I found another meeting. It wasn’t mandated by the courts. This isn’t for Myra. It isn’t some kind of redemption because of Cameron. And definitely not because of his asshole brother. It sure as shit isn’t for Central. I’m doing this for me now. Because I want to make a difference in my own life.
Maybe, just maybe it’ll be better this time. I’ll try not to get kicked out before the first smoke break. I just realized, I’ve never returned to the same meeting twice. No wonder I have a drinking problem.
I picked somewhere that’s not too far from my domicile. It’s an average room. Sterile and plain. I’ll leave it at that. I’m not interested in that sort of evaluation this time. I won’t be counting the light bulbs.
Rather than a circle, the chairs all face the same direction. toward a small podium up on a stage. If this structure is maintained, I’ll be a little more at ease. Not having to look everyone else in the face takes some pressure off.
A middle-aged woman sitting in the front row concludes her conversation and hugs the other participant. She then takes the stage to welcome the larger group of about thirty or so. Her tone is warm and inviting. Not the slightest hint of judgement.
Watching her I can’t help but think she drives a Mazda. The salesman made a very convincing argument that it was economical and practical. This allows her to justify it to anyone who might ask. Deep down she knows it’s a piece of crap. Still she carries herself with class. Even when the lapel of her mustard blazer almost gets caught in the door of her Mazda. Which was right after I watched her park it in the lot.
She reads out the achievements in ascending order of sobriety. The recipients approach the stage, accept their designated chip and the boisterous applause that goes with it. Some revel in the positive attention, whereas others are made bashful. It all makes me want a real chip. Not just a picture of one from the internet. The last is a ten year, who is also introduced as the next speaker.
An older gentleman rises in the front row and eventually stands behind the podium. He doesn’t have the same high energy as mustard-blazer-Mazda-driver, but the positivity remains. No punches are pulled. No detail is left out of his early struggles. That really makes a difference when his tale starts to arc toward recovery.
I find his candor and the substance of his speech inspiring. He has an authority, and that old-man-kind of rasp that makes me wish he’d end every sentence with “goddamnit”. Like, “I know I’m in charge of my recovery, goddamnit.” Or, “I’m not here for the cake and cookies, goddamnit.” Maybe, “Jesus is my saviour, goddamnit.”
At the conclusion of his speech there is thunderous applause again. There’s a lot of energy in the room. I worry that this is over. But it’s just the halfway point. A smoke break for many. I don’t usually smoke, but I make an exception to try and infiltrate the group.
I bum a cigarette from the first smoker who makes eye contact. Then I make the mistake of giving an excuse for not having my own: “I’m trying to quit.” This causes head-shaking disbelief as the other smokers simultaneously communicate they have more pressing habits. My idiotic faux pas has stunned even me to a point where I say little else.
Soon we’re back inside for what I consider the main event. A middle-aged man is introduced, and I get the sense he’s well known in this room. His story has a range of emotions. By the end there isn’t a dry eye in the house. It reminds me of certain movie reviews: I laughed, I cried, et cetera, et cetera.
I was truly surprised by this. Taken aback even. I then consider the person I am. And who I used to be. Who would I be if not for all the boozing? Too late for that, I supposed. What would I communicate if I was up there? Who do I want to be? Not just to these people, but more importantly, to myself.
The meeting has now concluded. I intended to leave immediately. Several others make it to the door first. Blocking the exit, they turn around to face me. I’m flooded with panic. What’s about to happen? Then they join hands, one offers me his. They’re praying. I decide to fall in line, this time. I don’t mind the praying because I’m no longer terrified. That doesn’t mean I listen.
The prayer ends. However, the gentleman to my right doesn’t release my hand. I turn to him and he’s staring at me. As if he had been for quite awhile. “They offer extensive treatment options here too,” he says. I nod and thank him as I’m exiting.
Once outside, I feel somewhat drained. Today was a lot. But a step in the right direction. Sometimes you get tired of dealing with your own problems. Even when your way of dealing with problems is the problem. There isn’t such a lack of motivation. I think my attendance today is evidences that.
This meeting was somewhat inspiring even, dare I say. Rather than rushing away, I decide to meander outside until most everyone leaves. This is so I can casually walk across the street to the convenience store. To pick up a pint for my trek home. Rome wasn’t built in a day ya know. But every cloud has a silver lining. And other cliches.