This is not the first blog of 2014 I had in mind, but it’s the one which is on my heart and which I need to write. Notice the title is not “The Date I Blacked Out”…that’s important to differentiate. I’ve been joking on Facebook that I was going to write a book about my less than stellar dates as of late; such will thankfully not come to fruition, though this one popped into my head yesterday morning on my way home from work after a few months of me literally blocking it from my memory. And for good reason.
I met this lawyer on Okcupid.com in the late summer who wasn’t much older than me…38, perhaps. He was very articulate and put-together, both in his online profile and the e-mails we exchanged. The subject of neither of us drinking was soon broached, and it turns out both of us were active in AA. He asked me out to coffee and to attend his “home group” with him–his AA meeting of choice. I was flattered because to me this was (and still is) a very personal thing. It’s almost like being invited to meet one’s family. The meeting was on a Saturday night, and even though I had to work that night, I prepared myself since he’d asked me several days beforehand. He had also let me know that his home group was a gay AA meeting, which I was incredibly apprehensive about. Not so much because of who was going to be there, but because in my mind I felt I needed to be dressed to the nines. (I still don’t know where this shallow assumption came from.) Anyway, the Starbucks we’d picked out to meet at near both our suburban homes turned out to be inside a grocery store, to both our surprises. So we wandered around the grocery store making small talk, all the time which I spent whole-heartedly trying to brush off the fact that he was easily 50 pounds heavier than in his online profile pictures. After all, even though this was a date of sorts, we were both trying to better ourselves by going to the meeting, and I didn’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill. He had also come directly from working out, so he was in gym shorts and a cut-off T-shirt and I was in…not that. A summery date outfit contrasting with his working out clothes is what I was wearing.
He began driving us into downtown Vegas for the meeting, and as we began talking, I could tell our philosophies on sobriety were a bit different. He shared about how much he’d been drunk in law school, and I shared the same about finishing up college. But the similarities ended there; he was (still is, I assume) hardcore Buddhist. Nothing at all wrong with that; I think he’d even mentioned it in his online profile. I listened intently as he shared his story of interacting with monks and receiving great wisdom from them over the last three years or so. Then he asked me about my own sobriety experience. I admitted my stops and starts, my relapses and come-to-Jesus moments, and as we passed the lights of the Strip–and I’ll never forget this now that I’ve unblocked it from my memory–I told him about taking Topamax, and how it was keeping me sober. I explained some of the side effects, which were still quite prevalent then, and he said, “So basically you’re taking an amphetamine.” My heart pounded and I was at a loss for words. Jokingly, I muttered, “Yeah, I guess so, but it keeps me from drinking.” He muttered a curt “Hmmm” in response, and there was mostly silence until we arrived to the meeting. I still don’t know why I didn’t defend myself or the medicine, but I didn’t.
Before I share how abysmal the meeting was, I do want to share that we had a heart-to-heart of sorts before we went into the meeting. He asked me what else was going on in my life after he parked the car, and I began crying and shared about Bob and all that was happening on that front. It was awkward, but he assured me things would get better and I needed to take care of myself first and foremost. I recall being very grateful for that interaction. We headed into the meeting, which was held in a very decrepit, empty, open-air shopping centre on the second-level. As we walked up the stairs, a lady with an oxygen tank was hobbling up the steep stairs and he greeted her like they were old friends. Once we arrived in the dimly lit meeting room, very 60s, hanging lantern lights greeted me from the popcorn ceiling. I’ll be honest–those were my favourite part of the room. He leaned over to me and whispered, “We just renovated the meeting room…what do you think?” To say I thought he was pulling my leg was an understatement. I asked where the restroom was and he led me to a shelf where a huge, heavy chain-link hung with a key attached. He said, “This way,” and led me outside and showed me down the second level balcony of the shopping centre to the locked bathrooms four or five doors down. When I finally unlocked the restroom, the burnt orange tile was clearly from the early 70s. I felt like I was in the ‘Twilight Zone’.
Once I arrived back to the meeting room, the meeting had started. I returned the prison-like bathroom key to the shelf and took my seat next to ______. Our knees touched under the table and for a split second I wanted to hold his hand…it honestly felt like a date. (I realize now that sounds bizarre to say, but it did.) At some point in the meeting they began handing out anniversary tokens. The lady with the oxygen tank had 20-something years of sobriety. I kid you not–and bless her tired heart–after she got up to get her token, she took out a pillow and rested her head on it for the rest of the meeting. I couldn’t help but think about what a long life she’d lived. Another guy at our same table had 16 years. I was able to congratulate him after the meeting and he responded with the old AA adage, “One day at a time.” Another guy came into the meeting well after it had started; the speaker was already speaking, which is equivalent to sermon time in church. As he mosied up to the very front row with his female companion, my date whispered, “That’s ____, and even though he claims to be sober 30+ years, I always smell liquor on his breath.” I asked if ____ was married to his female companion and my date didn’t know. Once we got back out to his car after the meeting, my date confided that it bugged him every time _____ got up to talk about his long-term sobriety or to receive an anniversary chip. I kept my mouth shut. What I really wanted to say was, “What a crock of crap. Someone should call him out. Pun intended.”
There’s some more stuff I could share about the meeting, but it’s regarding what the speaker said and it’s pretty personal. I will say that as dreary as the meeting was, I needed to hear what the speaker had to say. That’s the main reason God wanted me there that night. The meeting ran over about 20 minutes, the money basket was passed twice (big quotes) “because we haven’t gotten what we need to pay our dues this week” (something I’d never heard in AA). It was a learning experience…the meeting, the date, all of it. I would not go to the meeting again–not my cup of tea. I would not see the lawyer again–he may or may not think I’m an amphetamine junkie. But it all happened for a reason, which was incredibly hard for me to accept at the time. I want to share this card I’ve been keeping in my wallet the last few months and then I’ll end.
“Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”
I also want to say a quick thank-you for an incredibly rewarding 2013 on SouthernAristocracy.org…more views and clicks than I ever imagined possible, and I appreciate each and every one of them. Even if they are inexplicably for the ‘Head of the Class’ blog, which must just be to see the cast photo. (I’m definitely not complaining; it’s just an unremarkable blog otherwise!)
Warm wishes to everyone during this record-breaking chilly weather,