That’s just one of the cute little condescending nicknames AA gives to people who’ve had the temerity to quit drinking in 11 steps or less. (I also like “White-Knuckle Drunk.” That’s me — I’m a white-knuckle everything.)
I don’t really mind. I’ve been to a few meetings — almost always with an anonymous friend who didn’t want to go alone — and even before I quit drinking, I knew this program did not have my name written all over it.
I’ve seen it work for a lot of other people and I give it its due respect. Hell, I’ve recommended to people that they should get their ass to a meeting, sometimes I’ve even gone with to make sure they went. But I was always pretty sure if I ever stopped drinking, AA wouldn’t play a big role. I didn’t even mind the reliance on a “higher power.” It may sound like they’re selling God, but as it was explained to me, your higher power could be a that chair over there, or a doorknob. Fair enough.
What drove me away was the thing that draws other people to it: The public confessional aspect. I tell you what, after sitting through a few meetings where everybody got a chance to tell their depressing tale of woe, I was done with other peoples’ problems. I knew right away that I was either not empathetic enough, or too empathetic, to take comfort in hearing endless variations on how these other people fucked up their lives. Here’s a hint: rhymes with “snooze.”
I already have a monkey on my back, thank you. Adding yours doesn’t actually lighten my load at all.
The one time I went for myself, it was after clocking a full year of sobriety. I heard they gave away chips on big anniversaries and I wanted something to show for my sobriety besides the new used car I could finally afford now that I wasn’t spending hundreds of dollars a month on hooch. So after work one day, I went with our office’s Program Nazi to the AA meeting around the corner. She promised me I wouldn’t have to speak.
Needless to say, I was the first one called on to speak after all the pro-forma business of starting the meeting was out of the way. My fault, I had just asked them for a chip five minutes earlier. Drew a big, red target right on my own forehead.
So I shoot my friend a dirty glare, and stand up and give them the no-frills-version rundown of my drinking career, including a few humorous anecdotes (all of them second-hand, since the funniest stuff always happened during blackouts) and the requisite assurance that my life was much better now. Got a few laughs in the right places, tears where I wanted them, and wrapped it up before people started looking at their watches and coughing.
Then I sat down and everybody else who was eager to, waited their turn to pour out their hearts, except nobody else stood up to speak and nobody else was looking to elicit laughs. It became clear to me pretty quick that the performance I had thought I’d nailed was in fact a complete and total botch. Where was the pathos? Where were the ruined lives and orphans left hungry while I sold my body for the next bottle of Thunderbird? Yeah, I totally screwed the pooch, guts-spilling-wise.
Anyhow, it wasn’t long after that meeting that my Program Nazi buddy informed me I wasn’t actually sober anyhow, because I still smoked weed. Tell it to my liver, I said. I would be considered sober if a doctor prescribed a 24/7 morphine drip with a 50-vicodin-a-day chaser... you can be as blasted out of your mind on prescribed drugs as you want and still be considered sober, but even the littlest bit of self-medication invalidates the whole goddamned thing.
Anyhow, that meeting was nine years ago. I still have my chip, but I’m not in any hurry to go back and get the 10-year version. I keep the one-year chip on my key chain still, right next to my AC/DC bottle opener to remind me of where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I’m definitely never headed back to again.
Here’s a hint: It rhymes with “Hey Hey!”