Two-Time Loser is a Double Winner

By Andi Schwartz 10/12/14
It's no longer about the drink or the drugs. People obsess me.

I’ve been clean and sober for twelve years. I don't think about getting high anymore. I think about killing people. Especially today. My wasband is driving me insane. How many emails in four hours are too many? Does eighteen qualify? 

Historically, I would’ve gotten lost in a haze of reefer and crawled under the covers with the remote and a bag of Cheetos. Now, I wanna read him the fucking riot act, take his fucking inventory and break his fucking neck.

How many “fucks” does it take to make a point? I don’t know. I do know it takes three programs, two sponsors, a therapist, and a whole lot of fellows to stop me from sabotaging myself and wreaking havoc on those around me. 

I force myself to use restraint of pen and tongue as I’ve been taught to do. Outwardly I do the right thing. Inside, my gizzards are flaming. For those four hours I torture myself even more than is being done unto me. I don’t eat, drink or move. I sit there reading, rereading and seething. Finally I get up and put a Lean Cuisine in the microwave. Not a morsel has crossed my lips this day. I go back to the computer and compose the response email I will not send, that I must write to release the venom that’s about to consume me. I smell something burning. I can’t stop. All the pent up fury I’ve been suppressing whilst working my program is spilling out of my fingertips. Smoke. Do I see smoke? In the midst of my focused insanity, instead of three minutes I must have hit thirty on the keypad. At about thirteen I catch it.  Pre-fire. I spend the next two hours scrubbing the damn microwave and trying every remedy I can Google to get rid of the smell… while still not taking a sip of water or a bite of food. I’m such a friggin’ addict.

Due to a schedule change, it’s therapy time. Thank you, God. I can’t wait the fifteen minutes it’ll take me to get there, and call my sponsor en route. He (Yes he’s a he, but he’s gay so it’s okay. Really.) talks me off the roof with his divine combo of long-term 12 step recovery and A Course in Miracles. I’ve come to embrace and need that, too. There aren’t enough tools in the universe when my train pulls into Crazytown. 

My wise and patient therapist explains that, when I’m in that zip code the part of my brain that’s being employed is single-minded of purpose in its insanity. Pausing to sip some water, count the colors in a painting, recite a nursery rhyme—anything to break the rhythm—will spark a kinder part of my brain that will enable me to release the charge and return to normal. Normal? I know. 

After just five minutes of distraction I can even return to the object of my objection and face it with a semblance of calm rationality. No shit! New tool! I wanna share it. 

As luck would have it, it’s Wednesday. My Al-Anon home group awaits. Because I’m a control freak, people-pleasing enabler, being an addict in recovery isn’t enough. 

Through the years my obsession to use has miraculously lifted, whilst my insatiable need to control people, places and things has continuously amped up. Tenfold. 

I get to have two, two, two programs at once. Two sponsors, two basic texts, and with the same, yet opposing focus to consider. As an addict, I’m instructed to be of service and put others first, no matter what. Say “Yes,” whenever asked. Al-Anon advises me to not be a doormat. Create safe boundaries. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence. “Yes” “No.” Hey, wait a minute! How the hell am I supposed to do both? At the same time? Fuck it, I’ll go A Course in Miracles, and just “come from love.” 

In Al-Anon, I need to be respectful of the rules. They sure don’t feel much like suggestions ‘round there. I’ve seen people nearly crucified for mentioning a book that’s not Al-Anon approved literature or, God forbid, mentioning they’re in the “other” program. Eyes roll. Heads shake. Not in a good way… especially at me. 

Marijuana Anonymous is my primary program. I don’t need to go to Narcotics Anonymous to get laughed out of the room for that. Even alcoholics chide, “Come back when you have a real problem.” Walk 32 years in my bong hits, then let’s talk.  

I smoked pot from dawn till… dawn. It was all right when I was young and stupid and single. I was highly functional. When I needed to be. I could even control it. When I had to. 

I quit each time I got pregnant, not picking it back up till I finished nursing a year or so later. But, without further cause, I was off to the races… sunglasses all the time, never making eye contact with anyone, leaving the playground every hour to refresh my buzz... towel under the bedroom door, standing on the radiator, head out the window…Visine, Listerine and Lysol… oh my. The self-loathing was palpable. I was a Mommy, dammit! 

So… I’m at an Al-Anon meeting… I wanna share about being so obsessed that I didn’t eat (addict stuff)… my therapist’s suggestion (non-program-approved solution)… can’t mention work (outside issue)… what the hell can I talk about? That I wanna kill? Yes! That’s perfectly acceptable here.

It’s summer time. A bunch of the regulars are on vacay. I test the waters…beginning with the loathsome wasband, the eighteen emails and the burnt Lean Cuisine… heads are nodding around the room. Cool.

I slip in a little therapist wisdom. A couple of eyes roll, arms cross, but no Al-Anon police. HALT… hungry, angry, lonely, tired… wait… is that the substance program, Al-Anon or both? I’m confusing myself… thinking more about what I can and can’t say than what I’m actually saying. 


My share slips by… it’s L.A., I even get applause. Gotta love that shit. 

Marijuana Anonymous is more laid back. We’re a bunch of potheads. Almost anything goes. But most people talk about… pot. It bores me. Sorry. It’s been twelve years. Though inconceivable for the thirty plus years that I smoked, I don’t think about pot anymore. Except when I go to a meeting. Hey, wait a minute… I still go because I am, and always will be, an addict. If I forget for just a moment… one toke and I’d be off to the races. I need to remember that, even when I think it’s no longer relevant. My addiction’s doing push-ups whilst I’m busy doing other things. 

My all-purpose, before-mentioned he-sponsor started ditching our Saturday morning MA home group, where he’d been a regular since its inception, and where I’d been spending my Saturday mornings since moving to L.A. nine years ago. 

He was going to Double Winners. Which means people who identify as Al-Anons and alcoholics and/or addicts. He explained it wasn't so much about substances for him any more—his problems stem from people, places and things. Yes! This is what I’m saying. But I don’t like change. These are my people…we fellowship and talk behind each other’s backs. Besides, I’d tried a Double Winners meeting in New York, years earlier. It was just okay for me. But, I missed him. So, one Saturday morning, I followed. That was about two years ago. As disloyal as I sometimes feel, it’s home now. 

Being an addict, an Al-Anon, a woman, a person… it doesn’t matter. Absolutely anything goes. Without judgment or censor. You can belong to any “A” and Al-Anon, just be an Al-Anon or an “A” and you’re good. No one cares. Most in the room have been clean and sober for some time… some have long-term Al-Anon… some are brand spanking new. I find it’s almost all discovery… solution… tools. With great good humor.

How many Al-Anons does it take to clean up spilled coffee? Everyone within eyeing distance. 

How many potheads does it take to clean up the same spill? Who gives a shit? 

Thanks to Double Winners… just for today… I won’t be killing the person who spilled it. 

Andi Schwartz is a pseudonym for a regular contributor to The Fix. She last wrote about Marijuana Anonymous.

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