The Relapse

“Dude, if you want to come by later I might invite these girls I know from Hempstead.  I have a place in Garden City now.” Rob said.

I listened and let the words marinate in my head until they were cooked perfectly into a guilt-free conviction that meeting up with those girls was in my best interest.  I’m young, I’m virile, I’m gonna have a good time, I’m done with this ascetic monk shit.  I wanna get laid.   I continued to feed my mind the sensible reasons that a 21 year old should get drunk, high, and use any tools at his disposal to have sex.

Before I drove over to Rob’s, I snuck into my dad’s cabinet and popped an Ambien, the sleep medication that has conflicting reports of everything from causing people to black out, to negating motor function completely, just what I’m looking for.

This story takes place in November of 2011.  I was 21 years old.  I had put together 8 months of sobriety and was an active member of AA.  I had celebrated my 21st birthday at my house, with a sober people-only party.  I was steadfast in my commitment, but my disease was just “doing pushups in the parking lot” waiting to strike at a weak moment, as they say in AA.  My alcoholism continued its progression even while I was sober and was”cunning, baffling and powerful” everyone would tell me. It would only be stronger after a few years of sobriety and you would pick up exactly where it left off.

Rob and I were friends from the the Cherry Hill meeting that on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday nights.  We would reminisce about drunken nights and strange bedfellows. I regularly flirted with the idea of “going out” as the meeting-goers called it.  As if drinking and discontinuing your meeting attendance, you were venturing out into a scary new frontier where dangerous predators lurked.  I heard stories of people “going out”: “He was dead within a month.”  “She never comes around anymore, probably too ashamed to own up to fact that she lied about being on “Marijuana maintenance” program for the last year.” (smoking only weed, while being off alcohol and all other drugs)

Don, the village elder of the meeting, sober for 40 years, at 88 years old said to me one day, “Kid, if you ever pick up a drink, never be afraid to pick up that phone and call me, any hour of the night. Too many people suffer from the shame of relapse, they try to do it alone and they never make it back.  Relapse is a part of sobriety.  You fall down and you get back up again, with the help of others.”

Rob and I and the rest of the rat pack of yo-yo AA-ers and college kids would stand in the courtyard of the church after each meeting amid the plumes of cigarette smoke.  Young people made up the majority of this meeting, and a large portion were attractive girls.  This is the reason I was such a dedicated meeting maker.  I listened to stories that older guys told me about the harmful fallout of “pigeon-fucking” and “13th-stepping”: older veterans of AA with many years of sobriety, preying on vulnerable girls with only a few months of sobriety that are still fragile and susceptible to seismic shifts in emotional state from the slightest romantic entanglement.

I didn’t judge these older guys that exploited the transient nature of addicts and the volatile nature of women in crisis that come in and out of the “rooms” like a revolving door.  I envied them.  They were able to navigate the insular and cultish nature of AA like sharks, the us-against-the-world attitude.  There are conflicting views about women in AA and who sober people choose to date.  These guys were able to capitalize on the fact that the newly sober girls, were unstable and looking for any kind of high.  What better drug is there than sex?  For some in AA, the people in AA, or “our own kind” are too crazy to date , and others in AA could only envision themselves with a sober alcoholic who shared their lifestyle.

I arrived at Rob’s and we cracked open an 18 pack of Bud light.  Beer, the friend that is always happy to see me.  We got progressively drunker.  I was taking a piss in the backyard and I felt this dreamy, surreal wave of clouds envelope my brain, almost like a marijuana high, but more disorienting.  I rode the wave gladly.

“So what’s the deal with these girls? Where do you know them from?” I said, eagerly, between large gulps.

“I know her from Hofstra, she was pretty slutty back then.  One of them is down to fuck. I don’t know about the other but I’m hoping she’s similar.” Rob said.

When the girls arrived, I was hovered over clouds like I had a jet pack and I was viewing them through a television.  I was detached from reality and viewing them from a new meta-physical dimension that my mind had traveled to. My heart jumped at the prospect of a girl in front of me, and then I slipped, imperceptibly, into a numb bliss.

I opened my eyes, sunlight shined through the basement window.  “What happened? Fuck.” I said.

“The girl tried talking to you, you were mumbling and talking nonsense. you passed out within five minutes of them getting here.” He said.

“Did you fuck the other one?” I asked.

“I fucked both of them.  These girls were down for anything, I told you.”

“Ughhh, fuck me!! You greedy bastard. You had a three-some, greattttt!!!” I smacked my head with my fist multiple times.

It was a familiar feeling of failing to straddle the sober-drunk line, preparing for some grand spectacle and then being incapacitated when the starting gun sounded. I could never weather the discomfort of being my sober self long enough to realize then that its better to be shy, and speak coherently, than drift off into black-out land.

I walked the walk of shame to my car, feeling the cumulative dread of 8 months sobriety going down the drain.

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