For some, Mondays are the dreaded days of the week during which people are forced to battle the post weekend bender hangovers and return to their boring routines; for others a Monday is that one glorious extra day of freedom before getting back to the grind. I’m happy to say that I’m in the latter category. Not only do I not treat said day of the week as a total drag, allowing its unfortunate stereotype to affect my overall demeanor, I try my best to dedicate it to productivity, positivity and new discoveries. Levels of these discoveries vary of course. Sometimes a Monday goes by and all I’ve learned is that I can drink a bottle of whiskey and wake up fresh as a cucumber. Other times I actually get to learn things and meet people and stuff.
For instance, this one guy told me that in order to live a better life and help build tolerance and understanding of that which surrounds us, one must do at least one thing a day that they hate or that they’re unfamiliar with. This same guy chooses to listen to music he genuinely dislikes. The result? He either finds seldom gems in a pile of garbage or at the very least an even deeper appreciation for music he’s always loved. Another girl I know is extremely afraid of heights. What does she do? She jumps out of airplanes and goes bungee jumping. If those two don’t have a badass handle on the lemons that life gives you, I don’t know who does.
Fast forward to a particularly recent Monday of mine. It isn’t filled with extreme physical or strenuous activity or anything, but it is certainly an interesting one. It involves some of the things that I know and love as well as the one thing I never thought I’d do; not willingly anyway.
So I wake up in a bed that isn’t my own with a fat cat wrapped around my head. Jack. He’s cool. I roll around in the sheets for a bit, enjoying the late summer breeze; combination of the Long Beach climate and 5th floor really does the trick. For breakfast, I partake in some well-preserved homemade guacamole from the night before; accompanied by a well-crafted Paloma – a traditional and very refreshing tequila based cocktail. My friend; he’s like a bartender or something. Not long after that we find ourselves in a very hipster forward neighborhood, getting a cup of coffee. The girl taking our order has tattoos and piercings on her face and the guy making our coffee is wearing a wool beanie. Between that factor, brick walls as decor and a menu full of coffees with strawberry and cherry coke notes, we’ve definitely stumbled upon one of the hipsterest of all dimensions. Oddly enough I don’t mind it. Especially not, because at the place where we were headed, the coffee tastes like butt holes and broken dreams – or for some, more commonly known as stale pennies. Our next destination – an AA meeting. That’s right ladies and gentlemen – this is the one thing I never thought I would be doing.
Neither my friend nor I have muttered the phrase ‘I’m an alcoholic’. He has to go due to an unfortunate run in with the law, and I was merely there to keep him company.
We arrive. It’s an obscure building of sorts with a corner street entrance. We’re about half an hour late; we walk in mid-speech of one of the participants, quickly find seats and get situated.
The first speaker seems all too experienced; he’s definitely done this before. I’m not trying to mock his message or his experience but his method feels a bit rehearsed. He steps down, everyone claps and the lady in the front calls on another speaker. This girl is young and beautiful; she has long, shiny hair and tattoos going up and down her arms. She seems troubled; you can tell she desperately needs to share but is reluctant to find the right words. Before you know it she gets kicked off the stage because she admits having had a drink the night before. Apparently you need to be sober for at least 24 hours in order to “share”. I found that to be a little unsettling… This is supposed to be a place that accepts you and your alcoholic ways? Seems a bit harsh. Even so, I guess I get it. If you’re gonna claim you’re on the road to a sober life, then there should at least be some sort of a probation period, or a timeout, for when you slip up.
“Don’t be embarrassed, maybe try again tomorrow” says the lady that has the power to decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t. What she’s trying to say is ‘there’s no shame but there are rules’; still, you can’t help but feel the presence of shame in the room. The girl sits down and the next speaker goes up.
The lady up at the front is great by the way. She has no qualms shh-shing a person in the “audience” for being disruptive in any way, whether it be for having their phone go off or for entering the room from the outside world when they have no business or intention to be there. Sure, there may be an ‘open door policy’ in effect, but the randoms that stumbled in and out of there that day were on a whole new level. At one point someone resembling a drag queen peeked in. Whether or not the creature was in fact a drag queen, I don’t know, but it was 1 in the afternoon and this person was a bit rough around the edges and had what seemed like rainbow colored hair with bows in it and stuff. Later on, a dude stumbled in, poured himself a cup of coffee and bounced. He later came back again and wheeled out a bicycle with him when he left. Stranger things have happened in AA, I’m sure, but to me as a newcomer, that part was pretty bizarre.
At one point the lady inquisitively sticks her finger in our direction and we both shake our had ‘Nooo’, barely containing a smile, as neither one of us has 24 hours of sobriety under our belt. The meeting continues. All the stories are fairly similar to one another. Alcohol makes you do crazy things: you’re outside of your body, you don’t know what’s going on, you stumble into places; projectile vomiting on the streets, getting arrested, feeling regret and helplessness, etc, followed by finally seeking something greater than yourself in hopes of coping with this “illness”. Some stories drone on for what seems like forever and about personal problems that have nothing to do with alcoholism – just stories about how people are going through a lot of shit and it’s hard. Other stories are more penetrating; you feel like you can relate even if you don’t proclaim yourself dependent on alcohol.
The last two speakers stood out to me the most. Collectively they touched base on some of the most important human character traits. For starters, no one changes until they truly want to. Fact. Also, realizing you have a problem is one thing but actually making the effort to do something about it is a whole different ball game. So you’ve admitted you’re an alcoholic – okay, great – now what? Take this one guy for example. He looks somewhat disheveled and he curses a lot; probably one of the realest people that’s been up there. He is doing all kinds of things to keep him busy: gym, yoga, pilates, Netflix, picked up a boating habit, you name it. He said something that stuck with me. “We’re already in hell. We’re living it” – sure it’s a bit cynical but coming from a guy who is an addict by nature, doing everything he can to stay afloat; doing everything in his power to actually have control of his painful existence – it’s inspiring.
Everyone says a prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” The meeting ends. Our next destination – bar. I treat myself to a sazerac and my friend has himself a bloody Mary. We share a Mac and cheese loaded with short ribs and hot cheetos – totally hits the spot. We finish at the bar and come back to his place to drink some more. The way I see it, it’s not a drinking problem until it’s a drinking problem. For now, it’s just drinking – no problem.
Although I must say; seeing all those people whose lives unlike mine are very much affected by alcohol, and hearing their stories certainly puts things in perspective.
My takeaway from it all? “Bitch sit down. Be humble”