Or, if you're not 100% satisfied we will refund your misery
Today I went to my first AA meeting. A closed GLBT meeting, which was better than I could have hoped for, seeing as in order for these meetings to be as comfortable for me as possible I must find individuals I have something in common with aside from being an addict. And I can't be the only lesbian who's ever done things with a guy because she was trashed.
I showed up to the meeting about 15 minutes early so I sat in the parking lot smoking a cigarette. That was when I spotted a familiar face in a car nearby. It was Brooke, a woman I met last summer and went on a couple dates with. Long story short, we have a lot in common, including our personal problems. We had spent plenty of time talking about all of the above. Our shared musical tastes, photography, writing, and our struggles with alcohol. She had been sober for several years and had encouraged me to come to a meeting with her, just to check it out, since I expressed a desire even back then to get sober. If I'd known what would happen next I would have taken her up on it. She disappeared suddenly from my life last August when some nondescript thing became too much for her to handle, and she cut off contact from everyone. I spent months blaming myself, fearing I came on too strong, what have you. I always thought about her. Perhaps the most painful part of all was hindsight rearing its ugly head. She had expressed a strong interest in me first, one I did not reciprocate, even rebuffed a bit. If I had to put a qualifier on it, I'd say I was still afraid of putting myself out there at the time. Given the events of the past year, I can safely say this is more true than ever.
That didn't stop me from feeling happier than I have in months when she hugged me. It wasn't because I'm still attracted to her, or because she somehow looks even better than ever, or because her hair smelled really good. It was because there was a tangible reason for me to be there tonight, at that particular AA meeting. It was no longer about me being a drunk; she was meant to come back into my life, as a positive, healthy, sober role model and friend.
We walked inside together, and several people were already setting up the tables. The long tables were arranged in a circle and there were three candles per table. Brooke introduced me to everyone and explained that this was my first meeting. The reception was overwhelmingly positive, with everyone coming to shake my hand and tell me how glad they were that I could join them. Needless to say this shattered every illusion of AA I'd ever had, of bitter bleary drunks forced to attend via court order. These were all energetic, high-spirited people, many of whom appeared to be my age or younger.
The lights were turned off, the candles lit, and the meeting got underway with the obligatory recital of the Serenity Prayer. Like many folks there, as I would learn later, I take issue with "God"; the word more than anything else. Still, the prayer strikes a chord with me. In this case I like to think that "God" is whatever the person wants, the inexplicable force that gives credence to the mantra "everything happens for a reason." The force that brought the paths of Brooke and I to a crossing point once again.
The introductions followed. This was perhaps the hardest part of the whole thing as, just like in the movies and TV, every person really does lead off with "my name is ______ and I'm an alcoholic." I closed my eyes when my turn came up. When I'd finished and opened my eyes Brooke was smiling at me. "We're glad you're here. I'm glad you're here," she whispered. I somehow made it through the whole meeting without crying but I almost lost it then.
Today was a "discussion" day, meaning that everyone in the group had an opportunity to say what was on their minds. Many of the folks, perhaps for my benefit, rehashed their early days in the program. One woman had come to her first five meetings drunk. Another gentleman realized he had hit rock bottom when he woke up in a motel bed with a stranger and couldn't remember how he got there. Brooke spoke of something that resonated all too true with me; the transition she went through of discarding her "old self", including the people she ran with when she drank. I had a story to tell, about why I came to this meeting covered in bruises and walking on crutches. I told the story of last Wednesday, of the fight with Tom and our entire sordid past, of waking up naked with him masturbating furiously beside me and being too wasted to say anything about it, of him asking me to have sex with him for his birthday last year and of the fight that ensued when I refused. I confessed that he wanted help too, and I wasn't sure I wanted to help him get it.
Apparently I'm not a demon. Apparently I'm justified in being angry. I'm always angry, but I never felt the need to justify it before. Somehow sitting in an AA meeting, telling that I really don't want to help another drunk, seemed despicable. I felt despicable. But it seems I'm not the one who should feel this way.
Brooke and I hung out for a short while after the meeting, sitting out in the parking lot smoking and talking. We couldn't stay long, as she had to work in the morning and I had a midterm to take. We caught up briefly on our current situations, and she apologized to me. She apologized for disappearing and worrying me. I told her when she was ready to talk about it, I'd be around. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses and made plans to go to a second meeting together on Friday. I drove home listening to the Brandi Carlile CD she'd burned for me last summer and smiling genuinely for the first time in a long while.
I got home and knocked out my homework quickly, as I couldn't wait to tell everyone about the smashing success of my first meeting. Of everyone I told, however, I think only Rachel was genuinely happy about all the news I had to share. Chalz is still under the delusion that this is a short-lived phase in the same vein as my past "vows of celibacy", not to mention he turns into a sniveling twat when I meet girls, so I wasn't really surprised that he wasn't exactly foaming at the mouth with glee. And Tom...well...I didn't have to tell him, and perhaps I shouldn't have, but I did. I told him I went to the meeting and I told him I reunited with Brooke there, the latter being a recipe for a tantrum. The Cliff's Notes version is that our most recent falling out involved her. Really it had nothing to do with her personally as he'd never met her; it was more along the lines of "I hate you because you get more girls than me". This time he decided to toss a little condescension into his "I'm only telling you this because I care" schtick, in the form of telling me it's probably not a good idea for me to date or sleep with another AA member.
Now either I have a reputation that precedes me or he's being a jealous little twat waffle again. I'd say it's a little from Column A and a little from Column B. As I'd explained to everyone else, we are just friends, and seeing as this time last year I would have given anything just for her to speak to me again, that's more than enough for me. That's not even the problem here. The problem lies in something that Brooke and the others opened to my perceptions tonight: the inevitable severing of ties as I endeavour to sobriety.
I have two notable abusive relationships. The first, obviously, is with alcohol. The second is with Tom. I know it's not so easy to walk away from an abusive relationship of any kind, be it romantic or platonic. It's not so much about being weak as it is human nature to adhere to what is familiar. Some people just get used to being treated badly to a point where not only can they not fathom someone treating them with respect, but that being abused is actually comforting.
I think this is why Tom and I have been friends for so long. We fell into a routine we both know is bad-drinking, fighting, apologizing even though we know it's all lies, repeat ad nauseum-to a point where we simply do not know how to interact normally whilst sober, and perhaps we never will be able to. I acknowledge that this is what is happening but I don't like it. I don't know if it's the fear of the unknown, or a deep-seated desire for things to remain the same no matter how bad they are, but I simply cannot accept it as reality. For the time being, I'm chalking it up to the fear of the unknown, something that's perfectly normal. It's not like I'd dive back in to the life again at the drop of a hat.
No, I can't lie. I would. That's why I'm in AA. That's why even though I promised Tom I'd come see him on his birthday this Friday, I probably won't. He says he wants to partake of sober frivolity on his birthday for the first time in fifteen years. I simply don't see this being a decision we'll both be 100% content with. It doesn't help that my primary reason for looking forward to Friday is seeing Brooke again, maybe seeing if she wants to go to the park or grab a coffee after the meeting. I think he knows I'll do this. I know there'll be consequences and I'll face them.
I think I'll say that prayer tonight before I go to sleep.