Someone recently asked me, as I am asked repeatedly, to “speak at a meeting.” What kind of meeting needn’t be spelled out (I assumed it was not a meeting of the Daughters of Bilits or the Ku Klux Klan). It is a twelve-step meeting; specifically an AA meeting (Alcoholics Anonymous, not Aryan Acrobats). Summoning the requisite honestly (one of the tenets of 12-step programs, I think?), I declined.
This individual also casually asked, as I am repeatedly asked, for help with kickstarting his career. Another “meeting,” I surmised. To both requests, I replied with honestly:
“I began drinking with no adverse reactions about a decade ago so I’d be a hypocrite to speak at a meeting. I would happily have an initial meeting about your career but I would have to charge for any subsequent meetings since this is how I make a considerable percentage of my living.”
My sincere and expedient response to his requests received no reply.
What I find troubling is the frequent mergence of the GLBT community and The Industry when it comes to 12-step profiling. For the devout twelve-step member (and there isn’t enough ink in my printer to list the myriad addictions)—whether n the queer tribe or the show biz cult—there seems to be a sense of superiority regarding the rest of the human race, especially directed to anyone who has reverted to their “addiction” and begun to function anew with no negative results (not one, in my case). This is a sweeping generalization but I perceive its veracity. There is also that mafia-esque hiring practice that favors its own in spite of talent or ability.
And I’m not an idiot; I know that some people cannot and should not ever pick up a drink. But I also suspect the number of my Facebook friends will plummet.
For the record, I stopped drinking in 1982. I resumed drinking lightly about ten years ago. None of the things “they” said would happen have happened. During the time that I have been drinking, I’ve had more complications (physical, emotional, spiritual) from the voluminous HIV drugs I’ve ingested than reasonable amounts of alcohol and/or marijuana (soothes the 24/7 unbearable neuropathy pain that I experience—wanna argue that one?).
I am neither a doctor nor a scientist but I’ve read a lot about how the brain changes over time, a subject I am particularly interested in as a parent. The formation of the brain we have at twenty (around the time I began drinking alcoholically) is decidedly not the same brain I had in my fifties (when I chose to drink responsibly). That is a fact. Or at the very least it is a scientific theory I not only believe but my behavior supports.
There are also other issues at play. I have a child. And like Susan Hayward, I want to live. I want to be a grandpa.
But I don’t want to be infantilized, treated as if I’m unable to make choices for myself. At some point, I chose to believe HIV would not kill me because I trusted my body. I also trust my body when it comes to having a glass of wine at dinner with friends. I have never gone home and drunk a bottle of vodka and ventured out driving around town in search of tricks (or treats).
I will always refer to myself as “a recovering alcoholic” but part of my recovery and “spiritual awakening” has been taking moral responsibility for my actions. I don’t judge the choices of other people; I am able to decide what is right to put into my body; I return phone calls and messages.
Alcoholics Anonymous saved my life and I am forever grateful. It gave me a renewed perspective that I attempt to apply on a daily basis. But, try as I may, I am still addicted to sugar, work, and saying what’s on my mind in a public way.
There are over 400 Alcoholics Anonymous slogans on the Internet—ranging from Dr. Suess cutesy (“If you stick with the bunch, you’ll get peeled”) to profoundly life-avowing (“More will be revealed).”
I choose to believe that more is constantly being revealed, including data on the dogma of Alcoholics Anonymous. And, whatever you do, please don’t tell me you’re saving me a seat.
P.S. I imagine I will receive many responses to this blog—either demonizing me or extolling me. I will politely tell you in advance that I won’t answer those because I don’t want to appear either defensive or self-righteous.