Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Got Any Money in the Bank?


“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, and today is money in the bank.”
Red W., AA oldtimer

I sobered up in a dingy AA clubhouse in the Los Angeles area 20 years ago. I showed up in my designer high heels, with my $100 haircut and boutique clothes, straight from work in my publishing house, right before the 6 p.m. meetings started so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I found a seat at the acres of long folding tables, metal chairs, and metal ashtrays and waited, staring into the middle distance with an eff-off lift of my chin.

I sort of liked the grimy place. It was a broad open space with a podium and a battered metal desk on a small stage at the head of the room. Hung on the “off-white” walls were signs in inexpert calligraphy announcing profundities like “First Things First” and “Easy Does It.” It was far better than the first hole-in-wall AA meeting place I had stumbled into, which had been the size of a bathtub stuffed full of bikers and gray-skinned heroin addicts who scared me.

I made $65,000 a year editing a fitness magazine for a world-famous bodybuilding firm. From a small-town girl, I had made myself a denizen of LA’s sophisticated side. I was 36 years old. On Saturdays, for fun, I spun around the LA freeways in my new little car with a bottle of Stoly’s and the windows down. Now I drank vodka in the morning before work, and I drank all day long, all night, weekends, everywhere, all the time, and I was ready to try AA.

In those meetings at that clubhouse, someone would get up, sit at the desk at the head of the room, and talk about alcoholism for a while, telling his story. A long-haired musician from Detroit. An aging make-up artist from the film industry. Some guy from PG&E. Then he’d pick people to go up to the podium to say a few words. The things people said were honest and searching and I could relate. I drank coffee and listened. Came back four evenings a week and on Saturday mornings at 9.

One evening the Mo-town musician looked down the tables and pointed his finger at me. I went to the podium and looked at all those people. I didn’t know shit from Shinola and words stuck in my throat. So I dropped the defenses and just told them the truth. I’m new. I drink all the time. I need help.

After the meeting a bossy, expensive little woman told me to come with her. She led me across the room to a corner table, to a white-haired elderly lady in heavy make-up surrounded by other women. “This is Helen,” she said. “You need a sponsor.” Helen told me that from now on I was to sit at her table with her “gals.”

Everything changed.

Eight years later I stood next to her bed while she died of pneumonia. Twenty years later I stood next to my mother while she died of pneumonia. I’ve been able to part of the human race. I’m not afraid of life or the dying that goes with it.

Every morning I get this day right here. Today is money in the bank. I don’t have to solve all the problems in the world. I get to do my best with what faces me now, be kind to the people who come across my path, and try to remember to say thanks somewhere along the day, the more often, the better.



25 comments:

Dianne said...

hold the mortals close, and we will return the favor....
love you,
Di

The Bug said...

I'm so glad you found that dingy room 20 years ago. And I'm glad you're telling US about it now.

e said...

This is a thought-provoking post, Chris. I've realised that we only have today, despite our tendency to think otherwise and plan as though life will never end.

I've never made anything approaching $65,000, but money isn't everything, and if anything, it enables people to hide their problems rather than facing them.

I am glad you survived that grimy room with the gray-skinned addicts. You have no idea what a wonderful woman emerged from those bottles of Stoly you used to swig.

My mother developed a preference for vodka and never even tried to quit once in the bottle.

Brian Miller said...

you know...you got a beautiful story...and powerful...keep sharing it...

Monkey Man said...

Sobriety gives us new life each day. It is up to us to keep our outlook and attitude right.

C. said...

A beautiful post.

Carrie Burtt said...

Such a wonderful message here in one the experiences of your life....every day is an opportunity to do what i can do right here in the spot i am standing in....sometimes we just make it all too complicated....we live in a world of over analizers....like the Nike commercial says "just do it"...:-)

Indigo said...

Paul took me to my first AA meeting. I had asked beforehand. The idea was to find some kind of help for my father. By the end of the meeting, Paul swears there wasn't a single person I hadn't pissed off. He told me, he'd never seen anything close, in his 15 years of service.

That was then - I haven't had a drink in almost 7 years. Turns out I needed the meetings just as much as my dad (which never sobered up and chose not to be in my life).
(Hugs)Indigo

Totalfeckineejit said...

Thanks,Chris.

young-eclectic-encounters said...

I do now. You always have such uplifting posts. You take what could be a sad depressing story and turn it into an inspiring soul lifting one; as you have with your life. Thanks for sharing
Johnina :^A

RNSANE said...

You're something else, Chris...I am so lucky to have chanced upon you.

Karen said...

Fot this, I give thanks.

Pat transplanted to MN said...

I have heard the first part of that quote but never the last about "today is $$ in the bank" so I learned something today from your blog...interesting reading....

marie said...

I have money in the bank and I am glad that you do, too. Keep trudging and thanks for sharing your story. I wish that the women in the program today were as hard hitting as the ones you met so long ago...

Rachel Fox said...

Being kind to all the people we come across... it can feel like a revolutionary act! But it's worth it.
x

Syd said...

Chris, this is such a moving post. That AA club reminds me of the one downtown where I would go to open meetings. I needed to hear a lot of AA when I first came to Al-Anon. I still like to go to speaker meetings. I would say that you are very rich indeed in ways that many people can't even imagine.

izzy said...

Odd deflections we show up with-so pleased there were people who saw them for what they were and walked right through them!They kept giving me suggestions and let me bristle and stomp- I got quite a few smiles of recognition, and even some
grins..." Keep coming !"
So glad I did; Thanks.

Scott said...

"everything changed"

That is exactly what happens at some point when we look back over our journey through sobriety.

The men in my early meetings told me " all you need to do is don't drink, go to meetings, and change your whole effing life." Eventually, everything changed. Thank God!

I love your story and the way you tell it, as always!

Magpie said...

I love that "money in the bank"...it's a thought I'll carry with me today and chew on. Glad Helen came into your life.

Woman in a Window said...

Beautifully bold and honest you. We are what we are, always works in progress. You pull your sweater back from your neck. You show us your neck. You are. So are we.

I'm glad you're amongst us, Chris.

xo
erin

Titus said...

Just thanks for this. Thanks.

Georgina Dollface said...

I just get this, so, so much. It brought tears to my eyes. I remember my Dad's recovery in AA, and the stories he would tell on his "birthday" about how he felt when he first arrived, his resistance and the amazing friendships he made along the way. Thanks for sharing this. It really made me feel close to my Dad again, even though he's not here anymore. - G

Teri and the cats of Furrydance said...

Your experience, put into words...has a profound effect on so many...just reading the comments was emotional in itself. Thank you for sharing of yourself...

Anonymous said...

This excellent place saved me $487 for the entire year! These are a web based specialist and are generally kind, caring, along with take fantastic care of their potential customers. Most importantly for me, they respond to emails and respond to calls with humans.

Kristin H. said...

I've been gone, and I missed your mother's passing. I am so sorry, Chris. I am glad you could be by her side and witness her transition. May she rest in peace.


"Every morning I get this day right here. Today is money in the bank. I don’t have to solve all the problems in the world. I get to do my best with what faces me now, be kind to the people who come across my path, and try to remember to say thanks somewhere along the day, the more often, the better."

Thank you for this.

Albert Einstein Quotes