The Flicker Inside (7)

March 29, 2020


You’ve seen the ankle bracelets before, the hospital wristbands, the white van from the county jail. You’ve signed many court cards. You knew damn well not everyone came willingly. But you’re pitch was for the next time or the time after that.

“Woody Allen, of all people, once said 80 percent of success was just showing up. Well, I wanted to be here with you more than anyplace on earth… I pray you feel the same way. Thank you.”

When the meeting is over, the Chairwoman hugs you, is beaming. “You really delivered. I can’t thank you enough.”

“Not at all,” you say. “It was the least I could do.” Not false modesty. Given all the program has done for you it was an undeniable fact.

Read from the start go to “The Flicker Inside (1)”

The Flicker Inside (6)

March 26, 2020


You look at the clock. Only ten minutes left in your share. And you still haven’t gotten to what it’s like now, the good part. Even so your lead was not absent of hope. That flicker of awareness… that distant horizon. Your drunkalog now, like your drinking then, could not hide it completely. It was in your eyes.

Bill Wilson wrote, “Few people will sincerely try to practice the AA program unless they have truly hit bottom.” If you were not what he called a “last gasper” you most certainly had plumbed the dregs.

Portion redacted…

Having thoroughly qualified your seat in AA, you say what you always say, what you never want to forget. “Needing this program is never enough. You have to want it.” Aping a grade school teacher, you wag your finger. “Your boss, your priest, your doctor, your wife; all these people said you needed to quit drinking. So maybe you did to ride out the storm. But as soon as that court card was signed you were right back out there, ripping and running.”

The group nods.

You apologize for using the pronoun you. In AA, the arrow only points in one direction. But it was intentional, demonstrating the futility of receiving a lecture. Those never worked, you say. You always knew you needed to stop drinking. For years and years…

To be continued…

The Flicker Inside (5)

March 23, 2020



It was the tiny burning ember that never died out, no matter how much booze you poured on it. Lord knows you tried.

Then came the big jobs, fancy homes, a wife and baby. And you: the functioning alcoholic. Holed up in your den, full of vodka and opiates, bluntly staring at the computer screen, the white-blue of it, the useless words you had written. Even then you knew it was there: the flicker inside.

God given or not, you kept having this thought: Your purpose had to be more than just seeking oblivion. You knew what you were doing was wrong. Yet, you kept doing it. Later, you would call this Step Zero. You worked it for years.

The Flicker Inside (4)

March 21, 2020


The bar nearest your apartment you made a second home. There, you wrote ad copy and composed lousy poetry, an incoherent first novel. But mostly you drank, with others like you or, even better, a woman, drunk too, attracted by your worn leather chapbooks and the romantic person they implied. You drank until they turned on the lights, sending you out into the streets. Fleeing like a vermin or cockroach.

Tuesday nights were like Saturday nights. Better even, with less weekend warriors and more serious drinkers. Consuming alcohol wasn’t a lark; it was necessary. You loathed the frivolity of drinking games. You abhorred St. Patrick’s Day, with its crowd of bingers and lushes, those foolish over-served. Could they not appreciate the sanctity of alcohol? No they could not. The divide between you and them had become a huge chasm.


On the other side was a sunlit pasture, a better place. Even in your cups, you saw it from the bar stool. You knew it was there.

The Flicker Inside (3)

March 19, 2020



Maybe in high school, where after a few beers you became giddy and loose, laughed at TV commercials, enjoyed the wobbly feeling and loss of control. Hidden in back alleys and basements, you and your cohorts reveled in breaking the law. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Then drugs and alcohol became prerequisite to parties, dates, movies and concerts, the joys of those things no longer joyful without them. Using became the party. Then in lieu of the party. Then only it.

In college, your passion for writing and heavy drinking were one and the same. Oh, how you romanticized it! Your right hand on the keyboard your left hand on a drink. You were like Hemingway. Jim Morrison. To this day you still type with only one hand.

Upon entering the work force you listed drinking as a hobby on your resume, along with reading, writing and fishing. Such audacity. They hired you anyway.

to be continued…