As I said earlier, I had no personal definition of an alcoholic. Do you? Amos, from Andy Griffith, was my picture of an alcoholic. Comparing myself to him I knew that I wasn’t in jail every other day, I didn’t walk in the street staggering. But remember, I’ve already admitted I drank to extremes by myself. Once in a great while, I let someone see the staggering, but not often.
Having no idea if I was an alcoholic, I Googled it and AA popped up. After discovering that there was a meeting in just 15 minutes, with my wine bottles jingling in the trunk, I drove to the meeting. It was in a church. A lot of meetings in Iowa are in churches, by the way. When I arrived I deigned to feel sorry for the poor sots who stood in the parking lot by the steps, smiling at me. I assumed they had lost everything but the shirt on their backs and the cigarettes in their hand.
I surveyed the room during the introduction to the meeting. I don’t think I heard much. Typically, I was self-absorbed, looking to see if I knew anyone. Sure enough, I found someone I had known about 5 years earlier. She was across the room and didn’t seem to recognize me. Good. I had just spent some time with her x-husband! That was uncomfortable.
The time went quickly. The book they talked about sounded interesting. As the meeting drew to a close, I was feeling like I didn’t belong and just wishing I could escape when everyone stood up and the guy next to me reached for my hand. Have I mentioned I’m not a hugger? I’m not even a toucher!
All through the meeting, I had twitched when the dark gigantic tattoos on his biceps jumped. I was sure he was a biker, and I don’t mean the Schwinn variety. He had one of those skull scarves, well worn, looking like it never came off. Scary. He sat kind of hunched over in his chair like he was ready to bounce somebody off the wall.
Not wanting to cause a scene, I went along with the big circle, heads bowed, hand-holding thing. I never heard a word they said, just tried to lick the sweat off my upper lip so no one would notice when their heads popped up again.
I was already turning on my heel when someone touched my arm. What is it with these people and touching?
She introduced herself as Tammy and asked if I’d like to go out for something to drink? I giggled, thinking that sounded pretty good about now. She invited a few other women and we met at a 1st Avenue pizza place which was on the way home for me. They all ordered soda and since I had some questions to ask about alcoholism, I did too.
I asked them how to know if someone is an alcoholic and Nancy said, “Why don’t you just start with yourself and tell us what things are like for you right now?”
Her face blurred as I recalled the story of discovering of the reclined seat in my car. The women responded by explaining that I had experienced a blackout. I’d never heard of that in relationship to drinking. I thought that only happened to people with psychological disorders.
I remember hearing ice in glasses at the bar behind us, the sound of the blender (is someone getting an ice cream drink?), and music playing overhead. The conversation was muffled. I don’t remember one story and I know they kind of went around the table and shared. Now I would call it telling about their own experience, strength and hope. I remember the red and white checkered plastic table cloth and the tall grooved plastic glasses, some clear, some brown and some wine colored (like my favorite Merlot).
They never said I was one of them, but I could feel it. I could sense the similar struggles although I didn’t understand what they were really saying, I could see their acceptance of me and their empathy. That was uncomfortable. Where was this heading? They passed around a meeting schedule, smiling, putting their phone numbers on the back.
After that, I made my escape as soon as possible and I was so nervous that I jumped up and left with their phone numbers in hand and forgot to pay for my soda!
Nancy never let me pay her back. I think it was 6 months of AA before I realized I still owed her. Know what she said?
“Take someone else out for a chat when you get the opportunity.”
I’m grateful today for the program of AA and will always remember how I had to Google the definition of an alcoholic in order to find AA. It was the best research project I ever did. By the time I reached home, I had decided to continue learning about alcoholism. I would look at my list and try another meeting, one without the x-wife!
I never did have another Merlot or any other alcohol. I give God and AA the credit. I had no idea when I woke up that day that I’d had my last drink. The other day I saw my journal entry from March 21, 2007. It says, “I don’t know what’s been wrong with me lately… but I decided to try AA today. No, I’ve decided to jump in with both feet! I think I’m an alcoholic!”