Personalities Before Principles

The meeting was almost over when I pulled into the clubhouse parking lot. I stopped, turned off the engine and stayed in my Mescalade.  

I watched as the first trickle of folks left the building. Then, I got out of my vehicle and made a bee line to the coffee urn.

He was still seated at the end of the table closest to the refreshment counter. Surrounded by more than a few newcomers, he was gregarious and generous with his opinions.

He offered his hand, the one covered with a black medical brace. I shook it and said, “Good to see ya.”

I poured a cup, grabbed a box of popcorn, walked out the door and took a seat on the front porch. 

I placed my coffee and popcorn on the railing next to me. Then I pulled my phone from my pocket. 

I was scrolling through my messages when he walked past me. He tapped the deck with his cane. 

When I looked up at him, he said, “You’re strange.” 

When my eyes went back to the screen, he repeated, “You’re strange. You walk in late. You’ve always got your nose deep into that phone. I can’t figure you out. Can’t figure you out.”

I shrugged and said, “It’s not your job.”

“My job?”

“To figure me out. Not your job.”

“But why?”

“Why not?”

He shook his head and scuffled through the gravel to his car. 

I was responding to an e-mail when he shouted, “Why are you wasting your life on that goddamn phone?”

I shouted back, “Man, go home and take your medicine. You’ll feel better.”

“You judging me coz I’m using medical marijuana?”

“I don’t care about marijuana.”

“It’s pain management. It works for me.”

“And my phone works for me. The same fuckin’ way. It’s my medicine. My pain management.”

His final words before he crawled into his car were, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

I stared at my phone another five minutes. 

I stood and walked into the clubhouse for another cup of coffee. 

When I returned to the porch, he and his car were gone.

 

My Headache

My skull was pounding earlier. The pain in the temple pulsing straight to my gut. It got so bad I thought I was going to have pull over and loose last night’s spaghetti.

Instead, I opened the window and took a deep breath. Everything started to settle after that. 

I bought breakfast. Picked up my grandson and took him to school. Then, I went to the meeting.

The topic was character defects and their removal. That’s when I thought, ” I could have a field day writing about this in my reflections journal.” 

Then I thought, “But I’d have to do my research. Cut and paste quotes to my liking. Become a hyperbolic, curmodgeonly parody of my worst self.”

Nah.

I was worn out just listening to other people work their program.

I figured good ole not drinking complacency was enough for me this particular day at a time.

Still, as I left the meeting room, I felt like something was missing. 

And it took another fifteen minutes for me to figure out what I had left in the Alano Clubhouse, on the vacant seat next to me…

That’s A Lotta One Day At A Times 

I saw him three months ago and I thought, “No way he’s gonna make it back.”

The only guy I knew who looked worse than my buddy was my brother just before he died. 

But, here he was, my sad, sick amigo. At the salad bar. Taking nourishment. 

“Off of everything ‘cept suboxone,” he said. “The doctor’s makin’ me take it.”

He looked good. Thin but not ravaged. There was color to his face and, when he spoke, his words were clear and quick. He looked and sounded like he did when he was clean.

We finished lunch and met up again at the clubhouse. We sat in on the meeting.

I had to leave early but, before I did, I shook his hand and said, “see you soon.”

When I was walking to my car, a mutial friend stopped me and said, “It’s so good to see him here.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Is he still on that suboxone crap?”

“I don’t know.”

“And, his poor mother, spent a fortune on him. Such an enabler.”

“Yeah, thank God.”

“Thank God?”

“Thank God she’s such an enabler. Forty years he’s been tryin to get or stay clean. And, he had twelve years once. Ten years another time. You wouldn’t have him around to talk about if she hadn’t been willing to go into hock to save her boy one more time.”

“I didn’t mean any…”

“I know. I know. He’s still in the meeting. Go hug his neck before he gets away.”

I got into my car and drove to a gas station. I handed the clerk a twenty and said, “Ten bucks on nine.”

I was pumping fuel into my car when this thought spit from my brain, “Forty years. Forty fuckin’ years.”