the slide for me continued after my first a.a. meeting. i started drinking more during the day. by myself. at the bar at Rick’s Cafe having liquid lunches, ordering food only reluctantly and only so i wouldn’t see to be “just” a drunk. i kept track of where i bought my wine so that i would buy two days in a row from the same place.
n the first two years after that first meeting, i looked down on AA as a group of idiots and, worse, gossips. the ones i met who had dropped out were the most loquacious. the typical AA member i met would say “alcoholism is a disease like any other. Like diabetes or heart disease. nothing to be ashamed of but something that needs to be treated.” and treatment was universally agreed to include twelve steps, meetings, and what looked from my perspective as a great deal of sanctimony.
i made a new year’s resolution to meet all my facebook friends. i was surprised and delighted by how my friends opened up with me. told me their hopes and dreams, their fondest ambitions, their disappointments and despairs. I even had someone tell me their fondest sexual fetish. gay bukkake with a stranger amongst the bougainvilleans outside the in n’out burger joint.
“you think i’m so abnormal,” he said.
“that’s SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO normal,” i lied. well, half lied. i heard so many stories i was prepared to put this in the category of normal-ish.
i also met a lot of drunks. practicing drunks who aimed for the perfect buzz. drunks who solved hangovers with “busseling”, an i.v. cocktail that eliminates the symptoms within minutes. i met those who had gone into recovery and i saw their happiness. i met those who whiteknuckled and snuck their liquor. i have opened closets in guest rooms of facebook friends and been hit on the head with hidden bottles falling from upper shelves.
i wanted out of my own hell. so i went to a few meetings beginning this past year. some of what i was living, by myself with no one to hold me accountable, had become intolerable. the hangovers were worse. the fear worse. the compulsion to drink worse. and the sense that i was pathetic. and at one, a week back, i introduced myself for the first time with “my name is arlynn and i’m an alcoholic.” it was the scariest thing i had ever said out loud. i wanted to believe in my sobriety. i felt optimistic. i felt there might be a solution. and the meeting ended, the members gathered round me as if i were their lost prodigal daughter. they were ready to slaughter their best cow so that we might all partake in a feast of welcome.
the next day i had a setback. the usual triggers of depression, rejection, abandonment, failure were fired off from my internal gun. i was driving to a rotary luncheon. i had the day planned so that mr. pinot grigio might knock on the door of my bat girl cave and find me not at home. i had a plan.
my text message alert went off. i parked the car. looked at the message. there was a description of me. a middle aged pathetic north shore drunk. it was misdirected from a person who had attended the meeting. i texted the person back and asked who they intended the text for. they said they were looking for a sponsor for me, someone to help me in the first days of sobriety. i should have been grateful. instead, i felt a tingling as if my entire body were on fire. so that’s what you think i am, i thought. and it’s not alcoholics anonymous. it’s alcoholics gossiping. ”i didn’t identify you,” the texter added.
that didn’t make me feel one bit better.
“you don’t have to take that,” mr. pinot grigio said.
“how did you get in the car?”
“i’m always here when you need me,” he said. ”i always have your back, arlynn. Ricky’s Cafe is just a half block away. have a drink or two. calm your nerves. then you’ll think clearly.”
the only moment of thinking clearly was knowing that the text, although not intended for me, was ultimately true. very true.
“so what? not everybody is perfect. and the ones who present themselves as perfect, well, they’re not.”
within five minutes, i had him in my hands. seated at the bar, i looked at the mirror over the bar and saw my hands shake, my face was bloated, my eyes hungry and desperate. i drank greedily, pretended to return texts on my cell phone. knowing always .. . . .
the text was absolutely right.
and over and over i thought “there is no fresh hell worse than this.”
that was thursday. i blew right past my rotary lunch, right back a late afternoon appointment with a friend, right into the night of a lonely hellride. there was worse to come.