It was 1996, and I wasn’t sober yet. I was living in some really crappy apartment in Chatsworth, California with yet another crazy roommate. Our next door neighbor was a lovely couple–Eve, who worked nights at The Candy Cat (the neighborhood strip club) and her ginormous boyfriend Adam (I’m not even kidding about his name), who worked the door. Our drug dealer lived downstairs and also happened to be my roommate’s ‘sometimes’ boyfriend. I was still slinging drinks in a bar at the time (this was before I was asked to resign my position due to some very nefarious behavior with your credit cards) so as you can imagine, we were one big happy dysfunctional family that hopped from place to place making a career out of staying loaded.
By this time in my life, I had almost none of the friends of my former worlds. I had no relationship left with family of any kind. No one wanted to be around me. It hurt too much. But there was one old friend mine, Marcy, who worked at the bar with me. She kept hangin on–hoping I guess for my redemption. There’s always one isn’t there? One person who refuses to stop believing in our goodness, even when everything we do, everything we say, everything that’s happening provides evidence to the contrary.
I feel so sorry for that person.
I hated Marcy by this time. Though we had once been close friends, the sight of her at this point in my life made my skin crawl. She was tall and thin. She had beautiful long hair and a wide open smile. She drove a brand new Toyota Forerunner and came from a great family. She had two golden retrievers that used to lay by her front door. She was (successfully) enrolled in college. And Marcy was going to ‘be something.’ Every time I saw her, every time she asked me if I was ok, I would cringe inside.
It was like looking in a mirror. It was everything that I wasn’t (and wasn’t ever going to be) staring me in the face. Long story short, we were all at work one night, drinking. We decided to move the party to another location. The crew (who shall remain nameless) consisted of about 7 people in 3 cars. Marcy–who was just kind of tinkering on the outside of this upwardly mobile social circle–was driving alone in 2nd car. We pulled out of the parking lot and just down Topenga Blvd., one of our friends slammed into the back of Marcy’s car and sent it spinning across an intersection into oncoming traffic. She was severely injured. The girl who hit her was arrested (and later convicted) on felony DUI charges, and she went away for about 4 years. But that night (it was actually very early the next morning), this group of hoodlum addicts and alcoholics, rushed to the jail to make sure that our friend made bail. How do you like that? We all went to the jail. No one went to the hospital.
It was a slow downward spiral from there, for me. The self-hate I felt was so severe that I started actively wanting to die. It’s when I took to dying my long stringy hair black. The overalls came out. I stayed loaded from my first waking breath until I could pass out. I lived in the permanent dark world of dingy strip clubs, dive bars. I picked through the carpet for cocaine. I kept the blinds closed, the curtains drawn. There was no laundry happening. No grocery shopping. No calling friends. We got evicted from that apartment. I lost my car. And I hurt a lot more people during this time. If I saw something beautiful, I wanted to destroy it. Can you relate? That includes anything good that might have been left inside me.
I often think of Bill’s story when I think about this time in my life. Because it was the summer of 1996. “The mind and body are marvelous mechanisms, for mine endured this agony two more years.” I wouldn’t draw a sober breath until July of 1998.
We come here with a lot of reasons to hate ourselves. Of all the resentments we may carry, of all the things that are worth writing down and sharing with another immediately, the way we feel about the things we’ve done is the most important thing we can look at. Until we can begin to make peace with the person that we were, there can be no lasting sobriety. Until we can allow the gentleness of healing to begin to take place in us, there is no reason to believe that ‘acting right’ is of any value at all. How does making my bed fix the fact that this sweet harmless girl got in the middle of a line of drunk drivers and lost a couple of years of her life to having to recover from injuries?
I don’t have an answer to that. Or to how, one day at a time I have been able to live in such a way that I am no longer driven to drink by the ghosts that used to haunt me. It is something that happens, perhaps as an outward sign of God’s (or whatever you want to call God) grace for us. Make the metaphorical bed. Write the inventory. Take your seat in the meeting. Carry the message. Clean up the wreckage of your past. Clean up the wreckage of the present moment when and where you can–that means TRY TO MAKE IT BETTER. And don’t ever forget where you came from.