I cleaned up what little there was to clean up after the meeting that never happened. It’s Independence Day, I told myself. Of course there was no one here.
“There was no one here, Ahab,” He commented from chair in the corner. “Not a one. That’s pretty pathetic.”
I went into the kitchen and dumped the two full pots of coffee, one regular made just the way I like it (a little extra on top of the customary one scoop. I like my coffee strong. And my coffee, my rules), and one decaf. I went in to the other meeting room and double-checked the doors (locked) and the closets (nobody sleeping in them. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard it’s happened). Turning the lights off again, I passed through the kitchen, turned the light off, then walked back in to the main meeting room. He was still sitting in a chair in the corner, His feet propped up on the table and His arms crossed behind his head.
“Wonder how many of your regulars went back out tonight, it being the Fourth and all,” He mused.
He was right of course. I have heard it said in the Program, always by newcomers of course, that they just couldn’t resist drinking at least a little on St. Patrick’s/Christmas/New Year’s/Memorial/Flag/Boxing Day. I mean it’s a holiday for God’s sake, they say. As if there is some written rule somewhere that on holidays, the rules and guidelines of AA don’t apply, at least to them. This kind of thinking causes me to have a truly Zen moment of anger and frustration at the disease yet compassion and sympathy for the diseased.
But no one? Of my group of hardcore AA friends, none of the ten showed. Some have immediate families, but some did not. I told myself that it was only because I agreed to chair the meeting (it was Maren’s turn) that even I showed up.
“Come now,” He said. Condescension was His favorite tone and the one He’s the best at. “It’s because you have nothing better to do and you know it,” He sneered and pulled from his flask. “And I guarantee you, at least 2 or 3 of your new little friends came running back to the bottle.”
“Once again, you just don’t get it,” I said as I gathered my open Big Book, my suckers and my keys. “I suppose it’s possible that some people went back because of today, but I don’t think …”
“Oh course they did,” He said. “And the best part is they’ll be so ashamed of themselves that they won’t come back.”
“Not true,” I said. “We don’t shoot our wounded. Cindy came back, didn’t she?”
“Yep. And then she went back out. Again. Didn’t she?”
This was also true. The primary motivation for not coming back is shame. And the primary motivation for coming back is courage. To face your friends who are still sober? A little. To face yourself and admit that you need the Program. You better believe it.
“And the first time she used again? What was her motivation?” I asked.
“Because no one showed up at a scheduled meeting,” He said and bowed His head for moment.
“That’s correct,” I said. “And I’m not going to be the guy who has to sleep at night knowing somebody showed up at the meeting I chair and got frustrated enough that they went back out because there was no one there.”
“Jesus just admit it,” He said as He got to His feet and walked around to me. ”It’s Independence Day and you want to be out there at a ballgame or a fireworks show or just hanging out in somebody’s backyard like a normal person.” He got to me and poked me in the sternum. Hard. “I mean good Christ. You’re an Irishman for God’s sake. Just own up to the fact that an Irishman who doesn’t drink is like a fish who doesn’t swim. What are you going to do?”
“I guess I’ll follow Darwin’s theories and be the first fish that grew legs and walked out of the water,” I said. “I’ll adjust.”
I went back to the spot where I sit as the chairman and gathered my suckers, keys and Big Book. As I did, a car pulled into the parking space right outside the door. Larry and Brad got out. Larry’s been sober for 30 years next week. He calls himself a “man of hope.” Brad was sober for a long time, but didn’t realize that he couldn’t stay sober without the Program. I walked outside and met them as He looked on. I walked back inside, went into the kitchen and started another pot of my special coffee.
“What the hell are you doing?” I heard Him ask.
“Gonna be a meeting after all,” I yelled back. “And the boys want coffee.”