“i didn’t have much success with aa,” my facebook friend bee said to me. ”the meetings, the stories the people would tell, just made me want to have a drink.”
i think i know what she means. there are stories i hear in the rooms (aa-speak for their meetings) that make me want to meet mr. pinot grigio in the the parking lot for a quickie.
“if you didn’t go to meetings, what did you do?” i asked.
“i found jesus.”
there are people who get sober through the aa program. aa as an organization claims a 100% success rate with those who stick with and adhere to all the intricacies of the program. aa only counts those that stick with the program. if you drop out and don’t attend meetings and work the steps (that’s aa speak for having a sponsor who guides you through the twelve steps of sober spiritual development) you are not counted. but how many people drop out? well, if one hundred people were to go to an aa meeting on january first and we counted up how many of that hundred are “working the steps” a year from now, we’d have a meeting with five people. ninety five percent will have dropped out before then. and of the five percent, roughly forty percent will be sober a year after that.
and yet there are extraordinary stories of success with aa. there’s a wonderful chaotic democratic spirit to the program. there is a sacred text, just like a bible, called the big book. and it worked for a family member who has returned to moderate drinking and has regained control that mr. vodka had coopted.
still, there are alternatives to aa and even — forgive me for saying this, bee! — jesus. rational recovery is probably the most notable. this program eschews the “surrender” or “disease” concept of aa and aims for the jugular of the “beast” (that’s rational recovery speak for the fact that once you drink that first cosmopolitan you are going to shut down the bar) with an addictive voice. i went through their online explanation of rational recovery and it sort of creeped me out. but what i really came away with was how diametrically opposed to aa this system is. this is no “i’m powerless over alcohol” program. rational recovery claims that the sort of aa talk that anticipates the possibility of relapse will, in essence, create relapses.
i was intrigued by the rational recovery program after an aa member with twenty five years recovery texted me “please please don’t drink today” which was sort of random. i ignored the text. a second text sent to me a half hour later read “i am really worried about you” and “i have so many friends who have died of this disease” and finally “do you need an intervention?” i felt like i had been bundled up in the failure cape. then again, the text were motivated by genuine concern and experience with a great many of the 95%.
i truly admire my friend bee who worked out her own solution. i admire my aa friend who has been sober a quarter century. i admire the people who aim for a meeting every day. i admire too the people who give it their best and they fall on their ass and have to figure out how to pick themselves up. and i admire the people who do the twelfth step and care for the newbies like me in a way i find frankly puzzling and beautiful.
i don’t have any answers. i have a lot of questions. i see a lot of pain that people who are addicted–to mr. alcohol, to gambling, to narcotics, to cigarettes, to food–and i wonder how we get out from the undertow and swim to the safety of the shore.
my facebook (and real life friend) jeff barnes sent me this picture of best friends harry o. fischer and my grandfather fritz leiber. the two met in college and remained friends for life. and this was before facebook! the inspiration for fritz’ s series of novels set in the land of newhon came out of a board game the two created. in february while others are fretting over what to do on the fourteenth, i’m going to be thinking about the fromances of my life.
this is right around the time of year when there’s a free treadmill at the gym, when the double stuffed oreos crowd out the kale in your grocery cart, when the pack of cigarettes behind the counter at 7-11 shrieks “buy me!”
the problem with most new year’s resolutions is that they’re hard. and they’re based on the principle that we have to punish ourselves with a good dose of self-discipline and denial. and we can only last two weeks before throwing in the towel. january 14 is the day it all goes south. well, at least it does for me.
in 2011, i had a new year’s resolution to meet all my facebook friends in person in one year. that was 325 friends and a lot of travel. a lot of interesting experiences. a lot of new things. 13 countries. 52 weeks of packing my bags. did i meet all 325? no, but i got the asian f. 90%.
since then i have met new facebook friends. and this past week i drove 900 miles in less than 36 hours so that i could meet jim hellman and connie conley in ironwood, michigan–just south of lake superior. i felt so 2011!
connie and jim have known each other forever. well, it feels like forever.
would you believe that connie is younger than me???? i just want to know what moisturizer she uses.
in any event, the duo did not become romantically involved until years later. and how did they connect? on facebook, naturally!
a new year’s resolution won’t work unless it’s fun. and i had fun with my two new friends! they are the 332 and 333rd facebook friends i have met.
just a facebook friend. how many of your friends are “just” a facebook friend? with facebook, linkedin, myspace, twitter we can have friends from all over the world. friends we never meet in real life. friends with whom our interactions occur while we’re in our pajamas in front of our laptop or squinting at the smartphone or playing online scrabble (okay, busted on that last one!). we think we know someone but we only know their atavar. we can know them deeply with long heartfelt messages but we really don’t know what they’d be like on a road trip, in an emergency, for the long haul.
it’s especially easy to rely on these friendship when the rest of the world seems chaotic, hostile, and just plain scary. i think a lot of anxiety, panic attacks, agoraphobia and depressions have to do with how fast and furious our interactions with the real world are.
