Leaves in the pool…
You always try and view the Program through the eyes of a newcomer. Though many members feel otherwise, for you listening to the old timers has limited value. The rawness of someone in his first 30 days is why you keep coming back. You haven’t had a drink in 14 years and gave up pills soon after. You are looking for someone new. You slide back in your usual seat at the Living in the Solution meeting at the Loft, a small but airy room over the rec center atop a hill in Strawberry. You have a diet coke in one hand and three chocolate chip cookies in the other, both qualifying as “lesser addictions.” You have many more of those.
Joan, a 70-year old former model and fashion entrepreneur, is sharing about the ongoing struggle with her sister. She loves and hates the woman in equal measures.
You can relate.
Despite animus, Joan and her sister do not desire to break off relations. Instead they fought, enduring the pain each inflicted upon one another. Choosing it over abandonment. You guess sisters are different that way. They are bound in ways you’ll never understand. Your wife was tight as hell with hers.
At first you didn’t like Joan. She came off like a bored, rich lady in Marin (which she was); her petty shares struck you as “leaves in the pool.” She lamented the men who took over her company when she was too drunk to run it. Even though they had paid her millions. She cursed her sister for not giving her enough credit in building their fashion empire then blamed her for the drinking that lost it. Then there was the dog she almost ran over in her BMW, while drunk. Other indignities half remembered. Joan spoke in a drawl that made her sound both queenly and oddly still drunk.
This bothered you until it didn’t.
You came to realize that all difficulties were leaves in the pool: Yours, hers and everyone else’s. People fell in and out of love or had others fall in and out of love with them. Lost family and money (“romances and finances” as they said in AA) and more and so on. All was petty. But if a thing made you drink it might as well have been the apocalypse. You were wrong to have judged Joan. Furthermore, you had judged her wrongly. In a lovely turnabout, you and Joan became close. Developed a rapport. You admired her. She hadn’t relied on a man to get all she’d gotten. Despite the wine and cocaine (her drugs of choice), she’d done well for herself, by herself. She’d earned her house in Tiburon same as her seat in AA. Now you are glad to see Joan when she comes in the door. You save her a seat next. You smile at the smell of her perfume.
At the Loft, most of the regulars are at least 50, many much older. Words of death and dying take up evermore meeting time. Yet, Joan seldom goes there, another reason you liked her. As for the specter of death, you’ve come to believe that if one is serene it too is just a leaf in the pool. But most people are not inherently serene. And you are no exception.
Joan concludes her share by saying she’s grateful for the “sometimes-grace” she’s received while dealing with her sister. It’s an ongoing struggle, she says, as most struggles are, but she is overcoming her resentment, and is staying sober, one day at a time.
This is what AA is all about. When things go sideways or even well, you don’t drink or use drugs. You keep sane. You know peace. You look forward to living another day.
Despite your troubles, the leaves in your pool, you’re glass is almost always half full. You are strangely happy. Was this grace? Unlike many AA’s, you doubt that it’s God. But you are certain the Program has something to do with it. People like Joan.
This afternoon, you don’t share your problems. Instead, you talk about your wife in favorable terms. “We have been married over 20 years,” you say, with genuine wonder in your voice. “And we have stayed that way, for better and worse. Through it all.”
For the record, you are petrified of death. How it will come for you. What you will have missed when it does. All the things you will never know. Those are the leaves in your pool.