Back when I had the old blog, I used to do these little annual essays (like VII, and VI: My Name is Lester Burnham,and V (good God that year sucked), and IV: Quadrophenia, and III, and JournalCon, and Coming Out of the Closet). They were fun. They usually got me thinking about things, reminiscing in a way that you can’t really do in a meeting. And they’re fascinating when I go back and read them. I was so wide-eyed and innocent. Man, I was a shitty writer sometimes.
And I had plans. Lots of plans. You can see me trying to talk humble at the same time I’m talking about “I’m gonna do this” and “I’m gonna do that”.
They say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Thing is, God is going to laugh at you either way, plans or no plans.
I started drinking in October of 1979. I drank for exactly 24 years. So there’s one milestone this year, in that I turned 48 and so I’ve been sober for more than half my life. So there’s that.
But there’s this other milestone. This number, this nine, it’s special to me. Nine, as Douglas Hofstadter once described, is like three operating upon itself, like a canon, a fugue, and three is the most literary of numbers, escalation of tension by threes, the three act structure. Nine is a magic number squared, so, like, exponentially more magical.
Exactly nine years ago to this very moment, I was having my last drink (a pint of Tito’s vodka, with some pink lemonade for color) and telling my future ex-wife about the things that happened to me as a kid, things I have not written about in any great detail yet, and telling her that I was planning to start AA. That I’d had enough. I couldn’t do this any more. I felt possessed when I drank, and I felt like I was dying when I was hungover, and I felt like I was going mad from the voices when I was sober and I didn’t know what AA had but if they didn’t have an answer I was fucked.
My first meeting, I just chose one off the Intergroup website. Close to my house. Not in a church, because goddamn if somebody pushed some Jesus on me I would be out the door like that.
Turns out it was a rehab meeting. Some very hard hard cases in there. A lot of repeat relapsers. People talked about living spiritually, they talked about these promises, they waved around this blue book like it was a Bible. I thought they were freaks.
But there was a guy there. I can still see his face. Short guy, white hair, balding a little. He was pretty quiet, very calm, but when he talked, he made sense. And he talked about being sober for nine years.
I could not believe nine years. I thought, no way. I can’t do that. I couldn’t even imagine nine years not drinking. My oldest kid was nine, ferchrissakes. That long.
And judging from all the people next to me picking up their third, fourth, fifth 24 hour chip, not a lot of other people could make it that far. It seemed like AA was full of a bunch of people who stayed sober for a month and then drank again.
I think about that guy all the time.
I’ve been waiting a long time to write this year’s post. I’ve been waiting years. And now that the day is here, I really don’t have a whole lot to say about it.
Nine. It’s just another year. Today was just another day. Tomorrow will be just another day.
(And happy birthday, Professor. Miss you tons.)