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Grapevine : November 2011
clear view of the street and all its surroundings. At my feet I spot- ted a half-smoked cigarette with a woman's red lipstick print around its filter. I reached out for it with my swollen, cracked and bloody al- coholic hand, placing it in my tat- tered jacket pocket for later use. It was my treasure for the day. I pulled out three plastic trash bags from that same jacket and wrapped my- self in them, shielding myself from the rain and cold. The smell of urine was strong, but I could not tell if it was coming from the brick be- neath me or the clothing I had worn for months. I looked with great disdain at the people going into the shops and eateries around me. I wondered, as any good alcoholic does, how they had such lives and why I was sleep- ing on the street. The cars driving along the rain-soaked road made the sound of steaks cooking on a grill, and the smell of the nearby smokehouse made my hunger near- ly unbearable. The people walk- ing by me took great effort not to make eye contact. It was as if they thought they might end up like me, or they were just so disgusted with what I was that to look at me was more than they could bear. I be- gan to think of how I had ended up this way. I thought of the wife, the beautiful child, the picket fence, and everything else I had left behind to take this journey into the gates of insanity and certain death. At that moment I did the only thing I could and took a long hard pull from the warm bottle of vodka I had stolen earlier in the day, slipping into yet another night of numbness and al- cohol-fueled despair. Those warm tropical rain drops from the Florida sky began to fall upon my face and snapped me back to the "right here and right now." It had taken me nearly 10 years, count- less meetings and working the Steps to crawl up out of that gutter in Ven- ice Beach and end up sitting where I was sitting now, watching the twi- light give way to stars. The memory, however, was as vivid as if it had been yesterday and constantly re- minds me of how vigilant I must be along my journey of sobriety. I now know that the only thing between me sitting on the deck of a mega yacht and sitting on the streets of Venice Beach is that first drink. I got up and walked back into the opulence of the "Fighting Irish," and my sponsor looked over and said, "Hey you finally had the sense to come in out of the rain." I smiled and said "Indeed I did, but those were gratitude rains and I will for- ever be grateful to you and all the al- coholics I meet as I trudge the road to happy destiny for helping me to find this way of life." Mike K. Dana Point, Calif. aagrapevine.org 41