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Grapevine : January 2012
AS I walked into the room, my heart was in a frenzy, as if a ferret had been let loose in my chest. This wasn't where I was sup- posed to end up. These people were wrong and probably insane. This AA group had no idea who I was. Although I felt a black, gaping maw in the pit of my stomach, I knew this was not going to fix it. I could handle this alcohol- ism on my own, I didn't need these people, and I had no intentions of letting them even know my name. I just needed some rest to get the fog in my mind to clear, then maybe I would quit getting into fights and go- ing to jail. Then maybe I would quit waking up not knowing where I was or what vexatious things I had done the night before. Rest, that's all I needed, maybe a vacation, but I sure didn't need these people. I knew this. My parents had told me all twelve step programs were a joke anyway. When I was growing up, my par- ents sold and used cocaine. Home was a constant torrent of the unex- pected. From one minute to the next you couldn't be sure who was coming through the front door---or the win- dows for that matter. It could be the cops, coming to take one of my par- ents away for the constant and bru- tal beatings they dealt one another. It could also be the dope man coming to take away everything worth any- thing in the house. Once a month he would come, and when he left so did the TV, the radio, the video games, the wall clocks and anything else he thought he could hock for a buck or two to repay the debt that had come due. He would bring men the size of towering redwoods, who carried guns the size of small dogs. This lifestyle made me age quickly, with a hard edge to survive. I was drinking by the time I was 5. I was tough as nails, and quick to fight. Needless to say, the law was on my case like a rat on sticky paper. I was fortunate enough to slither by without jail the first few times, and I was just put on probation. I was 11 at my first encounter with my court- appointed watchdog. This woman had hair that looked like a squirrel had burrowed in for the long winter, eyes as fierce as a rabid pit bull, and an ego the size of a dirigible. Given these qualities, I was surprised that she fell so easily into my web of lies. I had her gulping kibble from the palm of my hand. I never intended to do what she asked; just lead her on long enough until she finally cut me loose. After that, the game was on: The running, drinking and brawling were all back on schedule. I did this for quite some time. Then the fun started to evaporate. I thought may- be it was just a dry spell. The brief periods of jubilation came in shorter and fewer intervals, then eventually dried up altogether. That brings me ILLUSTRATION BY SISSEL K. aagrapevine.org 31