The Beauty and the Horror of AA Part 3: Bedbugs Will Not Destroy My Serenity!

By Dillon Murphy 04/29/16

It is in the agnostic meetings that I can live in a place of “rigorous honesty.” 

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I just got a $75 trade-in for my old piece of shit PC so I could plop down $300 for this new piece of shit PC. See, I got what some folks call the end of the world, I got the worst thing to happen to New Yorkers since Donald Trump decided to buy real estate here. I got fucking bedbugs.

Yeah, I know. You don’t even want to read this anymore do you? They could crawl right out of the device you’re reading this on, is how you’re feeling. Nasty, blood sucking, endlessly spawning monsters that invaded my living space and really did a number on the trying to stay in gratitude and humility now that I’m sober space in my head. While I asked Him to humbly remove them, He had better things to do. 

Apparently they can LIVE in your computer, your phone, they can live in your fucking HAIR! Oh Jesus help me now because this is not going to be easy. A bottle of whiskey and some quality China White would make this situation so much more bearable. Yeah. Yeah, it would.

The best part of having bedbugs is nothing. Don’t even think of talking about them at meetings because you will most assuredly be looked at with more contempt than is conceivable. I’ve been that guy. I’ve heard people talk about them at meetings either in the past tense (they feel they have to reassure the others in the room that they won’t be “infected”) or in hysteric clues that include “all my roommates put the furniture in the kitchen” and “I’m wearing the same clothes I did last week only because I’m having a lot of anxiety right now.” We can talk about how we make it through deaths, breakups, homelessness even the deeply troubling religious beliefs of the severely half-witted Kim Davis, but bed bugs? Hell no! You are on your own, son! Where’s the section in the book (any of them) on those things? You know Bill was just crawling with them. It’s why he wept all the time. In fact, he probably wrote the damn steps to deal with them! Turns out it’s all about how to deal with something actually very insidious, indeed.

It’s here and now in the midst of this awful shit that I’m learning what I’m sure is common in all the programs but one that I’ve heard many times in the program of recovery I attend; I’m learning that my sobriety is my priority. Without it, I do not have a shot. It’s as if, with the arrival of the night creatures, a million excuses to get loaded came swirling back in a sonic chaos and it’s a wonder I didn’t use. I didn’t use. I haven’t used. I’m middle aged. I got famous friends. I lost everything. My girlfriend may or may not still be my girlfriend. My foot hurts. I got fucking BEDBUGS!!!!! Wahhhh! I get to use now right? C’mon? You would? If you had my problems you would. C’mon, let’s do it together! You buy, I got you next time!

Wait a minute. 

Hold on.

Let’s take a breath and say the serenity prayer. Ready? Ok. God, grant me the serenity to BLAH BLAH BLAH.


I used to dream about what it would be like to get “sober.” I used to wonder to myself, after a particularly nasty night, if I can live in the world without this substance abuse and this being drunk all the time with the vomiting, the punching of the stranger and the sleeping on the subway stuff. All I’m saying is, I walked into an AA meeting and I got hope. For the first time in too many years, I got hope. That hope helped me stop the drinking. That hope got me back into the world. That hope finds its way into every day, even today. That hope is a mainstay and has everything to do with my sober life.

Somebody asked why I went to AA if I hated it so much. Well, I’m an alcoholic so I loved drinking. Sitting around listening to people drone on and on about this or that is so much more interesting when I’m drinking. I just can’t do it anymore. I just can’t. Doesn’t mean I don’t miss it or fantasize about it or lick my lips occasionally when I see a pal drink a St. Pauli Girl, but it does mean that abstinence works for me. The minute I hear about the possibility of moderation being a part of my “recovery program,” or the option of blaming someone else for whatever trauma led to my alcoholism, is the minute I lose my place back in the world. I like being back in the world. I really do. Despite its bedbugs. So when I go to a God-heavy traditional meeting, I think of it as a particularly thick and ancient way of swallowing my “medicine.”

Crucial to my recovery have been the agnostic meetings. It’s through these meetings that I can continue to express my highs and lows in recovery without fear of not speaking properly in the ridiculous, coded language created by a guy that managed to find comfort and power in Frank Buchman’s Oxford Group after he had finally learned to stop drinking. Bill’s sense of purpose was very real when he decided he wanted to try and help other alcoholics, but ultimately, it was just one man’s convoluted way. Had Bill and Dr. Bob never met and talked, had they never tried a whole bunch of wacky stuff, including the use of a Ouija board and (only Bill) tripping on LSD, AA would not have lasted. After all, “as you understand Him” is the thing, and that thing was arrived after much debate with AA’s first self-proclaimed atheist. It’s all nuts and knowing that is why it has been working for me. It is in the agnostic meetings that I can live in a place of “rigorous honesty.” 

After much desperation and zero sleep, I got lucky. I found a new place. Dealing with the real estate bullshit of Manhattan with its shocking homeless population and its hatred of the middle class—it’s where the one percent seem to all live in the fall while summering in Chatham—but I digress let me just say WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!!! 

I got lucky. I found a rent stabilized share in a clean neighborhood. Until then, everything I’ve acquired in my sober life has to go. All the lime green linens that I felt oh so grown up buying. The charcoal grey curtains I paid for from the three jobs I work. The sky blue rug I bought online with my first ever credit card. The books. Fuck suck cake, the books! The beautiful signed limited edition of Bastards of Alchemy by Tom Piccirilli, the fresh copy of Jo Nesbo’s The Leopard, the crisp Dan Clowes collection Pussey! all have to go. I’ll leave it for my landlady and her rotten little husband to go through while they try and assure the next sucker to come along that “of course we’ve never had bed bugs!” as they did this desperate and broken middle aged drunk at the start of his recovery.

The only thing I’ll be taking, the only thing I’m holding on to for dear life, is the new pair of glasses that the guy who got me started on this recovery journey found for me. A guy that happens to be part of the one percent. A guy that loves his AA. A guy that doesn’t want to drink today. For all our bullshit that is the truth that links me to him and anyone else in recovery. A guy that listened, didn’t judge, reached out, could relate and showed me that I could still be happy and not drink. That’s all it is. 

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