“There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.”
- Pink Floyd
“Cute title,” He said and lit a cigarette. He was leaning against what would become the patio door of the house, still under construction. “Lemme guess, you heard it in a song and you just knew you could use it for that book you’re writing, right? Dumb ass. At the rate you are going you’ll still be ‘working on it’ when you are on your death bed.”
I craned my neck to look and make sure the sheet metal pipe was secure, then got down off the ladder to work on the next piece. “You’re right about the first part anyway. I heard it the other day, in a song I’d heard a thousand times before. But this time, well, it had a meaning it’s never had before.” I turned to look directly at Him. He snorted, then unzipped the top of a thermal lunch box He had slung over His shoulder. He pulled a half-pint of Jim Beam from it, unscrewed the top and pulled on it. Screwing the top back on, He stared right back and shot me that horrible, snaggle-tooth grin. “I figured since we’re on the work site and it’s cold, a little hair of the dog, nothing more. And, I know you’ve been thinking about tippling a little yourself.” He danced His fingertips over His lips with a flare of sickening mischief and grinned on. “What happened at work this morning must have been quite jarring.”
“It was nothing,” I said and dropped my head to the floor, pretending to look for one of my tools.
“Oh, come now,” He said and squared up on me. “You heard your supervisor say ‘Is dumb-dumb coming in this morning” and then your heard his boss say “Andrew? I don’t know’ and you immediately thought they were talking about you because, well, why wouldn’t they be?”
“There’s another Andrew that works there and besides, everybody calls me A.J. or Andy,” I said and climbed the ladder facing away from Him.
“Tell yourself whatever you want. Fact is, you know from talking to people that it’s pretty hard to get fired there so they’ll put up with you. But let’s face it, you suck at this too,” He said and slid down the wall with His back and slumped on the floor. He pulled the bottle out, polished it off, and chucked it against the grey brick wall where it shattered.
“You’ll take care of that right?” He asked in His best mockingly polite voice.
In the rooms of AA, it’s commonly referred to as “stinkin thinkin.” It’s the mindset that comes after the feeling of dread and impending doom that saturates the brain of the newly recovering alcoholic who is so disappointed and/or disgusted with themselves that, all too frequently, they “go back out” to drinking and drugging. It’s one of the oldest, albeit effective, tricks in His book.
“So what if they think I’m dumb? I’m starting school again in a few weeks so I won’t be dumb anymore. More importantly, everybody I’ve talked to says it’s take a while for anybody to ‘get it.’ Some of the leads are more demanding that others and they had me with a lead who was a real hard-ass for a while. But the guy I work with right now is great and I asked him today why he always had me doing to the easiest, most menial tasks. I call it the “bitch work.” Then I remembered that I still have to improve on even “the bitch work” before they put me on the harder, more complex stuff. And, as it turns out, it’s company policy to boot. So I need to stop this internal circus of wanting to move on to the next thing and focus on getting better at the stuff I know how to do. But make no mistake, I am improving. And as far as my supervisor goes, he can say whatever he wants about me, if he even meant me in the first place. Something a friend pointed out to me today puts things in stark perspective.”
“So you can bet I’m going to learn this stuff. I’m going to get better at it. And I’m going back to school to learn more.”
“Oh that’s right, I forgot. Vocational Rehabilitation agreed to pony up the money so you can get better at putting out crap work. That’s great. Wasting more tax payer money just like you did with that stupid attempt at Veterinary Technician school. I’m sure Mr. John Q. Public would love to know you are wasting his hard earned on yet another failed attempt at a trade. Meanwhile, you’ve been to, what, 3 meetings in the last month? All so you can work more? Hate to say it Ahab, but men far greater than you have fallen off the wagon because they didn’t think they needed to go to meetings anymore. Next thing you know, you’ll be convincing yourself that you don’t really need to keep going to meetings at all. And then …”
With that, He rose, produced a sealed bottle of Jameson from His cloak and held it out to me. “I figure you’ll need this eventually, so I’ll just give it to you now.”
Head hanging, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, then another. Like Mitch instructed me once, I said to myself “What’s my next thought going to be?” That particular Mitch was one of the guys in my circle of AA friends who said, as many do, that once he started having the feeling that maybe he’s got this sobriety thing figured out and he doesn’t need to go to meetings anymore, he knew it was past time that he went to a meeting. And, as my counselor back in rehab said, if you ever think you don’t need a meeting anymore, you better get your ass to a meeting.
“I have had the thought that I don’t need to go to meetings right now because I’m playing catch-up with my finances and need to work as much as I possibly can to get a leg-up on my money,” I said. “But make no mistake, I haven’t lost right of the Program. Last week, I found myself saying something that a good friend said in a meeting two years ago.”
“The last thing I wanted to do tonight was come to this meeting,” I said and took the bottle from Him. I used to adore Jameson. I’ve often wondered whether the Irish love Jameson because it’s Irish whiskey or did the Irish invent Jameson because they just wanted a distillery right there on the island. Is that what makes it “Irish” whiskey or does “Irish” whiskey have a delicious secret ingredient like fairy dust or unicorn dung?
“I went anyway. Because of you. And because it seems every other week I hear a new story about addiction taking out someone else,” I caressed the bottle like a forbidden fruit. Tempting, delicious, and deadly. “Sorry fella, but stinkin’ thinkin’ is for amateurs. I am not an amateur. I’ve been knocked down so many times I like the taste of the tile, so you’re gonna have to come at me with more than stinkin’ thinkin’ and a bottle of whiskey.
Now it was my turn to throw a glass bottle against the wall. Glass shards and whiskey flew everywhere. He recoiled from the impact, then looked at me aghast.
“That was a full bottle of Jameson you asshole!” He exclaimed.
“You’ll take care of that right?” I asked.