A Year Ago Today.
One year ago today, I woke up in the last hotel room in West Virginia. It was bitter cold. I had nearly slept in the car. After fourteen hours driving, I’d hoped to settle in for the night at something La Quinta or better. I ended up in a no-name driveby motel that looked like it would have been willing to rent rooms by the hour. I was glad to get it. Every hotel for a hundred miles had been booked solid. Construction crews and electrical riggers heading northeast to dig the megalopolis out of a storm not unlike the one that hit last night. The entire eastern seaboard, then as now, was lacquered with brittle ice.
The day before I had left St. Louis. I haven’t been back. My things had been packed into a huge truck and shipped east. I was racing the truck to my new home in East Coast City. It wasn’t much of a contest. It took me two days. The truck took a week. In my car I’d brought a few changes of clothes, a mattress pad and comforter, a portable radio. I would sleep on the floor. It was an amazing adventure and terrifying. Looking back, I was in a daze the whole time. I barely knew what was going on or how I actually did all the things I did.
It was still a little more than a month until I would begin my job at Major East Coast Medical Center. I wanted to have time off. Rare, for an American, to get a month off ever during one’s working life. I needed to learn my new city. I needed time to establish ties to the AA community. I knew that I would be lonely and frightened and lost. I was. Immediately.
A year ago today I looked up an AA meeting in the early afternoon. It was in a small community center in ECC’s bustling gay district. I went in and sat down. I felt nervous and ashamed, but I didn’t really know why. After starting the meeting, the chairperson asked if there were any anniversaries “this week”. It was a Wednesday. My anniversary is the 16th. In New York, people announce their anniversaries ahead of time. In St. Louis, we don’t. I didn’t know what they did here. I raised my hand.
I said, “Well, in St. Louis, we wouldn’t do this, but I don’t know how you do it here. On the 16th, I’ll have 5 years.” A woman sitting next to me looked at me like I had just done something unspeakably disgusting. “We don’t do that here, either,” she said, wrinkling her nose as if I smelled bad. The chair said, “Why don’t we celebrate that after it happens?” I slunk down and tried to melt into my folding metal chair.
After the reading and discussion, when it was time, I raised my hand to speak.
“Hi. I’m [Dr24hours] and I’m an alcoholic. I have lived in [ECC] for about 4 hours, and I’ve already fucked it up by doing the wrong thing at a meeting. I feel like now, everyone in AA in this whole damn city already thinks I’m an asshole. I’m excited to be here, because I’m starting a great new job. But I’m lonely, and I’m scared. You guys do AA different. Thanks.” I cried angry, embarrassed tears. I never went back to that meeting.
I wandered around the city until dark. and then went back to the big glass building I’d rented an apartment in. I sat down in the empty space. I propped myself up against the wall and stared into the world on the other side of my phone for a long time. I felt like I was making a mistake. A dreadful, horrible blunder in my life. I was lonely. And scared.
It wasn’t a mistake. I’ve flourished here in ways I can’t begin to do justice to. The intervening year from that day to this has been near-constant rising tide of wonderful, exciting developments that I do not begin to deserve. Professional success. The strange ensnaring tumult of new love. A new home. A new life. It’s been a good year.