Hi. So, not too long ago, i took a two-year cake. that’s the AA way to celebrate sobriety. Calories! The inimitable Jo made the cake. All I had to do was stay sober for the required amount of time. Oh, and there is the little matter of steps. Admitting powerlessness, taking responsibility, asking for the assistance of a higher power (that’s the bloody hardest one), taking inventory, making amends, stacking chairs, shaking hands, giving a shit about someone other than my own self….stuff like that.
I spent a long time trashing AA. Twelve steps. Higher Power–don’t fucking tell ME what to do! women don’t have any power anyway, how can i give it up? pah. fuck you.
But i had given it up. I’d handed my power over to the already powerful. Traded it for some alone time with my fellas, Johnny Walker; John Molson; Captain Morgan. Hah! some lesbian I was turning out to be. I couldn’t stand myself. All around me there was suffering and lack and lonesome disconnected beautiful people and I could not do jackshit about it and the only way to feel better was to drink. Then the knot would unravel. For a bit. The knot would unravel and I could relax and i felt like writing and I felt like smoking and I would sit on my balcony and smoke and write and listen to the sirens down the street and watch the sun go down and feel … nothing. whew.
Smile. Sad smile, but smile. The knot in my gut was unwound. I was alone. There was still wine in the bottle and there was always mouthwash if I was still conscious when the wine was gone. there was still some feeling of restless. There was still some warning of the remorse that would come. but one more glass and i might leave again. I might get away from my sorry self for good this time. That’s what i was looking for, to get away from myself for good. I couldn’t do anything all by myself and I couldn’t figure out where i belonged and i didn’t understand how to fix things.
it’s on account of our neo-liberal age, eh. We’re taught to strive for more. Success. global citizenry. Those other people way over there have it way worse than you. Your neighbour is not to be trusted. lock your doors, send your money to Pakistan to the poor people there, and order clothes on line, look how cheap they are! Thanks to the nimble-fingered children in Pakistan. The Thai-Burmese border. Mexico. Agh. I can’t save them, i can’t afford local designers. I’ll buy my underwear at army and navy and send five dollars a month to world vision. or medicines sans frontiers. that’ll offset the evil I do by living in North America.
I had left off working for women’s liberation. I was only working to put band-aids on the gaping wounds. I forgot that i have way more than my share and I didn’t listen for what was required and just threw water on the gas fire of racism and sexism. I did what The Man wanted. I disengaged. I choked myself, I drowned myself. I didn’t want to look at how i could engage with others, and change the world–I felt nothing but shame and rage and then i felt only despair–so i checked out. Every day, at work, I would cook and play cribbage with people and mop the floor and talk to folks and try to get them into shelters and try to say “you’re worth better” and try to pour some sunshine–but every day, the sunshine grew dimmer, and I picked fights with my co-workers and got mad at the folks who used the drop in, and my patience wore thin and every month someone else died and we got really far too good at holding memorials and still people came every day, more andmore, damaged, troubled people, making obsequious sucking noises–because that is what the poor are now taught. You are not going to rise, you are going to be the raw resource for the human services industry, and you are not going to be together with me, you are going to get a sandwich from me and then go get a bed from someone else like me and then…come back tomorrow. I need the job. Thanks. and then every night there I’d be at home alone with my beer. or wine. whatever.
But then those two planes slammed into the twin towers, and weird as it sounds, i woke up that morning, to the news on my radio and I was hungover, as usual, and I had to go to work. I thought it was a joke. “What? What kinda joke is this? Capitalism finally imploded! yea!” But mostly, as usual, it was the brown people who died. The cleaners, the food service workers, cooks and servers, the folks who were there to just put in a day. A lot of capitalists died, too. But that whole thing didn’t touch the system. No no. In fact, it touched off a firestorm of retribution that continues to this day. What are we fighting for? what?
But that day. People were really tender with each other. We weren’t so defensive. We all were together in the drop-in centre and we saw each other, and we remembered how much we mattered. Not as “service provider” and “service recipient”–but as people. Beautiful people all together — facing mortality and the repercussions of the foreign policies of the U.S. and Canada (though Canada was not a target, we are surely implicated. oh yes). That day, more people came into the drop-in. I think we even let people come in who had been barred (usually for coming in high, or drunk–I never got barred outta there, though sometimes, toward the end, I smelled of alcohol from the day before). The radio was turned on to the news channel all day, and we kinda stumbled around with each other. We cooked together and played crib, like always, but there was something…
I didn’t drink that day. And the next day I went to a meeting. And again, people saw each other there. Cried all the way home and long into the night. went to another meeting the next morning.
I heard my story, and other people’s stories, and stayed sober for a year. but i didn’t actually do much of the work. just didn’t drink. went to meetings. Then another year. Then I fell in love, and for my third year anniversary, my lover made me a beautiful meal–Chateaubriand doused in brandy and flambéed, stuffed potatoes, some kinda salad, i guess, and tiramisu for dessert. Lotta alcohol, actually, for a sobriety celebration. my line then was, “well. I quit drinking it, this is eating.”
Had i been paying attention, that might have been a clue as to where this love affair was gonna go. It was a lovely meal, though. And then i sorta stopped going to meetings. Stopped hanging with the feminists, too. Also, I smoked dope. Handed over the reins to my lover. Adored her. Tried to please her. Often fell short, toward the end. Then after four years, my lover broke up with me. and I fell to pieces and ran back to Southern Comfort. And organic wines, and beer and whatever i could get my hands on. They were fucking right, it IS a progressive thing. In no time, i was back where i’d begun. Ineffective, immature, impatient, sorrowful, self-trashing and self-pitying. gross.
One Sunday morning, i was talking to Louise, my best friend, on the phone and she said, “maybe you should go to a meeting.” She said she didn’t know much about alcoholics, but she thought i oughta go to a meeting and call her after. She asked when i could go to one next. So then i went the next morning.
They tell you that Alcoholism is a progressive disease. But I think the recovery is progressive, too. I picked up, and got smarter than I had the first time, way faster. I’m none too smart, mind you, not about life, really, but I’m getting better. I am actually doing the steps now, and reaching out for help, and offering my self to those who still suffer, too. There’s a long long way to go, but I have a sponsor who is also an activist, and a home group of artists and warriors and loving folks. And i’m back in with the feminists, too.
My sponsor said, “wow, sounds like you’re different than before with the women who are alcoholics in the [transition] house .”
“yea,” I said, “I don’t try to talk women OUT of going to AA now.”
Attraction, not promotion. just like being a lesbian. I can say, “man, it’s great to be a lesbian”. But it’s not really effective to say, “you’d be way better off if you were a lesbian, too.” even if it is true. Much better, more effective to live life on life’s terms. See that it can be done with joy and grace. Spend every day somehow in the service of the freedom of others. Tell the truth. Take responsibility for what’s mine, ask for help, try to alleviate the suffering of others, pause when angry, talk to my higher power, LISTEN, pick up something and put it away. Just that kinda stuff. So much easier.
And lo, some of the beautiful people who are ‘service recipients’ are in the rooms of AA with me. Then we are together and we hold each other up. Equals.
my two year cake was now two months ago, it’s been a long time this post has been sitting in my drafts folder. and it’d be good to work on it some more, I’d like for it to be funnier, cause AA meetings are often hysterical. But i’m tuckered out at present and going to bed where i will read about Women and The Gift Economy. Perhaps I will post about that, next.
I’m damn lucky.