My Bottom Was Lower Than Yours
People in AA like to compete over their crack den stories. I say let's stop battling over bottoms and just decide we all won.
“Bottom” isn’t just a gay sex term anymore. A low bottom, in sober land, usually means having a needle sticking out of your arm while you’re eating out of a dumpster, then deciding, "Hey, I'll go to an AA meeting" and talking about it. Why alcoholics get insecure about having the lowest bottom is just another example of AA politics and head games that go beyond any sort of sanity and stray away from the whole purpose of sitting down in an uncomfortable chair in a meeting. My bottom wasn't particularly low. Did I come with my tail between my legs? Yeah. Was my body clogged with Schedule II narcotics and alcohol? Yup. Did I live in my car? Yeah. A limited edition Ford Explorer with a moon roof, heated seats and a gas gage that told you how many miles you had until an empty gas tank. From what I can tell, when cocaine is a major part of your disease, your bottom won't be that low—that is, the more expensive the drug, the higher the bottom.
The key word is "bottom" and everyone has one. I have friends whose bottoms were extremely low. The lowest bottom I ever heard about was a guy who showed up at 50 after having lived in his car. His daughter died and he stayed sober for decades after. He lived in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Southern California, the same one where he lived in his car. His bottom fucking sucked and he's a happy guy. He just wants to watch NBA and go to men's meetings. Sounds perfect to me. He's not competing with anyone. Next.
Why try to make it a cheesy 100 million dollar action drug movie when you can just tell the truth for three minutes?
I've been in meetings where people seem to be exaggerating their bottoms and cross talking against other shares competitively. The thing they don’t seem to realize is that at the end of your share, when the timer goes off, nobody gives a shit anymore. The best thing about AA is that no matter what you're sharing, when the timer beeps, you're done. Next. So why try to make it a cheesy 100 million dollar action drug movie when you can just tell the truth for three minutes?
I’ll tell you why: because there’s nothing more addictive than receiving attention. Well, there are a couple of things—namely drugs, alcohol, sex and reality TV. But attention’s up there.
There's no other reason for exaggerating your story. Millions upon millions of alcoholics show up to AA and all of them have pretty dramatic stories about how they got there. To be in AA at all essentially says that: after all, you have officially given up your power to do something that you watch commercials for during football games. You’ve declared that you not only can’t play with the big boys—you can’t play with any boys. And that's why you're in AA. That's why I'm in AA. Because I couldn't fucking do it right. Because the CREB gene in my DNA doesn't produce enough protein in my brain to lower my anxiety levels so I don't make rational decisions around a full glass of booze. Because the pressure of being in entertainment at 19 off a bogus resume was too much for me to handle and I had everything in the world to prove and nothing to lose. And yet people still want to exaggerate and call for more attention. I think we forget that being a member of AA is not a normal thing. Sure, it's 2012 and AA’s in movies, TMZ regularly covers it and Lindsay Lohan gets photographed holding AA chips but it's also kind of crazy. To a random observer, Alcoholics Anonymous (at least in LA) is probably seen as a mix between Scientology, 90210 talent agencies, bad movie script readings and Elliott Smith-style depression.
But still, we want to make it sound a little worse than it is. I think the exaggeration factor may be mostly a guy thing—a pissing contest over who had the roughest time earning their seat. But I've heard housewives' stories about driving their kids to soccer practice while drunk on wine and Xanax that would shake you to your core. And there's a Sunday morning super yuppie meeting I’ve been to in populated by a lot of women in sweaters whose bottoms sound like Nora Ephron spec scripts. But if you look at the faces of these people while they share, you'll know that their time before AA was as rough as anyone’s.
My friends’ bottoms range from suburban whatever to Skid Row heroin den chic—not heroin den as in a cute brunette with tattoos everywhere and a knowledge of Cat Power's early work but third world country boulevards on literally the wrong side of the tracks. And we all eat the same eggs at diners. We all watch the same movies. If you have to fictionalize your bottom so that a bunch of random people will pay one percent more attention to you for three minutes, then you are officially a child. And yet being actively insecure in an AA meeting is a lot like getting sick in a hospital: you could not be in a better place to take care of it. If my bottom had key words, they'd be drugs, alcohol and depression. And those key words are the same as that of a movie star or homeless guy. Which means that they’re the only ones that matter since the only requirement for walking into a meeting is that you have the desire to stop that shit.
Bottom pissing contests, in the end, seem to really just be about wanting to be liked and respected. To which I say: everyone already respects you, man. You're in an AA meeting. Your life couldn't have gotten any worse if you literally started digging into the ground, jumping in and going to sleep for 100 years. Life is good now so why make it seem like it was worse? It's like bringing back a giant fish and talking about how tough the struggle was to get the fish. Who gives a shit? We're all going to eat the giant fish! Be cool, man. Life was bad but it's a little better now.
Carlos Herrera is a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian and writer. A former entertainment assistant from the the age of 19, he has performed at The Hollywood Improv and The Comedy Store, amongst others. He just wrapped a docu-comedy pilot for MTV and can be seen late night (in the back) at comedy clubs in Hollywood. He has written about seduction and pink clouds, among other topics, for The Fix.