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.
A sharp noise distracted the men and a glance at the corner let them know that the couple from the casino were now arguing openly. Animated hang gestures from the man punctuated the woman's high-pitched words, most of which weren't audible above the sounds of the diner.
"Makes me sick," Greg said as he watched them, the anger that had been there previously edging his voice with a promise of more to come.
"Yeah, well, we should probably be going anyway. Work don't start any later the days after nights like these," Ted said, giving a warning eye to Stew. They both knew Greg always got a little unsteady when he talked too much about himself and that seemed to be bubbling up to the surface now.
"See you at the gratitude meeting on Sunday?" he asked as he nodded at Scott to move.
"Yeah, yeah- wait, though. What's that all about?" Scott asked, a knee up on the bench as he paused.
"What's what all about?" Ted answered, slightly weary.
"The whole gratitude thing?"
"Boy, you is just full of questions tonight, ain't ya?" Greg observed.
"I'm 'sposed to be learning, right?" Scott asked, taking another fry from the plate. He seemed intent on finishing them all, and Ted had given up on eating a while ago anyway.
"Gratitude is an action that gets you where you want to be in recovery- whether it's happier or content or whatever," Ted said, re-energized by the question. So long as he didn't have to talk more about his character defects he could be a little late getting home.
"How is it an action?" Scott asked, another fry slipping in.
"Well, you say thank you, right?" Stew asked.
"That's not it, though. Nothing's ever that easy. Like I'm not doing step one just because I say I'm an addict."
"In a way you are. I mean, yeah, it's a smaller version of a bigger concept but that's the basis of it. Say you're an addict and you make your way towards acceptance. Say thank you and you make your towards gratitude," Stew said, an eye glancing at Greg who had returned to watching the corner where the couple continued their heated discussion.
"So it's a state of being, sort-of?" Scott asked.
"Sort-of, but you know we can't control what we are other than by controlling what we do. So practicing gratitude is what makes you grateful- the action, you know?" Ted asked. The look on Scott's face let him know he didn't.
"So, if I think about everything- my son not calling me back, and how damned early I have to get up for work in the morning, and how much a friggin' cup of coffee costs now," Ted explained, raising the mug as a reference point, "I can get totally overwhelmed and want to drink. But if I thank my higher power that I still even have the chance to call my son and pay for this cup of coffee which I can drink and enjoy because all my hard living somehow didn't kill me then I'm no so overwhelmed and I can live my life one day at a time, you see?"
Stew placed both hands palm down on the table and took an exaggerated breath in, his chest puffing outward as he did. "The air you breathe," he exhaled, then pointed at Scott who was holding the last french fry, now cold and soggy. "The food you eat."
"The roof over your head," Ted added, a hand waving at the ceiling above them.
"The fact that I ain't that sorry piece of shit," Greg growled, still distracted by the couple in the corner.
Stew shot a look at him which he didn't see and then looked to Ted and nodded the need for their departure. "Just go to the gratitude meeting on Sunday- it'll start to make sense."
"Yeah, ok," Scott said, slightly discouraged. Then he stopped, face lighting as he realized. "Hey, thanks for the fries!"