STARVING THIRST ONE DAY AT A TIME
Briefly defining ourselves within human categories (i.e: alcoholic) can make us grow as we become aware of our own responsibility in our attitudes and addictions of the body.
When my friend sent me a text message inviting me to join him at the AA meeting last Friday night, I was flattered he trusted me. He tickled my curiosity by letting me know it would be a trip. I’ve learned to stop myself from initially saying NO to life and I really considered it. Why not? I could be a worthy aide and support him in his fight to stay sober. I promised that if my dilated eyes from my afternoon exam were not blinding me at 8pm, I would meet him at the Church.
My vision was as perfect as it will ever be and my evening was free. During my short drive over I started to question why the Universe presented me with this experience. A movie scene of people sneaking into an AA meeting, sitting round in a circle, and introducing themselves repeated itself in my head. Pulling into the parking lot, I wondered if they would ask me to talk. Hi, I’m Jimena… But I’m not an alcoholic! The lights were on in the school adjacent to the church and I walked into a room bustling with festive people. When I saw drinks in their hands my heart stopped. No way! This couldn’t be it. A few acquaintances recognized me and I told them I was looking for the AA meeting. I was quick to let them know I was coming along as a guest (so cowardly!) and headed back out.
A large group gathered outside around the building. There he was with a big gentle buddha smile, happy I made it. His very long and patient hair was pulled back in one thin ponytail. He introduced me to his buddies and we walked towards the church where the meeting would be held. It was impossible to decipher who’s battling alcoholism since it’s full of couples, family, and friends; actually, they didn’t know why I was there either and I realized it doesn’t really matter. We all have addictions of the body we try to break away from. That makes us all the same.
It had been a very long time since I last walked into a church. I’ve certainly never been in one at 8:30pm on a Friday night. A perfect moment to dissuade thirsty folks from going back on the slippery path! Slowly the meeting had amassed a large group of people; the front row pew awaited us. A young blond guy in his twenties started the meeting. He welcomed everyone and let us know that what united everyone here was the desire to stop drinking. That’s exactly what I had focused on accomplishing so my energy vibrated along with everyone else’s. Several members jumped up to the stand to participate in reading out the guidelines of the meeting. “Any new members joining us tonight?”, the coordinator asked. A few hands went up and they introduced themselves in an anticipated manner. I want to be a part of this and I stood up too. The words “I am an alcoholic” refused to come off my mouth. I’m not. It’s not denial. Yes, my body was used to drinking alcohol every day for the past year but I was always (practically always) in control. “Hi, my name is Jimena. I’m not an alcoholic. I stopped drinking two months ago and I’m never going to drink again”. I got a few laughs. Yes, I can laugh about that now too.
The speaker stood before us in a crisp white shirt bound by a tie. His hair was groomed and his manner was collected and thoughtful. Todd travels around the country and abroad sharing his story about alcoholism and drug abuse. He’s been sober for the past 12 years. The speech was rehearsed and funny so the crowd enjoyed hearing his diabolic life experience. During his teens his mom would participate with him in getting prescription drugs, then they would split it between them. His performance at school was borderline retarded, Doctors couldn’t tell what was wrong with him. They allowed him to take SATs without a time limit. Thanks to that, he went off to Undergrad in New Orleans. He would only attend classes where he could have a ‘water’ bottle with him. Eventually, he dropped out. Waking up at 3pm was normal. A slight amount of alcohol would give him the energy to plan his day to get his act together, but he kept needing a bit more drink to keep a positive attitude, otherwise, he would become depressive. At one point he slept inside a friend’s cozy closet (it was carpeted) because he couldn’t afford to pay rent. The punch lines kept coming but suddenly my heart broke and my eyes filled with tears. The laughs surrounded me as the void of self-love in this man’s past hit me, I felt like I was in a surreal world. How could this absolutely devastating human condition be laughable? I told myself to take my emotions lightly but I was deeply moved by this story which was being shared comically. He got a big round of applause.
