I am a doyenne of anonymous meetings. I've done so many Twelve Steps I should be a carpet fitter. I love being powerless (step 1). I know a power greater than myself will restore me to sanity (step 2). And I "hand my power and my will over the care of God as I do or do not understand him, her or it" every Thursday after lunch (step 3). I have even established my own fellowships - Jaffa Cakes Anonymous, Solipsism Anonymous, and Bad Metaphors Anonymous.
So I discovered the existence of Nicotine Anonymous (Nica) with splayed joy. Nicotine Anonymous "welcomes all those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction". Its purpose is "to help all those who would like to cease using tobacco and nicotine products". It even has a serenity prayer to chant at the beginning of meetings. I love serenity prayers; they are my third favourite mantra after the pre-sex mantra - "Men are people" - and the post-food mantra, "I like being fat." If I can sit in the familiar grey hall, school or surgery, weeping, pontificating, boring, and lying, despising, monopolising and alienating, I will be content. I might even be saved.
I was galvanised. I headed east, to St John's Church, Bethnal Green, for the 3pm meeting. I was thrilled. Would I get a keyring, like at Cocaine Anonymous? Would I be applauded, like at Narcotics Anonymous? Would I get spit-roasted, like at Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous?
The meeting room crouched by the church. The door swung open. Ah - the smell of recovery - I remember you, my love; a mixture of tea, loss and Flash floor cleaner. George Orwell would love it here.
The room was empty so I pulled out a chair and sat down wearing my meeting smile. It says, "I know your tragedy; don't get close." The door squeaked. Three girls walked in. Were they here for the meeting? "We're Christians," they chirped. "We're having a party."
They went into the kitchen to make banana stew. Where was Nica? Had Philip Morris brought in a hit squad? Had there been an apocalyptic mass relapse?
I yearned for the drunks of Soho AA. They may be murderers, spivs and stealers of roofing tiles, but at least they are punctual. Nobody came. I stepped into the sunlight, smoked a cigarette and left. I tossed a pinnacle on to the pyramid of butts by the drain.