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Monday, January 07, 2008

My name's Phil and I'm...

... willing to go to conventions I have no right to attend. I'd also like to have a word with the DJ on Friday night who played 'Red Red Wine' at a disco for recovering alcoholics, but that's another story.

I'm not actually a member of AA (although I do keep breaking down), but fortunately I know someone who is. Although obviously I can't tell you who, because it's anonymous. But this mystery teetotaller invited me to attend the fifth annual Brighton AA Convention at the weekend, and as someone who felt like turning to drink after Wednesday night, I naturally said yes. It seemed like my only chance of spending time at the Hilton Metropole without getting a job as a porter. Which, interestingly, I've failed to do (you need experience apparently).

Anyhoo, the first thing they do at an Alcoholics Anonymous convention is ask you to write your full name on a registration form. That seemed a bit odd to me. But not as odd as getting everyone to wear name badges around their necks. This must be a definition of 'anonymous' I'm not familiar with.

Hug CouponMy £7 entry fee entitled me to a complimentary notepad, pen and hug coupon (though I never did find out where to redeem that), as well as entry to various meetings, workshops and two alcohol-free discos. To be honest, they were the highlight of the weekend. There's a large measure of pleasure in being able to bop about on a dance floor until 1am without anyone spilling beer over you, starting a fight, or chatting you up in a drunken stupor (which happens to me all the time, obviously). In fact, in a shock of gargantuan proportions, there were a good couple of hundred people there who actually managed to enjoy a night out without drinking alcohol. Who'd have thought it.

I danced so long on Friday night that I missed the last bus home, but I was back at the Metropole at 10:30 the next morning buying a cup of strong tea and a peanut Kit-Kat for protein. I'd attended an AA meeting on Friday evening, so I decided to try Al-Anon on Saturday. I can't reveal what went on, but I did learn that if you're going to open up the meeting for sharing, be careful who you hand the microphone to. One woman seemed to think she was on X Factor. I thought they'd never get her off the stage.

After lunch at Pizza Express (one of Lisa's friends gave us a voucher as an engagement present - she knows us far too well), it was back to an AA meeting chaired by an old work colleague of Lisa's who'd hugged me in a doorway the night before. And she hadn't even asked to see my coupon. I learnt a lot about positivity, including the advice that if the traffic lights change to red just as you get there, rejoice in the fact that you're first in the queue. I felt like that on Wednesday night when I stood on the hard shoulder of the M23 in a space blanket, being told I was a priority for rescue.

As it turned out, I needed all the positivity I could muster when I spent £5 on raffle tickets in the afternoon, only to be left empty-handed at the prize draw in the evening. But I drowned my sorrows by boogieing to Take That with a glass of water, and popping in to a late-night meeting to hear a man talk about his sore throat. I felt like telling him to rest his voice, but I couldn't get a word in edgeways.

The convention didn't end until Sunday lunchtime, but after two nights of dancing, hugging and queuing for coffee, I couldn't stand the pace, and had no intention of getting up the next morning. So I said my goodbyes at the Saturday night disco and exited the dancefloor while I could still walk. I've got eight months to recover before the Eastbourne convention in August.