I’m Not Better.
Yesterday I ran an easy 4 miles at about a 10:18 pace and then went to my men’s meeting. Brian took the chair. Brian is a serial relapser who started coming into the rooms about the same time as me. He currently has five months sober. He’s in his mid 50s, and while extremely bright has some obvious (but to me unnameable) personality disorders. He likes to say shocking things – often racist ones – to stir people up. He then disavows any responsibility for the reactions by claiming jest. Typical troll behavior. But he’s getting better, and I have hopes that he’ll work on himself.
Brian talked about resilience in the case of relapse: going through it all again. I can’t speak to that, because since I first entered the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have been fortunate enough not to relapse. For a little more than eight and a half years, I’ve been sober. But I can’t take it for granted. I’m not better. I’m not cured.
For a few minutes Sunday, on the plane, out over the vast dark sea, I was genuinely afraid my plane was going down. I didn’t think it was a strong possibility, but it occurred to me that it was a real one. I thought I understood the pilots when they said that there was only a “back-up” oxygen failure. But I wasn’t sure. And the words “emergency descent” are never reassuring. And I’m a dramatic person who constantly fears the worst.
And so there I was, Seat 34C, sitting next to a sweet woman with Down’s Syndrome who didn’t seem even the slightest bit perturbed, tapping out a message to BB on my phone, figuring that if the message were needed, it would never be found. I found myself wondering if there’s time to hurt in a plane crash, or if it all just goes dark.
But we leveled off at 10,000 feet and then the pilot explained things more clearly, and we flew on to Canada, landing about four hours later at a small airport in Newfoundland. They opened up the cafeteria and the bar for us. Passengers swarmed. I managed to get a V8 and a roast beef sandwich. It wasn’t good, but I needed calories. Then we just waited until we had a new flight crew.
As I was eating my sandwich, someone walked by me holding a water glass full of whiskey. There had to be eight ounces of booze in it. I don’t know what the person who was carrying it looked like. They could be male, female, black, white, Asian. I never even saw them. But I saw that glass of liquor. It was poured just the way I like it: 80 proof and on the rocks. And lots of it. It kind of glowed.
I’m not better. I’m an alcoholic through and through. I have no ability to control my consumption of alcohol. If I were to “reward” that difficult experience with a drink, those eight ounces would just be the opening gambit. I’m grateful I don’t have to fight my way through a drunken haze just to get on and off a plane anymore. I’m liberated. But I’m not cured.