I found it best when I found a meeting or two that were less stressful for me to go to and stuck with those...I really DO understand and I hope that you are really proud of yourself...I also wanted to add that if you are struggling and need someone to "talk" to about via email please feel free to email me about the struggles with using..I have been there and done that and still do that with food... Liz aka mosaic mind..www.mylifewithed.blogspot.com

Agent Stealth Train Driver said...

You Go Andrew! I'm glad to hear that you are getting help and I know you can do it!

abbagirl74 said...

Everyone should take baby steps sometimes. I really look up to you. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for.

Red Robin. said...

You've got my support mate.
I'm sending out the good vibes...

mago said...

Good. Brave. Forget about this God-Thing. Stood in the Wal-Mart today in front of miles of wine. Bought none and felt like Tarzan.
Babies grow.

Mago

Summer said...

I understand the social anxiety you're feeling. Who knows where it comes from. It's just there. But you do need to give yourself a pat on the back for succeeding last night. It might not have felt good and who knows, maybe each time will get just a little easier. We don't know though, but please keep trying. That way you'll have an answer.

I love Mago's analogy. Gawd that made me smile.

Sweet dreams tonight. How's the kitten?

orchid said...

Andrew~

I've been reading your blog for a while and have very much enjoyed your journeys, wherever they take you...but this one, well, this one is special because you're taking a brave step toward your true freedom.

We're all addicted to something or somebody, as not all addictions come in a bottle, syringe, etc. and the other thing they say about the journey of a thousand miles beginning with one single step, well, it's true too...so keep going, just like you are!

Good luck in all you do!

PipeTobacco said...

Sir:

Hope you are ok. I tend to worry when you suddenly do not post in a day.

If you are not wanting to post, perhaps send me an e-mail instead.

PipeTobacco

greglo said...

... and to all Andrew's friend who particularly enjoy his writing skills : i've just checked Orchid's blog (see her comment above) I am personnaly extremely happy to have found a great blog which I find very similar in style to Andrew's one. Maybe you'll like too!
Good Day to you Andrew and to you all.
Laurent