Back in the ’80’s, even though I wasn’t drinking, my mom said I should attend AA meetings. Both my grandfathers were alcoholics and my father was also. My mom told me I was displaying personality traits of an alcoholic. And that I should attend AA, and/or Adult Children of Alcoholics.
I didn’t know that my grandfather on my dad’s side was an alcoholic. I never saw him drink, and I never saw him drunk. Turns out he was a bit of a binge drinker. He’d go a year without touching a drop, then slip into a 3-month binge.
I was always aware of my mom’s dad’s problem. Every holiday that we’d spend with him, he’d start drinking before we got there, and by the time we’d get ready to leave he’d be slumped in his chair, almost asleep. My grandfather had a pretty shitty upbringing from an alcoholic, who beat him and told him he was unwanted. So, unfortunately, the alcoholic gene (if that truly exists) was passed on. And then later my uncle Rick battled substance abuse issues. Remember the old days when dad’s just passed on the family business?
I told you all that to tell you this, I called one of my dad’s old work buddies who was now a counselor at an AA meeting and a “recovering” alcoholic. My dad’s friend, Ed, is a really good guy. Of all my dad’s friends he was the best. He was a trash collector in the ’70’s and he would always bring us comic books or Mad Magazines that he’d find on his route. Cool stuff.
So I call Ed, and he invites me to come to a meeting. The meeting is located at a Korean Church in Northridge. I drive out on a Wednesday night. When I get there Ed pulls me aside and tells me that due to low attendance, they combined the AA meeting with the Adult Children of Alcoholics, and the sex addiction meeting. That was definitely a big WTF.
The meeting starts with everyone going around the room introducing themselves, and stating their “problem.” It gets to be my turn, and I say my name, and say that I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. And everyone sits there looking at me, like I am in denial. I say I don’t drink. And at that point I hadn’t so much as had a beer in a year. No one believed me. I guess everyone comes through and says I am here because someone else thinks I should be.
Finally, we moved on. The first person to talk was some woman who was about 25 or so. She talked about fighting her nymphomania. She said that the mailman came to deliver something the week before, and how it took all of her willpower to keep her from pulling him into her house. Sad to say, she had my attention. She went on about looking him up and down, and how it had been a week since she had sex. Hell yeah!! When she was done the head counselor stated again that dating or “relationships” in the group were grounds for being kicked out. I know he wasn’t, but it felt like he was looking at me.
The next person to speak was an older guy, late 50’s, with glasses. The kind of guy that looks like a computer tech. I remember looking at him, thinking he looks like a child molester. Then he starts talking about a court case that forbids him from seeing his daughter, and hopefully she will forgive him one day. I remember looking at him, and wanting to stomp the shit out of him. I can’t understand anyone messing with kids, especially their own flesh and blood.
So I stayed for the whole hour or so meeting, and as it starts to wrap up one of the guys in the meeting calls me over to the side and says “a lot of the newcomers aren’t comfortable talking about their problems, so a bunch of us are going to meet at the coffee shop up the street for donuts, and coffee. It will be easier to talk over there. Come on and join us.” I just stared for a minute, and then said “Yeah, I’ll meet you there.” Then drove on home.
I attended three or four more of these meetings, sat drinking coffee like Ed Norton in Fight Club. Then got tied up with different things and missed a month.
So, four or five weeks later I show up at the church. I walk in with a cup of coffee from Winchell’s. And everybody in the place freezes. Two Korean guys walk briskly towards me. I’m not nervous, because I know I didn’t do anything wrong, but their quick walking has me on alert.
One guy starts talking very quickly, “You go, this is for Koreans only. You go.” The other guy smiles and puts his hand on my elbow, and starts guiding me to the door. Through all of this I’m saying I’m here for the AA meeting. But the guy keeps saying, “You go, this is for Koreans only. You go.” To which I say, “AA, you know the crazy people?”
Next thing I know I’m back at my car, with my cup of Joe, and the guy is walking away still babbling, “This is for Koreans only.”
I drive back home and my mom says “what are you doing here?” I said the meeting isn’t there anymore. To which she replied “You intentionally went on the wrong night so you didn’t have to go.”
WTF. After that I didn’t go anymore. There were periods of time where I drank more than others, but my own personal paranoia about my alcoholic bloodline kept me from ever seriously taking the plunge.
But in all seriousness, if you have an issue with substance abuse or know someone who does (don’t we all), don’t wait until it’s too late. I’ve lost too many people this way, and one is too many.
– Last One To Die, 2011