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August 2004

Is That All There Is?

Doomed to be happy, joyous, and free

Forty years sober as of October 14, 2003! Four decades of sobriety and what have I got to show for it? Shouldn't I be president of something? Or at least a billionaire? Sure, I haven't attempted suicide or committed a felony since my first AA meeting on that rainy Monday in 1963, but is that all there is? Just because I now seem to experience an astonishing sense of peace on a daily basis, did I quit drinking just for this?

Well, for better or worse, I'm finally resigned to living the AA way. I'll just have to continue attending those darn meetings that overflow with love and laughter and go on answering those anxious telephone calls at the central office where there is certainly no pay and the only reward is saving lives on a regular basis.

True, I did complete college a few years after my first meeting and graduated cum laude, but a lot of ordinary people did that and, like me, went on to successful and satisfying careers. So what! Now that I'm retired, what have you done for me lately, AA? Now that I have everything I want, is that any reason to be satisfied? What I really miss are those twenty-five-cents-a-night skid row flophouse cubicles where friendly little unidentifiable bugs shared my odoriferous mattress. How boring it is to wake up in the same place where you went to sleep, never again to ask, "What city is this? You mean it's Monday already? By the way, what's your name?"

Whatever happened to all that leisure time I enjoyed in the good old drinking days with no job to worry about and no friends to bother with, when I could lie down beneath a convenient park bench or search out a comfortable dumpster, taking no interest whatever in the world except where I'd find my next drink? Ah, those days seem gone forever.

All right, AA, I'll throw in the towel: you've taken away every bit of my very own Great Depression, robbed me of my unique will to die, and removed that special craziness by which I justified my self-indulgences. And, in exchange for stealing these treasures, you've thrust me headlong into a world of unaccustomed beauty, a place of loving and useful living.

The program leaves me no choice: I'm doomed to be happy, joyous, and free. I might just as well accept my fate gracefully.

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