From the June 2011 magazine.

June 2011: An Unencumbered Man

AA had ruined his drinking; now it ruined his isolation

"One night a group member said, “We’re going out to eat. Join us.” Reflexively, I begged off."

In the years I had seen him in and around the rooms, he seemed to me an unencumbered man, a man who had gone through life alone. At a meeting one evening, he acknowledged his solitary path when he shared that some pressing reason would compel him to rush home at the end of a meeting rather than hang out with group members afterward. He would get home only to realize that there had been no pressing reason to rush off. The result was that, night after night, year after year, he would eat alone. I had heard this sort of thing before, AA men and women acknowledging their difficulty in easing free of their isolation. But, on this evening, for whatever reason, I heard it. The man was talking to me. The man was me.

I recalled the few times I had tried to connect after meetings in New York City, and the terrible sense of vulnerability and exposure that would come over me, standing outside the meeting place, feeling conspicuously alone while others seemed to gather in small groups. At such times, it could seem that my social poverty was on full display. Inevitably, feelings of awkwardness, discomfort and social anxiety would drive me away before any connection could be made. The risk of rejection was too great.

-- David S.

New York, New York

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