“Have fun!” my mother calls out the car window, taking wholehearted enjoyment out of my misery. I slam the door and hurry towards the church steps without looking back.
Inside, people smile at me when I sit down. They know I don’t belong. I slouch in my seat and stare at my phone while we wait to begin and I don’t ever want to look up at their smiling faces. I did research before I got here to ensure that I wouldn’t have to speak and I read that speaking is optional, otherwise there’s no way I would have come. I would have waited inside the vestibule until my mother drove away or walked down the aisle and snuck out the back door. We’re sitting in a circle, as I had expected, and when it starts, they go around, one by one, introducing themselves and identifying as alcoholics, like it’s not obvious. It seems I was misinformed because after the man to my left says his name all eyes turn to me, and I don’t have much of a choice after all. I want to ask, “Isn’t this supposed to be anonymous?” Instead, I panic and say, “Hi. I’m Steven, and I’m an alcoholic.”
I stay quiet for the remainder of the meeting, half listening to the others talk about their faith in a higher power. A man named Derek describes waking up every morning for thirteen years disappointed in himself. For the rest of the meeting I try to figure out if it really is possible to be disappointed in one’s self or if such disappointment really stems from a fear of disappointing others. I picture myself raising my hand and standing up to say, “Excuse me, sir! Who is dictating these rules? You or the world?”
I leave the church feeling pretty smart, like I could take on the universe with my insights. As I walk home, I make a decision; I cannot wait for my mother’s rules to become a memory. You only live once. I should have told that to Derek from AA. Yes, things could be worse; I could be an alcoholic. But, right now, I have the power within me to make my life better, and this thought makes me strong. I will help around the house, open all the bottles and jars. I will watch movies with my mother, be home in time for dinner, maybe even attend one of Adam’s t-ball games. And next time I’m drunk I will definitely not get caught.
Elise Silverstein is a senior English (creative writing) major at SUNY Geneseo. She is from New Jersey and spends most of her free time counting down the days until the end of winter and dreaming of world travel. If she could be best friends with a fictional character it would be Pi Patel from Life of Pi.