i have been isolated for the past two months and i knew that i really needed to change. i was lucky enough to receive an invitation from facebook friends jim hellman and connie conley to visit them in bresmere, michigan—right near lake superior. connie and jim have been my facebook friends for roughly a year and a half. i have never met them before but they invited me. and i am never one to pass up an invitation to visit a facebook friend!
tuesday was sunny and bright. out the door of the bat girl cave by eight o’clock. according to mapquest, it would be a seven hour drive, which means in arlynn driving time nine hours at least.
i find that every new geography means a new food. in this case, something that sounded somewhat disgusting but damn, i ate two of them:
i ended up at the americinn of ironwood michigan and was presented with a slight problem: i had booked my hotel room for monday evening–the day i was online. i didn’t read my reservation confirmation. maybe that would have been a good idea. luckily, i have my own personal hotel clerk.
i posted about my stalker a few days ago. william is a facebook friend (well, unfriended now) who became obsessed with me. we are all so easily connected with facebook, email, cell phones, etc. that it’s hard to know the proper distance of friendships. over the course of six months, william pressed so hard that i became frightened and overwhelmed. i became completely unhinged when he suggested that he would quit his job in tallahassee and move to chicago to be near me. this was not a romantic obsession, but rather an obsession of friendship.
i blogged about william because i had reached my breaking point. i had not been posting on facebook because i didn’t want to deal with him. i had not been blogging or even turning on my phone for the same reason. and i had taken to being extra cautious about leaving and returning to my apartment. i thought of going to the police but then i thought i would trust my friends.
in blogging, i was contacted by a number of friends who had been contacted by william. i heard from friends who advised restraining orders, firearms training, mischief, and mayhem. i received many offers of safehouses, bodyguards, and friends who wanted to speak to william. then i heard from william himself.
he posted a comment to my blog. i made a decision to not approve the comment because i want to protect william’s identity–although, to be fair, facebook friends who have been reading my posts can easily figure out who he is and some have already had interactions with him. this is what he had to say:
You are not responsible. This is my fault, and mine alone. I had no idea it was nearly this bad. I wish someone had made it clear to me. You have my word it front of all these witnesses, that you will never hear from me again. And I’m sorry.
i will take him at his word. any suggestions or comments?
stalkers are charming. they have to be, at least at first. because they must scoop up contact information–email addresses, phone numbers, facebook friendship requests, blog subscriptions, street addresses–while the prey still thinks they’re harmless.
the target of a stalker has to be, at some level, polite. a polite person doesn’t unfriend a friend on facebook. a polite person answers emails. a polite person writes thank you notes, even when the flowers, candy, gifts are sprinkled with discomfort.
politeness on the part of one party and charm on the part of another. makes for a continuing relationship even when both parties don’t want one. while it’s easily understood that the target doesn’t want a relationship with the stalker, it’s slightly less apparent that the stalker doesn’t want the obsession.
i’m not sure when i became aware that i had a problem with a stalker. my friend bill started off as a facebook friend after he saw me on a television show. he commented on my posts. he poked me. he sent messages. all perfectly harmless and always charming.
he lives in tallahassee, the same city as my father. william sent me a message asking if i would mind if he sent a facebook friendship request to my father. that seemed somewhat reasonable. then he asked if he could friend my two sons. that seemed less reasonable. and then he asked if he could send friendship requests to my friends carolyn, kimberly, and andrea.
i went to tallahassee in the summer to see my father. i posted about how i would be happy to meet facebook friends in the area. william asked to meet me. totally cool. we went to lunch with my dad. i brought flowers, which is what i often do when i meet facebook friends. he brought me a cake, a t-shirt he had tie-dyed and a copy of a book my grandfather had written. william was charming in a sweet, ungainly, awkward sort of way.
when i came home from tallahassee, i started to notice that he was ramping up contact. he might comment on a status update, send a facebook message with a question, then a text with a demand that i respond to his facebook message, then an email to my hotmail account to follow up on the texts. all within the space of an hour. and there’s a cycle of charming, flattering, sweet, needy, demanding, angry, hostile and back to charming. william was being unfriended by my circle of friends and family who couldn’t stand the obsessive, needy, shrill contact. one of my friends went to the police in her town in order to be reassured that he wouldn’t contact her any more. he claimed to have made plans to quit his job in tallahassee and move to be near my home in kenilworth.
i shut down. i stopped checking my facebook account, stopped logging onto email, dreaded the pop up of the text message notification icon on my phone. i stopped responding which made him angry. finally, i unfriended and blocked him on facebook and wordpress. i monitor my hotmail account and my phone for messages because i am concerned that he might decide that he really will come up north from tallahassee. i worry when i leave my apartment and when i return. if there’s a knock on the door, i get scared.
i have absolutely no idea why he is obsessed with me.
i have only myself to blame because i ignored every piece of evidence that suggested he was and is nuts. i am scared. really scared. with every tool in the internet toolbox, he knows exactly where i am and how to get to me. and i have no idea how to make him stop. do you?