Here we go again, I think as we stand and grab hands. We sure do pray a lot here, but at least everyone doesn’t hug me here like they did at the NA meeting I attended.

“Who keeps us sober?” comes a voice from across the hall and then the chanting begins:

“Our Father who are in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen”

I try to let go of the hands but this group does another ritual – “Keep coming back, it works if you work and you’re worth it” they say while pumping our hands in unison together. The man next to me has sweaty hands and I try to wipe off my hands without him noticing, I don’t know why it matters, he must know he has sweaty hands. Try as I might every time I hear that prayer and any of the chantingI picture a Borg Cube talking about assimilation.

A lot of folks are looking at me, I raised my hand when they asked if there were any people here who had less than thirty days. They applauded and all looked at me, I have to remember next week not to raise my hand, even if I drink again. The guy who led the meeting is coming over, there doesn’t appear to be an easy way to avoid him.

He reaches out a hand and says “Hi, I’m John, you’re new here right?”

I take his hand in mine and say “Yes, I just started going to meetings this week, I don’t know if it’s for me. It all seems so odd.”

“It was odd for me when I first came five years ago too, what’s your name?”

I consider lying, this is supposed to be anonymous right? why does he need to know my name at all, but then I just give it to him. “I’m James.” I say, “nice to meet you John” is it bad to start meeting people in AA with a lie? I’d rather be any where else and meeting anyone besides a member of AA.

“Nice to meet you too James. Listen, some of us meet for coffee after the meeting – it would be great if you could join us.” He says

Now I panic, I don’t want to continue to hang with these people, I just want to find a way to drink like normal people do. Why they hell would I waste time having coffee with these praying and chanting people? I knew it was a cult and this is probably a way they try to sell me their stuff.

“I have plans today, maybe next week” I guess lying is going to be a regular part of my conversations with these people.

“You should come back tomorrow, we meet here every night at 6:30, you’ll find almost all of the people here tonight at those other nights. It’s good to be involved and active in your AA group.” He says

“I really don’t know, I think one meeting a week is all I can handle, I’m so busy.” I lie again, I haven’t found a job, struggling to stay in contact with my family and friends and am tempted constantly to go back to my bar and see the old crowd – not that the old crowd came to visit me in the hospital or did a damn thing for me when I got that DUI.

John’s eyes seem to dim a bit and his smile isn’t as bright. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a card and hands it to me. “That’s ok James, if you change your mind or want to talk give me a call.” with that he shakes my hand again and walks away.

I’m relieved, I’m glad he didn’t pressure me more I don’t think I could have handled it. I need a smoke and to get out of this place – I don’t normally stick around this long. As I try to leave the room I avoid making eye contact with any of the others and I especially avoid the woman who was crying during the meeting – so her cat died, who cares and shouldn’t there be a limit to the amount of time a person can cry at a meeting? There are a bunch of people around her comforting her, maybe she won’t cry next week.

Hmm, I guess I’m coming next week, that’s a start.

I step outside, light a smoke immediately an inhale – I wanted a smoke three times during the meeting but I didn’t want to stand up to go have one and have people notice me, no one else stepped outside to have one, a few people got up to get coffee but none of the smokers went out for a break – must be a rule against it. I notice there are several people from the meeting still out here chatting with one another – they’re free now, why wouldn’t they just go home. I walk straight to my car, an 82 VW Rabbit, start it up crank the music and zip out of there.

On the drive back to my apartment I try to think if the meeting helped me at all – do I need a drink? I can’t tell… I still feel like I should be at the bar and that I should stop at the Quick Mart to get a six-pack before going home – but I grit my teeth and just drive by. The apartment is safe, I ran out of beer and liquor before the DUI which is why I was out driving in the first place.

When I get to the apartment the mailbox is over full, I don’t want to know what bill collectors are asking for money I don’t have, but I have to empty the box. I grab the mail and kind of glance through it – nothing of importance… then I see the letter from Mom, I consider opening it to see if maybe she’s sent me a check or something but that’s highly unlikely – it’s probably another sermon on everything I’ve done wrong and how I should be more like my sister or brother. I just toss the whole stack in the trash, I figure if they ask about receiving bills or notices of termination I can just say I never saw anything – then it’s the truth.

My apartment is a mess. The bed hasn’t been made and sheets not changed in months. There is still a puke bucket next to the bed in case, it’s been a while since I puked but you never know – the smell from the bucket wafts through the air as I pass. I turn on the TV, not sure what might be on, probably news. I sit on the couch next to the overfilling ashtray.  I’ve created a mountain of ash here and I’m quite proud of it, It just keeps getting bigger and bigger each day.

I easily smoke three cigarettes sitting there staring blankly at the television wondering what I should do and stomping down the thought of going to the bar each time it comes up, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so. I’ve chewed my fingernails down as far as I can, picked at the cuticles until they’ve bled – I’m bored out of my mind. At 9 I give up the fight and head to bed, maybe tomorrow will be better or maybe tomorrow I’ll just say fuck it and have a drink.

As I lie in bed thinking – that’s all I can seem to do, I can’t turn off my mind – I think about all the people that have wronged me. How I haven’t gotten a fair share and just had a terrible run of bad luck. I consider the people I’m most mad and and plan revenge, I’ll get it too – those people will rue the day they did what they did to me. Especially Eric, I know he stole that watch – I know it… I don’t know how it was found in my room, but I didn’t do it – It had to be Eric… I don’t think I did it… I’m sure … I think… that Eric will pay if it’s the last thing I do. The voices in my head continue well into the night, the committee telling me how wronged I am – the voices telling me one drink won’t hurt me – it’s a good thing I don’t have any money or I might have hopped out of bed and run to the bar – I think I still have a tab at Dave’s maybe I could still go… no, not today… not today… not today…

Please voices, just be quiet, please just leave me be for the night. Come back tomorrow but I’m so tired now, just leave me alone…

I finally drift off to sleep, but dreams are rarely a safe place these days.

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