Starting the AA group
As the art group progressed some of the guys started to ask me how I had managed to stay sober for so long myself. I told them that I was a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and that this was the sole reason I was now sober. Probably like me they too had tried to stop drinking before and found that they couldn’t and just like them I too had tried many times to stop drinking but could not. I could not do this on my own; I tried to cut down, tried switching drinks etc. but to no avail. I tried medication and therapy none of these things worked.
Then one day when I was still a patient at the Medium Secure Unit, in a ward round my doctor said to me “look Paul we’ve tried everything with you and so far nothing has worked so how about trying AA”. Well I can tell you I was not at all happy with this. How dare he even suggest for one moment that I was an alcoholic the impertinence of the man! “No way am I going to AA”. I shouted across the table at him. “I know that I’ve got a drinking problem but I don’t want religion rammed down my throat” you see I was already prejudiced prior to investigation. So I had these preconceived ideas of what AA was all about. Eventually though I had to concede. After all they had been really fair with me and had reinstated my ground leave and I guess somewhere deep down I kind of knew that maybe this is what I should do.
So as I told the guys all about my journey, going to my first meeting, getting my first sponsor, having my first slip and how I got to where I am today, some of them started to ask about getting an AA meeting set up there in Hopkinson House. I was more than happy to do this but first I would have to talk to some of the more senior members of AA to find out what I would have to do to go about this. As it turned out all I had to do was go ahead and set it up and if I needed any help with it just get in touch with the local G.S.R group (General Service representative group) it is like a business meeting for all of the AA meetings in a particular area; each AA meeting has someone as a G.S.R representative who represents their group at this business meeting. This is the place to go if someone wants to set up their own AA meeting and needs help with literature and other practical things. I then spoke to john about asking the management at Hopkinson House if we could go ahead with this and they agreed.
The first meeting went ahead without john being there as john couldn’t make it that day. It was a resounding success we had 5-6 people. I had asked my sponsor to do the first chair for me (A chair is where a person from AA comes and tells their story and shares experience, strength and hope with his/her fellow Alcoholic’s). We got a good response from the guys. Sadly, though not all the meetings went well. On one occasion we had to hold the meeting in what is known as the ‘wet lounge’ because the room we had used before was not available. This was not ideal as that then meant those who had come with bottles and cans of strong beer were able to drink them unchallenged and this made things a little difficult.
The person that I had invited to come and do the chair was constantly being interrupted and all praise to the man for being so patient with them, but it meant that those people who wanted to listen could not concentrate on what the man had to say and for those doing the interrupting they were not taking what the man had to say on board. I was unsure as to what I should do about this situation. Not having a lot of experience in running an AA meeting where people are openly drinking. The best thing to do I thought was to do what I have seen others do in an AA meeting when someone is being disruptive: just let them have their say but then try to gently coax them to be quite and try to listen to the chair. As it goes even though some of the guys were drinking and were interrupting the chair, they were none the less asking very good and relevant questions. All in all it turned out I think to be a very productive meeting despite it being held in not the most ideal of rooms!
Co-working with John
They say hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I guess they must be right because it is only now 9 months later, that I can see how it was for John working with me. For John then, going to Hopkinson House was part of his work as a counsellor for Westminster council and therefor a very great serious responsibility. So when I started working with John it was for me, (to begin with at least) a very exciting adventure. And I suppose I didn’t feel that same sense of responsibility that John must have felt every time he went to Hopkinson House. I was very green I had no real experience of being in the world of work never mind working with someone else. I was also just finishing my time in long term therapy and had not gotten used to being with people on an equal footing so in some ways and on some level I think that I was seeing John as an extension of that therapy. As for the way John perceived me during that time I feel he was spot on because as a person with borderline personality disorder I can be very intense. For me as an ex-service user working with John, I guess I was still in client mode. One thing about being borderline is this very intense need to be liked especially when we meet someone for the first time and we really like that person, the trick then is not be rejected so in order to make sure this will not happen we tend to over compensate. Again as a borderline I find that I can be a very needy person. I feel that the whole experience of working with John was what it needed to be at that time. I hope to be working with John much more in the future and with my experience now of working with Mr M.B clinical psychologist I have found that I can work with a professional person on equal terms and it be an equal partnership. I hope that John and I can find that same working relationship.
There is one last thing I feel I must say throughout the time that I spent working John, I at all times felt very much supported and considered.
Working with John has been both a privilege and a pleasure I find John a very genuine and caring person, someone who really wants and tries to make a difference. I have found him to be consensual in the things he says and does and has a genuine need to help others. I hope to work with him more in the future and hope that together we will be able to open doors for those of us who didn’t get the breaks in life that most of us take for granted. I feel that I have been very lucky in my life despite all the hardship that I have experienced. I sometimes forget how lucky I am and take for granted the things that I now have in my life. Working with John has helped me to appreciate what I have. I have loved working with the guys at Hopkinson house and despite the anxiety and fear of doing something that I have never done before I feel that it has helped me to become a better person.
Pauls struggles and ability to turn his life around is quite inspiring to me and gives me hope that no matter how big the obstacles are, there is the chance to overcome them. Not only overcome them, but to move past them and continue into a brighter future. I want to say thank you to Paul for sharing his story with me and allowing me to share it with you. A lot of you write to me sharing your experiences… either your personal struggles with BPD or your struggles involving someone with BPD. It’s enlightening for me to hear what others are dealing with. It helps me gain perspective and insight into my own life. I’d love to hear more of your stories, I’d love to share more of your stories… with your permission of course.