Alcohol, to me, is like The Spice from “Dune.” It feels like it can prolong life, heightens awareness, and lets me see into the future, metaphorically, and is also highly addictive. That’s how it feels, at least.
Admitting to myself that I had a possible addiction to alcohol was hard. It was easy for everyone except me to see. I would drink as soon as I could, go to bed drunk, wake up with a hangover, go to class, come back and drink and then repeat that cycle almost every day. Instead of doing my homework or trying to go out and talk to people, I would stay in my room and get drunk.
Noticing the desk in my apartment was so cluttered with empty beer cans and a few bottles of Colt 45s, I decided to clean up my act and decide to quit cold turkey.
It didn’t work and I fell back into the cycle the next day.
Still deciding to get my act together I instead decided to give Alcoholics Anonymous a shot. I went to the California University Wellness Center on Feb. 10 to ask about alcohol support and was redirected to a guidance office. The counselor there helped me find a few places to go to an AA meeting in the Monongahela Valley.
We found a meeting later that night at 6:30 p.m., but I got cold feet and ended up not going and got drunk instead. Then I got drunk again every other night that week.
I went home for the weekend because I had to work and my mom found a place where they hold AA meetings near my house. It was held at a local church and is held every Sunday. I went to my first meeting on Feb. 16. I was really nervous and wondered if I had to pray.
Going into it I expected the crowd to be downtrodden, burnt-out junkies who look like they hate themselves like something straight out of “The Wire” where Bubbles goes to Narcotics Anonymous, but to my surprise it was the exact opposite. Everybody there was laughing and joking around before the meeting started and the whole room sounded like a high school cafeteria.
I was by far the youngest person there because I was the only one who looked under the age of 35. I took a seat behind a guy with a ponytail and bandanna and the meeting began. It started off with a prayer that I couldn’t recite and then the man running the meeting, Scott, asked new members to introduce themselves. Two others and I introduced ourselves and everyone clapped for us. I can’t lie, it felt pretty good.
The whole group split into two - one for a standard AA meeting and another for the Big Book Reading, which I’m still not sure what that is. During the meeting, we went around the room and everyone told their stories about their struggles of alcoholism. Some were pretty standard in the sense they drank way too much. Other struggles were more personal, with some people in the meeting saying that their drinking brought them on the verge of poverty, while others’ marriages deteriorated because of it.
Toward the end of the meeting, the moderator asked if there was anyone who didn’t tell his or her story but wanted to. I hesitated for a moment before deciding screw it and raised my hand. I introduced myself the way people do in AA: “Hi, I’m Jake, and I’m an Alcoholic.” And everyone responded with “Hi, Jake.”
I gave them the abridged version of my story; I’m in college at my third school where I don’t know anyone, so most of the time I drink because I don’t have anything better to do, but it wasn’t ever too bad until around November. The only friend I had made up to that point and I had a huge falling out and are no longer on speaking terms, so after our argument I left my class early, drove to the local beer distributor, bought a bottle of Colt 45 and a 30 pack of Miller High Life, drove back to my apartment and downed the whole 40 ounces of the Colt 45 in about 15 minutes at 1 p.m.
I told them how that day I suffered an injury after drinking so much, but I couldn’t treat it or drive myself to the hospital because I was too drunk to do so, so I had to ask my roommate to take me. I told them how when I got the wound patched up and my roommate and I got back to our apartment, I went right back to drinking and almost every night since then, I’ve gotten drunk.
When the meeting was adjourned and I was on my way out the door, I was stopped by a man. He said his name was Scott. This Scott, who was not the moderator, but another Scott, was in his early 60s; he had hair that was slicked back into a ponytail and was white. He was wearing a Steelers jacket over a button-down shirt that was open one too many buttons, showing off a cross necklace. The story he told during the meeting was that he struggled with alcoholism at 22 as well, was issued a DUI, and skipped his court summons to drink at a bar because “my lawyers would represent me, that’s what I’m paying them for, to represent me.” When he got back from the bar that day, his mom told him that they issued a warrant for his arrest for missing his court date. After that he decided the path of sobriety and has been sober for more than 38 years at this point.
He called after me and shook my hand with a grip that could crush a bowling ball. I think he felt sorry for me because he was in a somewhat similar boat that I was, though I’ve never driven drunk myself. He went over to a table with some books on it and gave me a copy of “Alcoholics Anonymous-Big Book” by Bill W. After telling me that he hates the situation that alcoholics find themselves in, he gave me his phone number to call him if I ever got the urge to start drinking again or if I just needed someone to talk to. I thanked him sincerely for his kindness, shook his hand one more time, and left.
I feel a little bad, because when I went back to school later that day I got drunk again but accidentally left his number at my house. To be fair, sobriety isn’t going to happen overnight, but I did drink less in the few days after the initial meeting, and I am thinking about going to more. Baby steps. I do feel better, however, and I am slowly working on the path to sobriety.