Sunday, 22 November
Good Morning Jessicca…
The 7 AM meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in Pacific Beach was the place to be Monday through Friday when I first caught hold of sobriety and it probably still is, despite the fact that you now have to smoke outside its cramped room. It extends the entire end of a small parking lot and has several windowed garage doors side by side facing away from the street. The tables inside are parked end to end to make a single row, surrounded with metal folding chairs. An enormous coffee urn sits alone near the double-door entryway at the north end of the building. I made this clubhouse for starting-over drunks the place to be each weekday morning for a good five years and never once arrived without the coffee always ready to serve – strong black with a corrosive jolt of caffeine. Its heavy aroma virtually invited everyone sitting round the table to light up their favorite tobacco product. The room quickly took on the uncertain air of a San Francisco fog. If you preferred your clothes not stink of smoke you could always listen from the parking lot, just outside the door.
Someone before my time named the meeting the Dawn Patrol. Most meetings tend to muster sameness in the congregation: tenderloin drunks forever trying to string together two weeks of sobriety; lunch hour office workers in business appropriate attire; machinists and exiles from country-western bars; country club types recovering from their furtive, seedy ways. If we have access to wheels we prefer to pick our community for drying out. The Dawn Patrol was notably eclectic. There was a smattering of those stepping in business slacks from pricey new cars. There were those arriving in cars that seemed to run only on their owner’s desperate prayers. There were gamblers and homeless housewives. There was the occasional snob – threadbare but always casting before them a steadfast air of dignified certainty. There was the goateed accountant, always a bit surprised he was still alive and available to be seen. There was the young man drifting up from the beach, thought to be in a losing battle with aids, but that story never came from his lips. Eventually he disappeared, as did others. There was the deep sputter of motorcycles when the 5th Step bikers rolled up and parked near the entrance. They added a swashbuckling dash. They were always ready to step in and keep the meeting real. Cut the I’m OK, You’re OK, sandal-soled, tree-hugging philosophizing crap. This is about life and death people. I’ve buried too many of my brothers on account of this disease. Get your head out of your big-assed lalaland. Staying alive is about doing the Steps, finding a sponsor and not picking up that first drink – for any reason. You can’t go home for Christmas? Your wife left you for another man? No one loves you? Boo hoo – I’m all choked up. Guess what? You deserve it. You’re a lying, thieving drunk just like me… trying to stay sober. Stop sniveling. You’re lucky to be alive.
Religion, talk of God, wasn’t much tolerated at this meeting. No one credited Christ for their long-term sobriety. Turning your life over to a Higher Power often meant little more than taking hold of a rabbit’s foot. That’s not always the case. I avoided the Jesus meetings if at all possible. God doesn’t save good people from dying in plane crashes or car wrecks. Why bother with performing miracles for drunks that don’t take responsibility for their own sobriety? That message seemed too often lost with people believing that the loving hand of Christ will see them through. Frankly I never saw this attitude as an act of faith. It was hoping for an easy way out. The easy way is more like heading out the door. Walk to the nearest liquor store. Check the label of your beverage, making sure you get the most alcohol for your buck. Find a bush to sit behind. Now proceed to drink yourself sober. If that doesn’t work, there’s always a meeting at hand where you can keep coming back.