Apparently by day five of sobriety, alcohol is officially undetectable in your urine. I kept looking for it at the bottom of the toilet bowl but frankly all I saw was pee on day one, and all I can see is pee on day five. But my pee does look healthier. Clearer, less concentrated. I guess you could say that my piss looks a little less pissed off.
I went to my first AA meeting on day 4 of not drinking. I’ve been to a dozen or so during previous attempts at sobriety, but never more than one in the same place. I was like a ninja addict. I was so clandestine about it, you’d think I was a double agent sent by Budweiser or Jack Daniels to try and subvert the secret sobriety uprising. Get in, get out, don’t share, don’t make eye contact.
However, this meeting was a small group so it was impossible to go unnoticed. They also had everyone go around the room and introduce themselves. “Hi, I’m Anna and I’m an alcoholic.” Of course I’m an alcoholic. Do they think I just randomly wandered in for the bad coffee and free pamphlets?
Two things I should probably point out:
First – AA people are a friendly bunch. They are amazingly kind and welcoming to newcomers, so of course I’m immediately suspicious. I wonder if this is some kind of multi-level marketing scam I’ve unwittingly stumbled into. Is it merely a coincidence that their symbol is pyramid shaped?, I think to myself – eyes narrowing – as I locate all possible means of escape.
Second – If you think you know what an alcoholic looks like, you’re wrong. Alcoholics really do come from all walks of life. We are young people and old people. Professionals and urban campers. We come in all colors, and you can find us everywhere in the world. We are mommies, frat boys, hippies, and preachers. CEOs, gang bangers, teachers and artists. Alcohol is a lot of things, but discriminatory it is not.
This was a Big Book meeting, which means that it involves reading from the alcoholic’s Bible – the 12 steps, as written by Bill W. Last night’s meeting was about Step 3. Make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.
I can relate to this step. I’ve tried for some time to quit on my own. I thought I could do anything if I just had enough will power. That may have been true a few years ago, but at some point I turned a corner. I didn’t keep my eye on the highball, and eventually it grew stronger than me.
I’m not a particularly religious person, but I have literally been on my knees – and curled up in a fetal position under the covers; and sitting with my head in my hands; and staring dazed at the two empty bottles of wine I drank in one sitting the night before – and asked myself – what the fuck do I do about this? Why can’t I fix this?
This thing – disease, lack of character, chemical imbalance, call it what you will – has humbled and shaken me. More than any other challenge in my life – and there have been more than a few – this is the one that I feel truly helpless against. The one I’ve thought more than once might be the thing that finally breaks me.
During the meeting, I wish I could say that I experienced that pivotal moment where the skies part and the angels sing. But things don’t usually happen that way except in the movies. It takes time, work, and is rarely a smooth, straight trajectory forward.
Honestly, I was too anxious to really have the reading sink in as much as it should have. Going to your first AA meeting (or at least first in a long time), is like being the new kid at school. It feels incredibly awkward – at least it does for me.
There is also something about people who have been attending AA for a long time. It’s similar to church people. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, just something I’ve observed. They seem to all talk a certain way. They’ve got the lingo down, and are so self-aware and eloquent. It’s intimidating. If they ask me to share, I’m sure I will turn bright red and mumble something truly dumb. Me like to drink. Drink bad. Me want to stop. Me here now. Okay…well….thanks.
I don’t know why I get so worked up about things, but I have dealt with anxiety all of my life. I think it’s part of the reason I started drinking to excess. Alcohol calmed me down, and made me more comfortable in social situations. It loosened me up.
Until it didn’t.
This past year or two, I have become increasingly withdrawn from my family and friends – the exact opposite of my original reason for drinking.
And that’s another thing I’ve learned about alcohol – it fucking loves irony. You drink because you think it makes you look more mature and sophisticated? Congratulations. Now you look much older than your actual age and definitely more worldly (aka – rough, sweetheart.) You drink to de-stress? How chill are you going to be when you’re broke because you lost your job, and you just got yourself a DUI to boot?
Like many people who have been honing their alcoholism for some time – putting in the long hours and hard work to become a top notch practitioner of the art of intoxication – at some point, the booze just kind of supersedes everything else. It’s no longer a past-time or hobby you like to dabble in, it becomes your obsession – your precious.
And like Gollum, it will turn you into a creature you no longer recognize. A pathetic shell of your former self. You both hate and love the thing, even as it slowly destroys you. Think I’m being overly dramatic? I’ve seen Gollum. He sleeps in a ratty old blanket behind the dumpster in my alley, clutching his $3 pint of vodka like there was a genie inside.
Alcohol is the sneakiest drug out there. Most drugs fuck with everybody who uses them. Not alcohol. Alcohol is smarter than that. It doesn’t fuck with some folks at all, but it really, really fucks with others. You don’t see billboards glamorizing heroin, or commercials showing young, attractive hipsters doing meth. Like I said – Sneaky.
Maybe it’s time to get out of my comfort zone, and struggle alongside the people who get it. And wouldn’t you know it? I accidently walked out with one of the group’s study books. I’m many things, but I’m not a thief. So now I have to go back and break my one-meeting rule. I think that’s probably a good thing.