Scenes from an American Diner: A Story in 26 Parts
of us have had our lives touched in some way by the disease of
addiction. Be it a loved one, friend, family member or even ourselves
no one is immune to the impact of this devastating illness. This story
is dedicated to all of those people, especially the ones who have found
recovery through the 12 step fellowship.
"I get that," Greg said, his eyes showing that same far-off gaze that had been going around the faces of the table as they talked.
The men turned their heads to listen, knowing more was to come.
"I wasn't there for my boys, either. Not for them, not for their mom, not for nobody. The only time I showed up was to sleep, shower and grab some more money so I could be off rippin' an runnin' again." Greg paused, took a sip of coffee with a loud slurp, and resumed. "Adele, she tried to get me to stop. She'd drag me to church and they'd be all prayin' for me and shit. She'd hide the money and try to lock everything up so I couldn't steal nothin'."
"Yeah, my parents did the same thing," Scott added, grateful for the common ground.
"But you know how it is. We always find a way."
"So did you ever try to make amends?" Scott asked, a slightly hopeful sound in his voice.
"Not at first," Greg said, a slight grimace coming over his face. "I was too busy relapsing for a long time to do anything more than make promises I wasn't keepin'. You know how we do- you feel a little better and you think you can take on the world. All that pink cloud shit."
"Pink cloud?" Scott asked, looking around at the other men whose expressions showed no surprise at the term.
"It's how we describe that warm, fuzzy feeling in early recovery," Stew answered. "You know you get out of rehab and you feel a little better, physically. You get some money in the bank cause you're not spending it all on dope, you can look people in the eye because you're not lying to them. Stuff like that."
"And then, life comes along and throws some shit at you that you weren't prepared for and you tell yourself you can't do it. Ain't no way you gettin' through whatever it is without using, so you do," Greg said, anger creeping into his voice. The white hairs sprouting from his temples stood out as his brow furrowed at the memories. "Then people start gettin' angry. Adele'd be throwin' me out, Jaylen- that's my oldest- he stopped talkin' to me, stopped believin' when I said I'd be goin' to his ball games. I think he told Darnell and Elijah I wouldn't be comin' to they birthday parties so they'd stop bein' surprised when I didn't show up. After that, people stop comin' to see you when you end up in rehab again. You gotta do it on your own," Greg said, concluding what was, like all of theirs, a much longer story.
"Shit," Scott said, that fear coming over his face again.
"That's how it works, though," Ted said, bumping his shoulder up against the boy in a consolatory manner. "Whether you got people on your side or not it's always you doing it on your own."
"Well, not entirely on your own," Stew said with a chastising grin. "You do it with the fellowship."
"Cause ain't nobody else gonna understand your sorry ass like a bunch of other sorry asses," Greg laughed, suddenly joking and friendly again. It was as if something had passed through him en route to somewhere else. Something that wasn't his normal self.
Scott for his part didn't entirely know what to make of it and his puzzled expression let the others know it.
"The serious talking- that's not easy. Hell, that's half the reason I drank- so I wouldn't have to do the serious talking. Shootin' the breeze and telling jokes- that's what we all want to be doing," Stew said, deciphering it all for the young one.
"So I get to the meetings so I can do both, with a bunch of other scew-ups like me. And not be judged and not be saved- just be understood," Greg concluded.
"There's always a method to the madness," Ted smiled.