Coming Undone

August 4, 2020


The meeting progresses like a surreal version of the telephone game. Following Jon’s lead, each person picks up the baton twirling it their own particular way, spinning stories about frustration, despair and clownish behavior. Two women were brought to tears yesterday, one by a stressful work situation the other because of melancholy. In a fit of rage, another person wrote a flaming email that he instantly regretted. Someone else was not invited to a company function. Hurt by the slight, she questioned her self-worth, wondering why certain others made the cut and not her. Painful anecdotes, none remotely as dire as Jon’s, but all capable, if left unchecked, of creating chaos, of driving each one to the bottle. The members weren’t being insensitive, not intentionally. Mitch’s tantrum at home and Beth’s tears at work were big deals, to them. Different circumstances but the feelings are the same: anger, frustration, sadness and above all, powerlessness. Once traumatized by alcohol, now it was people, places and things that create the inner turmoil. The more sober one becomes the more he or she realizes how powerless they really are. Paradoxically, this is supposed to make you feel good.

As the shares continued, you reflect on events the last couple days that almost drove you to the brink. The ride home from SFO: You wanted to save your new company money and figured an old-fashioned taxi would cost less than an Uber. You were wrong. The ride had cost nearly twice as much. And on top of that the grungy vehicle stunk of body odor and god-forsaken foodstuffs. It was like sitting in a sewer and paying out the ass to do so. The coup de gras the driver’s digital payer was broken, forcing you to go into the house and find a personal check. While you didn’t make a scene in the taxi, you ranted and raved in your (thankfully) empty house. You’d spared the driver, but your anger had been so ugly and real. Wrath-like. Not just at the pathetic cabby at your company too, for wasn’t it their fault you had to pinch pennies in the first place?

The letter.

There was still the matter of the letter. The blackmail had come three weeks ago and counting, well past the 10-day time limit the extortionist had given you. Each day was laden with anxiety dipped in shame and sprinkled with fear. Even if nothing ever came of it, as you prayed, the letter had opened up a portal, revealing your defect like a cancer.  The gutless lie. Chaos.

To be continued…