Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Want To Make It Right

The last thing I ever stole was my copy of AA's Daily Reflections.  I could have bought it.  I had the money.  But I was too afraid to ask anybody about the literature on display at the meetings.  I wanted that little book very badly.  I imagined myself reading it and not having to get high anymore.

I guess I was clean about a month.  I was going to meetings daily and sometimes at night.  I'd gotten myself a sponsor, a nurse named Renee.

"Here's my phone number," she said.  "Don't lose it."

"When's a good time to call?" I asked.

"You tell me.  I'm always available to talk."

I was terrified to have a conversation with this person I didn't know.  We weren't friends, and I saw myself as a nuisance.  She assured me that wasn't the case and encouraged me to volunteer for a service commitment.  I signed up to make the coffee on Saturday mornings.

My husband came with me the first couple of times, just to make sure I went.  We'd stop at the supermarket to get supplies - big canisters of joe, milk and a few packages of Oreos.  I saved my receipts and was always reimbursed for whatever dough I spent at the store.

No matter how simple the task, my brain was filled with anxiety.  What if they hated the cookies I got?  How much milk did we need?  Who in their right mind drinks decaf?

Occasionally, the assembly hall was locked.  I'd have to walk next door to the police station and get the key that opened the door to the little building.  Depending on the state of my delicate ego, I couldn't decide if it felt like responsibility or punishment.

I liked being there in the kitchenette before the other folks came along.  The room reminded me of the house I grew up in, preserved in time by wood paneling, years of simultaneous abuse and neglect.  The formica countertop and greasy pepper shaker, a handful of mismatched utensils and a small radio with a busted antennae.  Like life on an old boat, abandoned at sea.

I turned the lights on and adjusted the thermostat.  David and I rinsed out the big metal urns and packed them with leaded and unleaded.  The comforting smell of Maxwell House filled the room.

"I'm gonna go now," Dave suggested once the coffeepots were under way.

"I wish you'd stay."

I wanted him to have this problem with me, as if he didn't already.

When he left, I fussed over my preparations like a twelve years old, fretfully awaiting the arrival of unfamiliar party guests.  I wondered what would happen if I just didn't show up.  I envisioned the locked door, the empty percolators and unwrapped stacks of styrofoam cups.

"Where is she?" someone might ask.

But probably not.  They'd know.  And quietly have to get on with things.

I entertained these new thoughts while referring to the old ones.  I was really tired of feeling like a failure.  I didn't want to be the cause of any more disappointment.  I was fresh out of ideas and excuses.  I had nowhere else to go.

So I kept coming back.  And making the coffee.


Now, about that book.

Between meetings, AA literature was stored in a large tupperware and kept in the kitchenette closet.  Whenever I was done preparing beverages and setting up the chairs, I liked to arrange the CDs, paperbacks and pamphlets on the card table at the front of the room.

The Daily Reflections looks like a prayer book.  Maybe that's why I zeroed in on it. I wanted to rediscover how to talk to God and have a sincere relationship with Him.  I didn't feel capable of making that happen by myself, and I thought the little book would help.  But making a purchase would involve asking questions, and I wasn't confident I could do that either.  Not without crying, anyway.

So, I stole it.  I slipped the missal into my jacket pocket and brought it home.  I even cleared a spot on the corner of my nightstand and set it there.

Despite this crime and my fragile sobriety, waking up became easier.  I reached for a Daily Reflection first thing every morning.  I started to understand the hope in each passage I read.  For the first time in many years, it felt like my mind and heart were cooperating with one another.  I was thinking before I spoke and making small, sound decisions.  I'm pretty sure this was prayer.

In no time at all, I was turning to God directly and often.  I looked forward to meetings and felt more comfortable sharing with the group.  I listened to the stories of other alcoholics and addicts.  I shared my own.  We discussed our progress and plans for survival in a world without drugs or alcohol.

Several weeks later, I approached one of the gentlemen who ran the Saturday session.

"I stole a book from that pile over there, a few weeks ago."  I pointed to the table.  "I want to pay for it."

I wasn't sure what he would say when I admitted what I'd done.  Even though I was embarrassed, it was exciting to tell the truth.

He looked at me for a long minute and turned to the old guy next to him.

"This one lifted a book, Walter.  And she wants to make it right."

Walter removed his glasses and positioned them on top of his head.

"Just put what you can in the basket when it comes around.  Think you can you do that?"


"Okay, then.  You the one making the coffee?"

"I am."

"I thought so.  Keep up the good work, kid."


  1. Cool story, Mary. Love the way you write, the details, the humor, everything really.

    At my second or third meeting, I had to borrow a dollar from someone I'd never met before because I was short on cash and wanted to buy a Big Book. I can't say that I would have gone home and drank without it, but it would have felt such a blow. Having to borrow a dollar made me feel lame and inept, like another thing I couldn't do right. Mind you, I wasn't in a position to just take one, but it felt wrong to take a loan from someone I didn't know, who didn't know me. I did eventually pay him back. It turned out he was a fixture at the clubhouse meetings, so it wasn't hard to find him, and he looked surprised when I handed him a dollar, though I could tell he remembered.

  2. Don't you love how far you come, once you know which way to go? Xo♡