From the September 2011 magazine. First printed in April 2004.

Emotional Sobriety

From Section 2, Out of Isolation

Centrifugal Force

For some reason, my hand went up when Tom made the announcement during the break that the group was going to be taking a meeting to a hospital in Queens the next week and needed another speaker. I had been showing up at the group for a couple of months, quietly hanging around the periphery, blending into the crowd. But lately, I had begun to feel as if I was about to spin off the AA planet. I could feel the centrifugal force pulling me out toward the edges. I knew I needed to inch closer to the center, but I didn't really know how.

I had tried a week earlier to join the group officially, after an announcement had been made by the group secretary: "If you'd like to become a member of this group, please see me during the break." So I found a way to sidle up to her in the coffee line and casually asked how I could join. At that point, I was ready to sign whatever documents were necessary, pony up a down payment, or put my fingerprints in concrete. There was something going on in those AA rooms, and now that I wasn't drinking, I could see that I wasn't going to get it standing around in the shadows. Well, she looked at me and smiled, filled her cup, dumped in some milk and sugar, and said, "If you want to be a member of this group, just keep coming." I managed a smile, but quickly drifted back to the periphery, the anonymous edge. But I did return the next week and found myself raising my hand, volunteering to travel out to Queens with somebody I didn't even know to speak at a meeting in a hospital I had never even heard of. I was alternately anxious and relieved, already thinking of excuses for why I couldn't make the commitment, yet also feeling I had just taken an irrevocable step forward. So, Tom showed up at the appointed hour with a carful of sober alcoholics coming along for the ride. I tucked myself into the back seat and stared out the window the whole time, willing myself back to the lonely periphery.

-- Ames S.

New York, New York

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