Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Two Months Sober
On Friday I received a medallion for two months of sobriety right on my sobriety date. The desire for instant gratification – an alcoholic trait – brought me to an alano in the suburbs that I knew awarded medallions spontaneously. Referred to as the Smurf Church, it’s the only big powder blue building for miles. I want what I want and I want it now! I’m in limbo waiting for my 90 days of sobriety like an eleven year old who demands he’s 11½. But it feels good to hold it in my hand, especially when I get The Mean Reds.
The Smurf Church was the first A.A. meeting I’d attended, in Minnesota, and my first true attempt at getting sober. Two years ago, when I entered their doors, I was still looking for work, drunk all the time, hiding bottles in my car, had just recovered from an alcohol induced fractured leg, and was in serious jeopardy of loosing my wife. I told them of my situation, and they must have took pity on me because they gave me a Big Book and a Twelve By Twelve. An old guy said jokingly I’d have to return them if I start drinking again.
Well, I didn’t return them, but I did return with them. Two years later, no more wife, car, house, job; I came back. It was comforting. Some old faces remembered me, but not by name. Others assumed it was my first time there; I’d explained, “Been MIA for two years.” One man new to A.A. had mistaken me for the meeting director; I’d been dressed for an interview and was the only one wearing a tie.
The meeting’s host, sitting prominently at the head of the table behind a binder and a box of medallions, explained to the newcomer that this was a closed meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous intended for those seeking sobriety, then asked, “Do you have a desire to stop drinking?” to which he simply replied, “Yes.” Ah, the First Step meeting. How I love to hear a newbie tells his story of what brought him our way. But not tonight. Tonight is about me, for isn’t this a selfish program?
Some of the nervousness that accompanied me at my first A.A. meeting returns. I welcome this rare feeling. I seldom feel uncomfortable in meetings anymore, but back two years ago I could never relax completely surrounded by alcoholics that knew all I wanted was to get back to the Platypus pouch of Vodka hidden in my vehicle. Even if I didn’t indulge, the fact that they sensed my lack of serenity convinced me I was months away from my next lapse. But today my vigorous anxiety was due more to the simple fact that here stands a man claiming to be back from a long stint of binge drinking with two months sobriety seeking a medallion and no one to represent him. Also just being home again.
When it comes my turn to share I announce my two months and get a round of applause. We break into three separate groups. A woman approaches me, medallion in hand, and says she’s got it and to follow her.
She’s the first to speak: she said words of encouragement I could never forget, but cannot recall. I was so mesmerized by her expressions, her sincerity, her beauty, that I took it all in through osmosis. I wish I would’ve thought, at least, to try to commit them to memory, but I was having too good of a time just experiencing the whole thing. Since no one knew me, the others really didn’t have much to share.
And I didn’t even check for a wedding band!
Due to the wonderful transit system in the Twin Cities’ suburbs, a gentleman was more than happy to give me a ride back home. We had a deep discussion about half-way houses and the good they do. He offered rides to and from their meeting.
Wanting to celebrate, I walked down to the video store to rent movies for the weekend. However, my planning was poor and their were no new releases available. Walking back home I passed the café where a man was panhandling for half-a-buck. I told him I was broke and couldn’t afford it.
He protested, “What? A man like you can’t spare fifty cents?”
It took me a second, but realized I was dressed in business attire with tie. I replied, “Hey man, I homeless.”
“Yes! I’m heading back to The Mission,” I lied. I did not want him knowing where I lived.
“Hey, sorry man,” he replied. “Wanna get a beer?” as he half-way exposes a $100 bill.
“No thanks. I just got my two month medallion today.”
Taken aback, he response, “Good for you! Keep it up.”
After walking back home it occurred to me that I turned down the offer of alcohol without hesitation. Had I thought about it, being high on receiving my medallion, I know I would've declined anyway. But it was still a good test. I'm sure there'll be more.