Hunkered down at a coffee shop at a “meeting-after-the-meeting” many years ago, a friend from Los Angeles made a comment that caught me by surprise. “You know, Mark,” he said, “you’re losing your credibility.” At first I was offended, but when I asked him what he meant, he grinned. I wondered what was next…
“Well, you say you’re an alcoholic, but someone who’s new around here might not believe it. You don’t look like one and you don’t act like one anymore. You don’t even think like one. Now, believe me, that’s a good thing, but some of your case history should reveal the shipwreck you became before you got here. Episodes from your drunkalogue help new members identify with you.”
Instead of setting my micro-resentment on fire, I made a spiritual U-turn and felt grateful. Saved again, I thought. My second chance at life was working – so much had changed over the past four years that I hardly recognized myself. Still, I understood a war story or two would be helpful. Newcomers needed to hear snippets from my epic benders, or they wouldn’t believe I’m an alcoholic. The new guy might even think I was just there for the coffee and donuts. My pitch couldn’t be strictly about recovery: there had to be more substance that left little doubt that I qualified.
So, here goes – a ‘What It Was Like’ sampler:
On a lazy Saturday afternoon nearly twenty years ago, I had the perfect opportunity to curb a stubborn defect I had nurtured for decades – procrastination. I was finally going to undertake a long-overdue project, one of those “Someday I’ll’s”. Even though I was twelve years sober at the time, organizing the cluttered drawers of my old desk was a task I had avoided for too long. Once I sat down, I could see why. I didn’t know where to begin.
Folders filled with twenty-odd years of poetry were the first items to be leafed through and weeded out. Next were convention flyers I had gathered, followed by a far-out sci-fi/fantasy novella I began writing that died an untimely death before it reached the third chapter. The seventies were exciting and rife with distractions, and I was a willing victim. Hence, I left a lot undone.
Literary magazines, rocknroll paraphernalia and a journal that looked like a stack of spiral notebooks awaited me in another drawer. Another box held programs from recovery conferences I attended. Detroit Red Wings’ season schedules from some dismal years were found stuffed in a cheap tin box, long forgotten. I wondered why I spared them from the trash can. There was even a worn-out folder from Detox many years ago, an uncomfortable souvenir from when my whole life caved in. The list went on.
I plucked another tin from deep inside the bottom drawer and pried the lid off. Crammed inside were ticket stubs that cascaded out in slow motion across the floor. Many were from hockey games I went to years ago. As I sorted through those, more artifacts of a different era were uncovered. Concert tickets – another blast from the past. There were dozens of them – Stones tickets, Black Sabbath, and The Who on the Quadrophenia tour. David Bowie, U2 and Talking Heads ticket stubs were also collected, along with Roxy Music, Eurythmics and INXS. I smiled. Each one conjured up some fond memories, along with embarrassing incidents and even a few foggy ones.
But the last one nearly startled me as I snatched it off the floor– Eric Clapton. I stopped dead in my tracks. Huh? What the hell?
‘Wait a minute. Eric Clapton? Eric Clapton! You’re kidding me. Wow? No way! Did I see Eric Clapton? I can’t believe I saw Eric Clapton.’ One of the greatest guitarists ever, and I didn’t remember it. I wanted to phone an old friend to make sure, but he was probably in the same condition as I was that night – toasted.
‘Man– I didn’t know I saw Eric Clapton! Wow! Cool!’
I glanced toward the ceiling and thought hard, trying to remember the concert, the songs, the t-shirt – anything – but nothing came to mind. (Sorry! No offense, Eric.) I was stumped and amazed, and then bewildered. I knew the bunch of stoners I went to the concert with. That wasn’t a mystery. Those road trips were taken many times, and it’s a miracle we made it home some nights. But in my hand was the ticket stub – I must have been there. Perhaps I over-partied, something this hooch hound was prone to do?
Nevertheless, after I mulled it over, I wasn’t too upset – even though I didn’t know I saw him, I was pretty sure Eric didn’t know he saw me, either. And I was certain the missed opportunity wouldn’t faze him a bit. Even so, if he ever writes a bio, he won’t be able to tell his favorite Mark M. story. Just sayin’.
So there – What it was like in a nutshell.
(By the way, if any professional procrastinators were wondering, I did finish organizing my desk. It only took me fourteen years and three-and-a-half hours.)