Ok, so it was more the people at the diner who saved my life. Any good recovering addict knows that in order to recover, it requires letting people into your life. This does not simply mean showing up to meetings and spewing out all the crap that has been bottled up inside you for many many years, it means really allowing another human being to connect to you. I told you about my first sponsor yesterday. She is the one who first suggested that I begin fellowshipping. What the heck is that?, the normies are asking themselves. No, no it’s not church-related. Fellowshipping simply means hanging out with the winners outside of meetings. You mean I have to socialize with these strangers in addition to the 60 minute organized timeslots everyday? Yes, in my humble opinion, it is imperative to fellowship.
A lot of people get help fairly quickly because they embarrass themselves in front of their friends or family or they end up getting arrested or ODing or something horrendous (hi, every celebrity addict). I was a devious one – only a few people knew that I used and none of those people saw me on a daily basis. My parents had no idea. My fantastic talent for lying, manipulating and hiding my problems kept me sick. As a middle-class college student athlete doing lines in the bathroom stall during German class every day, I was leading a double-life. Not surprisingly, I never managed to find any friends who really “got me” if you know what I’m sayin’. The friends that I did have, I lied to constantly. Sure, I drank boys under the table at college parties and eventually I found some drugged out mall employees to hang out with, but in the end I was alone in the small world of self-destruction known as my basement. And when I did choose to not be alone, I met some pretty shady people.
The bouncer I was
sleeping with using with at the end of my active addiction cut me off before I got clean. He had tattoos up and down both arms, his sister had killed herself a few years before and he didn’t keep booze in his house because he knew he would drink it. He was a part-time bartender though and somehow it was OK for him to drink while not at home. He also did a lot of blow. Even he recognized how incredibly screwed up I was when he was clearly fighting his own demons. He was a sad soul I had latched on to, determined to save him, when in fact I was the one who needed saving. We haven’t spoken since he cut me off. His memory still haunts me sometimes. I hope he’s in the rooms somewhere, getting the help that I got. Needless to say, before I came into the rooms even disastercases didn’t want to hang out with me.
I had gone from having no one to suddenly having a room full of people wanting to take me out for coffee. Desperate for help, I accepted the invite. The Villa was a local diner and the hostess knew our crowd well and had the smoking section reserved for us every night. Yes, you could smoke in restaurants back then. We took up about two or three booths and would sit there for hours drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and sometimes we would eat or play cards. I learned that eating french fries dipped in ranch dressing is quite possibly the best thing in the world.
In the beginning, certain people sat with me at The Villa every night for weeks, sometimes until 2am because I was too afraid to go home. As the clock struck 12 they would watch me say goodbye to another day clean and welcome in a new one. They made me laugh, they let me cry. They taught me how to to be honest with others and with myself. I cannot explain in words what it was like to have a 100% honest conversation for the first time after lying through my teeth to everyone I knew for 7 years. They beat me at Spaids and Uno. They called me on my bullshit. They were never surprised when I told them some of the horrible things I had done. For the first time in my life, people understood me and they liked me, the real me. It was earth shattering. More importantly, these people were successfully staying away from drugs and were going to teach me how to do the same. I will always be grateful for nights at The Villa.
Today my post-meeting diner visits are less frequent, but we do have a requisite AA diner on 9th avenue. I should probably go more often than I do, but I try to see my sober friends for coffee or dinner as much as I can. I should be making the same effort with newcomers. If you know someone who is new or struggling, take them out for coffee or some french fries with ranch dressing. You never know how much it will mean to them.
What’s your favorite diner?