I understood the success story but I couldn’t stop staring at the box of Marlboro cigarettes showing through his shirt pocket. One addiction is replaced by another. Addictions control our lives through the weakness of the human mind and body. Physical desires can keep us from facing our own emotions, away from consciousness, and living a healthy life. I felt the urge to share my story.
When it was my time, I stood up and turned to look at the attendees. There must have been one hundred people in there and I saw their anxious eyes… so I talked from my heart. I told them how during my divorce I had a drink every single day. I thought the tough times I was going through justified my drinking, I needed that Smirnoff ice to relax and breath, to be able to enjoy dinner and bath my children without the day’s tensions. I would also go out a lot and drink socially. I was in control of my drinking and knew when to stop. A few months ago I went to have acupuncture done on me and the therapist told me the pulses from my liver and kidney were low. As a consequence, I decided to stop drinking alcohol for a while until I finished a month-long detox. I also cut back on the 3-4 expressos I drank every day in the form of lattes. The first days were hard. Harder than I thought they would be. I found myself digging into the fridge and coming out with a bottle in my hand before I was aware I was doing that. The headaches from the caffeine withdrawal were brutal. But I did it. Three weeks after I stopped drinking a friend came to visit from Argentina. We were supposed to go out for dinner. I was starving! He insisted that I join him in drinking Champagne while he poured the bubbly into the flutes. He kept refilling before I finished my glass so I have no idea how much I drank. We never had dinner and although I know I was at a Halloween party, I don’t remember the whole thing. I do recall being in the bathroom and a girl asking me if I was on an e-pill. A what?! An e-pill. Ecstasy! Shit. Suddenly it dawned on me that I must be in terrible shape. I’m usually outgoing and happy but no one has every asked me if I was on drugs. I was conscious to stop drinking alcohol and keep drinking bottles of water but I was already beaten up from drinking on an empty stomach and vulnerable from the weeks of detox. Sober, I drove back home nodding off from exhaustion. I felt my car pull of the street a few times. You know the feeling of waking up and saying… Shit! What happened last night?! I can’t do this!!! I have two children. What’s the point of drinking and not being conscious of what’s going on? I don’t need it to have fun!
An upset man with a red face blurted out a rough ‘thank you!”. I understood it was my moment to shut up. That was ok. I looked at the facilitator and in an apologetic tone he invited me to continue sharing when the meeting was over. My friend nodded at me proudly and told me I did well. A few more people shared their experiences and the meeting came to an end. They were offering chips for members to commit to a certain amount of days of not drinking. Then he nudged me to go up. I told him I didn’t want to over extend my time but he insisted everyone would love it. I wasn’t planning to be drinking again so I accepted ‘the challenge’ as a mere gesture. They gave me a white AA chip which read 24 hrs on the back. I heard cheers of encouragement around me and I knew I could do it!
As the meeting ended, the woman sitting behind me thanked me for sharing my experience and welcomed me. She invited me to keep on coming. A few more girls gathered round and introduced themselves. Then I saw a woman I know and she told me she wasn’t sure it was me because of my glasses. She was upset that man interrupted me and I couldn’t finish my speech. I told her I wanted to explain how there are so many addictions that keep us away from a healthy life, away from finding true happiness.
The facilitator came towards me with the Alcoholic Anonymous big book and offered it to me. I have so many books waiting to be read I declined graciously. An older woman told me it’s for me, I should take it and read it. She was sober for fourteen years until nine days ago. I just have to read up to page 167. Her appearance made me reconsider and I took it as if I’d won a prize. I realized how amazing these meetings are to help people stay sober. The power of community is invaluable for so many different aspects of life! I promised myself to stay away from alcohol but could my human mind forget and eventually go back to drinking moderately?
My determination to break away from all neediness of the human body is strong. It’s important to stay close to my intention so I don’t fall back into the habitual traps. When we starve the body of it’s human desires, it seems anything is possible!