(Bill Wilson, AA’s co-founder was born November 26, 1895 . I’m reposting this in his memory. Forever grateful, friend!)
That’s what I say most Sundays. I say it in a church basement, as my turn comes up to identify myself to the group of alcoholics gathered there to “share our experience, strength and hope” with one another.
It’s an act of trust and of humility. But more than anything, though, is an act of self-acceptance.
When my father died at the age of forty seven in a car accident in 1979, the impact of that tragedy affected me more than I understood, or was able to accept, at the time. It happened while on a return trip to Cuba, a decade after we had gone into exile. Suddenly a joyful event turned dark, it’s devastating shadow following me back to the States where I would only deal with it in the only way I found worked: I self-medicated, using drugs and alcohol, for the next few years to ease the pain and also to cope with a life that suddenly had stopped making sense.
There are many men and women that lose a loved one in an equally arbitrary and horrific way. Some in even worse conditions. Most of these folks learn to live with the pain and can carry on with their lives without resorting to the method I used. I reacted that way simply because I am an alcoholic, and as my late sponsor used to say “alcoholics drink.” I had used alcohol before to numb the pain, to celebrate an occasion — sometimes a very trivial one — or to cope with uncomfortable situations. I was mostly unaware that this was going on. But I certainly developed a relationship with booze from an early (and awkward) age that served and protected me. Continue reading
The interior of the corridor felt familiar. I knew my way around the darkness. I held my breadth listening for any signs of the music that I had heard before but the silence was as complete as the lack of light.
The threads and risers of an ascending stair were on the right side of the space. I walked past it, letting my fingers caress the walls until my hands came upon a door handle. This was the door to the basement. I remembered it locked from a previous visit. I pushed lightly and the hinges groaned as the door opened. Another set of steps started right underneath the door, these going down to the basement level. The steps were illuminated by the reddish glow of a lighting fixture from below, similar to the type used in dark rooms.
I unscrewed the bottle of rum and took a drink. I held on to the door handle as I took a first step down. The wooden thread creaked and I waited until I could verify that no one was aware of my presence. The silence reassured me. I walked down, holding on to the railing with one hand and to the bottle of rum with the other. They both held me up as I went down. I lowered my head to avoid hitting the red plastic illuminated exit sign at the bottom of the stair. Pass the metal shelving and pass the meters, I sat on the floor. Near me, I could hear the flames heating the water inside the tank, their amber glow reflecting off the concrete floor. I stretched my legs and rested my back against the bluestone foundation wall. I closed my eyes, holding the bottle with both hands.
I felt a pressure against my buttock as if I was sitting on a pebble. I felt in the dark, dusting my bottom. I felt inside my back pocket and pulled out my daughter’s sailboat. I brought it close to my eyes to make sure. Bathed in the reddish glow of the exit sign I saw it, its silhouette reminding me of the sailboats returning home against the fiery sunsets of Punta de Carta and I was just a child that loved looking at sailboats in the sunset.
The mast was broken. I had cracked it when I sat on it. I could glue it in the morning, make it sea-worthy again. Bathtub-worthy. I held the bottle against the setting sun. It was half empty. I had enough. Then the bottle slipped out of my fingers and it smashed against the concrete floor, scattering the shattered glass between my legs. I felt the wetness of the rum soak through my pants.
I began banging my head against the stone wall, holding on to my daughter’s sailboat. Then came the sobbing and then the desire to lick the floor.
I could get most of it before it was sucked into the concrete slab. If only there weren’t so many pieces of broken glass…
An excerpt from a work in progress.