I’m down at the shopping center. It is an absolutely gorgeous spring day. I am embroiled in a conversation with George and Ferret over the merits of Alcoholics Anonymous. George is smoking his favorite Garcia Vega cigars and nursing a bottle of Wild Irish Rose wine. Ferret is nervously fidgeting as he watches George drink that swill. We are all sitting on a bench up from the dollar store.
“A.A. is nothing but a religious cult for white people,” George says. “Those people are brainwashed.”
“You are the poster child for someone who needs to go to A.A.,” I reply. “And A.A. is more spiritual than religious.”
An aggravated look comes over George’s face.
“I’m not an alcoholic,” George says. “I just like to drink.”
“If you’ve been in jail multiple times for drinking then I would say you’re an alcoholic,” Ferret chimes in rightly.
George laughs nervously and says, “I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Like the time you ran over your mother’s mailbox, drunk,” I say.
“The mailbox was in the way,” George replies with a goofy grin trying to play that off.
I and Ferret laugh heartily. George was traversing down that river named denial. I’ve gone down that river a few times myself over the years. My drunken homeless days come to mind.
“What do you get out of A.A.?” Ferret asks me, curiously.
“I get a sense of belonging and camaraderie,” I reply. “Everybody looks out for each other.”
“It bothers me that no black people go, though,” Ferret says.
“They all go to the Narcotics Anonymous meetings,” I say. “You should try some.”
“I still think all of you are a bunch of brainwashed idiots,” George then chimes in.
“Fuck you, George,” I reply. “You need those meetings about more than anybody I know.”
George smiles at getting a rise out of me. That was his intent. This is all just a fun game for him.
“Ferret, if black people start coming to those meetings then maybe more will show up as well,” I tell him. “Maybe you can start a trend.”
“I will think about it,” Ferret says. “I still feel extremely uncomfortable about going though.”
I realize A.A. is not for everyone. Much of A.A. doesn’t suit me as well, but I take the good with the bad. People such as Wanda have immeasurably helped me in staying sober. I can go and talk about my trials and tribulations with a group of people that care and understand. I do understand George’s concern about it being a religious cult. It is. Like I said, I take the good with the bad and the good definitely outweighs the negatives of the program. I just leave the religious aspects on the wayside when I enter those doors for a meeting. I do hope Ferret decides to start going with me.
“Go to church,” George then tells Ferret. “Jesus can take away the compulsion to drink. Jesus can do anything if you ask him.”
I smirk. George has tried church many times, but he still ends up drunk at the end of the day.
“Some mythical being in the sky isn’t going to keep you from drinking,” I reply. “You can read in the Big Book about many drunks trying church and religion and it never works. They always end up back in the gutter, drunk.”
George grew offended at me saying Jesus was mythical.
“You trying to say Jesus ain’t real?”
“No, I am saying that Jesus ain’t gonna get you sober,” I reply. “You are going to get yourself sober with the help of a support group and A.A. is a support group. Your average church is not equipped to deal with the issues a drunk can face.”
George then wanted to start arguing about religion, but I wasn’t playing that game. I cut him off by telling him to just drop it.
“Will you go with me to a meeting?” Ferret then asked.
“I will go as many times as you need me to,” I reply. “It helps me stay sober by helping others stay sober. That is the cornerstone of the A.A. program.”
“I like that,” Ferret says. “Helping yourself by helping others. I really like that.”
There was a glimmer of hope expressed in Ferret’s eyes and face as we concluded our conversation. I’ve been there too before. Alcoholism is such a lonely and desolate disease and you grow comforted that others share your same plight and have experienced the same trials and tribulations. Ferret told me he would think about going some more, and would let me know soon. I can only encourage, but not make him go. That first step is up to Ferret. May he find A.A. and that new way of life as they say in the program.