I had been looking at AA meeting schedules online for more than a year. I would decide to go to a meeting in the morning and then chicken out when 4pm rolled around. “If I’m going to quit,” I’d think, “I want my last drink to be something spectacular.” So I would buy a crazy pricey bottle of wine and then just drink it all. Then I’d just drink the next day anyway. It was a pretty expensive pattern.
One Sunday night, I finally picked a meeting in Pasadena, the next town over. It was in a church, which, blegh. Still, I was gonna go anyway. But once I got there, I couldn’t tell where the meeting was. There seemed to be people all over that church, meetings of unknown nature in every room. I was too embarrassed to ask anyone. At some point, I found a meeting schedule posted, and it indicated that the meeting had actually started a half-hour before. That was my excuse. I would try again tomorrow. On my way out, a woman rushing in smiled and asked me if I knew where the 12-step meeting was. I just said “no, sorry” and kept on going.
I obviously drank that night. I drank with my partner, Andrew, and then I took my glass into the office where I had recently installed a comfy chair. I finished the bottle and probably more. I felt, as I had been feeling more frequently at that time, like someone was making me drink against my will. At some point in the evening, I started crying. But what was different than the other times I cried while drinking was that there was a mirror in front of me — the sliding closet door. I remember thinking, “help me,” although I’m a steadfast atheist. I could see how incredibly sad I looked, how broken, how destroyed. I felt crushing self-pity. I promised myself, actually mouthing the words to my reflection, that I would quit. That I would get help, that I would free myself. I promised my childhood self, I promised the person I had been. I remember mouthing the words, “It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.” Crying, but smiling gently at myself through my tears. Of course, I finished the bottle anyway.
The next evening, I tried again. I picked a meeting in Altadena, again a good 20 minute drive away from my neighborhood. This time, when I couldn’t tell where the meeting was, I asked an older man. He was going to NA, himself, but he pointed me in the right direction.
I walked in and sat down at the conference room table. There were about 12 people there. It was pretty depressing, actually. Someone reeked of booze. People looked sad, and like they were struggling. And oh, man, there was so much talk about God. I kept cringing. It was a participation meeting, which meant that I was asked to speak. I just identified myself — as an alcoholic, no less! — and said it was my first meeting. Other people spoke (mostly about God — ug). And at the end of the meeting an overly friendly woman pressed me for my phone number.
I hated that meeting, but walking out of there, I felt an incredible sense of freedom. Andrew and I went to dinner that night, and I had a single glass of wine (my last). I didn’t tell him where I had been. Ever thoughtful, he had brought me a bottle of wine on his way home from work, but I just tucked it in the cabinet, drank some tea, and went to bed.