April 02, 2008
The Tall Lady Speaks

This is the second installment of Church Basements, Andrew W.’s tales from the world of Alcoholics Anonymous:
“Today’s my 70th birthday, and I hate it, hate it, I tell you,” the tall, patrician-looking woman said in nasal tones.

“I fucking will not do it. They want me to work out and I refuse!” She raised her bony arms above her head and slammed both hands smack on the table. The seen-it-all old timers and cynical young addicts, new to the rooms, startled to attention.

She had had a hip replaced recently, the speaker went on to explain, and the doctors wanted her to work out an hour a day.

“My son of a bitch of a husband is trying to make me go, but I’ll be damned if I will,” she said, tears rising in her eyes. “I’ll bite his balls off, that’s what I’ll do, and he knows I can.”

So began the meeting in one of the wealthiest communities in a midwest state. The tall woman ranted on, finally petering out. “That’s all,” she said quietly.

The others murmured the usual, “Thanks for sharing,” and moved on to more sharing by less tortured souls.

That bright March morning in the basement of St. David’s, the drunks and addicts of Alcoholics Anonymous were gathered to exorcise their demons by telling grim tales of degradation and renewal.

The stories left unspoken, you wouldn’t want to hear. Those addiction histories that are related are enough to give a clear glimpse into an alcoholic’s private hell. The tall woman’s hell was burning hot that day, and she had spoken out of fear that she might, as we say, “drink over it.”

Church basements are home to a communal confessional that sometimes frightens, but more often relaxes. The listeners can usually “relate to that.” Measured against the most dismal stories they can rejoice in their own progress.

A strange kind of closeness evolves, reminding all that they are on the lip of a precipice: one slip, and they will fall. But if they hold onto each other there is a chance of recovery and a spring awakening.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at April 02, 2008 10:52 AM
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