The girl walks to the meeting in the rain with a cold wind at her back. The cigarette she tries to smoke keeps going out. She flicks her Bic in a few vain attempts before throwing the half-drenched cigarette in the gutter. She looks down and sees the puddles forming on the sidewalk. She adjusts her beanie and secures her hands in her coat pockets. Her cell phone vibrates and interrupts the music playing in her headphones. The girl takes it out of her purse and grimaces when the screen lights up with her AA sponsor’s name. She hits ignore. Her fingers fumble over the screen and she restarts her music. The girl is listening to The Clash.
She arrives to the meeting five minutes late and everybody is still introducing themselves. The room is full of familiar faces. She finds an open seat in the back and sits down. She watches and waits. It’s her turn now.
“Hi, I’m Taylor, and I’m an alcoholic,” she says.
“Hi Taylor!” everyone says with enthusiasm. She sits back down. The introductions finish and the room falls quiet. A woman is sitting at a table facing the crowd. “I have asked Bill to read the twelve steps,” she says. He stands up and begins to read aloud. The girl reaches into her purse and pulls out a journal and pencil. She opens the journal and starts sketching. Bill finishes and the woman says, “Our guest speaker today will have fifteen minutes to share his story followed by ten minutes for any questions you may have for him.”
The girl reaches into her purse and emerges with an eraser. She erases the sketch. She wipes the journal clean and starts over. Her cell phone vibrates and the girl reaches for it. It’s a text message from her friend sitting a few rows ahead. “This is boring,” it reads. The girl begins typing a reply message. “I’m so tired of these court ordered meetings,” it reads. She puts her cell phone away and continues with her sketching.
The girl lifts her head when she hears the guest speaker say, “I could see the blood on the ground and I couldn’t stop staring at it.” The girl focuses her attention on the man. “All I could think was that should have been my blood. That should have been me clinging to life. But it wasn’t me, it was my wife.” The man pauses. The girl notices his gray eyes and the deep wrinkles that surround them. “I lost my wife that night, the love of my life. That’s when I knew Jack Daniels had more power over me than I thought. The girl’s cell phone vibrates. It’s a text message from the same friend. “Can you believe this? This is so sad. It’s kind of like what happened to you, but luckily your boyfriend survived,” it reads. The girl turns her cell phone off and puts it in her purse along with her journal. She is listening to the man.
“I shouldn’t have driven that night. Not after I had been drinking. My wife insisted. But she was drunk. I should have known better.” The man pauses again and looks at the ground. He is standing up with his hands in his pockets. He looks up and says, “Don’t blow this guys. Pursue this sobriety with everything you have. This addiction will take everything from you. It wants you dead, but will settle on you being completely miserable. I wished I was dead for so long.”
The girl follows the man’s thin lips and hollow cheeks as he shares his story. When he finishes the woman in the front says, “Now does anyone have any questions?” The room is silent. The girl looks around to see the show of hands, but none show. “Nobody has any questions?” The girl raises her hand slowly.
“Yes?” says the man.
The girl forms her words carefully. “Last year, I injured somebody I care about while drinking and driving, but I don’t think I’m an alcoholic. Isn’t it okay to drink as long as I don’t drive?”
The man is silent for a moment and then says, “This program is about more than not drinking. It’s about living life in tune with something greater. It’s about forming healthy relationships with people and with yourself.” He pauses. His eyes are stern. His voice is forceful. “These twelve steps saved my life. They gave me power over the guilt and shame that I carried for many years. Drinking can lead to all sorts of bad decisions that will only cut you off from others and yourself. How much more are you willing to risk?”
The girl’s eyebrows shift downward and wrinkle her forehead. She looks at the old man and stays silent. Another hand rises. Another question is asked. The girl pulls out her journal and begins sketching. When the meeting is over the girl thanks the man for sharing his story and leaves without talking to anyone.
She steps outside and the rain has stopped. The wind has settled. She looks up and sees the sun peeking behind a cloud. She puts in her headphones and turns on her cell phone. She starts her music. She is listening to The Cure. She walks two blocks and reaches for her cell phone. She finds her sponsors name. She takes the headphones out of her ears and hits send.