I sat outside the AA meeting hall in Lagrange, Georgia at dusk last night. I was scared and nervous. I had never been to a night meeting up here. I watched as happy, shiny people got out of their cars to go inside. I so wanted to be like them. Content. Fulfilled. So sure in their sobriety, looking as if they didn't have a care in the world. Yesterday had been a tough day battling my addictions. College football Saturdays always are. My sister and her daughter were in town -- a fine family diversion allowing me to drink until abandon. "Get your ass to a meeting," I told myself late last night after seeing my sister.
It was a long and uneventful drive to unfamiliar territory as I listened to the Kentucky and Kent State football game on the radio. The little college town of Lagrange greeted me as I drove past the city limits. It seems the AA meeting halls are always on the seedier side of towns though -- poor neighborhoods were the rent is cheap accommodating thrifty and less generous AA meeting goers. I had found directions on the Internet and luckily found the meeting hall on the first try -- an old Methodist church long abandoned by it's congregation and becoming home to a burgeoning group of ex-drunks. Self Help Harbor.
"Thanks for coming," several people told me as I passed the front door to shyly take my seat.
"Everybody ready for a meeting?" rang out at the top of the hour -- 8 p.m. I sighed relieved that I could now blend in and just listen for an hour unless they did the dreaded move of going around the room to speak.
We talked of admitting that we were powerless over alcohol. My natural inclination is to balk -- ashamed that a simple drink has control of my life, but it once and still does. Step one of the twelve steps. A seemingly simple step, but human will and ego doesn't want to allow you to admit you are powerless and helpless.
"I drank with abandon," one meeting goer said. "I had one drink and just couldn't quit. I knew then I was powerless over alcohol. It had me in it's grips."
His words rang out true to me. I couldn't have just one drink either. I had to have twenty or more until I was passed out or blacked out -- a scary proposition. It is a wonder I have any functioning brain cells left. I thought of the cold, wintry night that I had had a fight with Rachel, my ex-wife. I had just gotten a home after being homeless and drove drunk on my motorcycle. I don't even remember driving out of town. My next memory was lying on the road with a broken arm as I went off to jail.
"You sure you are okay?" the officer asked me as he drove me to county jail.
"I think so," I said from the backseat -- my pain blunted from the effects of over thirty beers.
It was a long night of lying on a dirty floor of a jail cell writhing in pain with a broken arm and shoulder. I will never forget a kind officer driving me to the hospital in the morning.
"Long night?" he asked as he handed me a cup of hot coffee that I could only hold with one hand.
"It was excruciating," I replied stifling back a tear.
I wanted to go home to my safe bed. I wanted my family.
"We are going to get you some help this morning and pain medications."
"My savior," I thought from the back of his patrol car as we drove across the county to the hospital.
The meeting finally ended. I felt loads better as I gathered my backpack and grabbed a list of meetings from the bulletin board. "Keep coming back," a young African American man said to me as he walked past and I smiled, standing there. "Yes," I thought. "Keep coming back." I want to be one of those shiny, happy people I met tonight enjoying life without having to do it drunk. My thoughts turned again to that cold and wintry night of lying on the highway, drunk, next to a broken motorcycle. I have so many reasons to "keep coming back."