I intended to write this in Starbucks. I came up with the title before I reached there. It was closed. Starbucks closed? At 20:05? I know I was here on a Saturday at this time. The internet says it closes at 21:00. Hmmm. Screw you Starbucks. I will keep my title regardless. I go next door to an Italian Gelato and Coffee shop. I have no idea of its name. I know it is on the corner of Chestnut & State. It is right around the corner from “the meeting.”

I did not want to leave the house. I did not want to go to a meeting. I did not want to go yesterday, and I did not. If I do not go today, I am creating a habit. A habit that leads to drinking. I was going to go to my usual club, but I couldn’t face it. I drove downtown. I love coming into the city at night. It’s a beautiful city, with all the buildings lit up.

As I neared the location of the meeting in the car, I was taken back to last Saturday. I had come downtown to go to this meeting, and as I passed the building where the meeting is held, I kept driving, turned back on myself, and stopped at a liquor store a couple of blocks away. I bought a six pack (and had it and three more at home). That was the last time I drank. One week down. My record is seventeen months. I found that easy. I don’t know why it’s so hard this time. They say alcoholism is progressive, and they are right. Judging from this past year.

It feels as if every bar, store, and club in Chicago, holds drunken memories for me. The liquor store in which I bought last weeks booze, was where I bought my friend a bottle of champagne the day she got married. I brought it back across the street to the bar we were hanging out in, which has changed hands and is different now. That bar was where she and I were doing a Riverdance impression back in 2004, trying to convince Americans that we were part of the troup, ending in me breaking my wrist. Beside the store is a late bar I’ve been in a few times. So when I got out of the car, I immediately saw three places mere feet away that I was able to recall some ridiculousness.

Back to the present, as I stare out the window of the café. We are in the heart of downtown (drunk town) Chicago. Many of my old haunts are nearby. So is the hospital I have ended up in so many times, after drinking and doing bad things. Tonight I will not join those outside, all dressed up, the girls plastered in make-up, hoping to hook-up perhaps. God, it’s all so tiring. The thought of it makes me want to be home, with my husband and kids.

Sometimes, weeks, days, moments earlier than these thoughts, I might wish I was with them. To feel a sense of youth, of freedom. But it is not freedom. I am a slave to a most powerful master. He goes by many names: Makers Mark; Root 1; Blue Moon. Even Irish Car Bombs, those disgusting concoctions, have been on the menu within the last several months.

The car bombs were dared upon me by strangers in a bar. I’m not one to pass up a challenge. Of course I can drink two foreign men under the table. Ha. I’m foreign too. Even more fun. Three foreigners from different continents, competing in a futile test of alcoholic strength. An Indian – they’re shit drinkers, right? No. I was in treatment with an Indian guy. He could drink for sure. How about the Kiwi? They’re probably great drinkers. Sure half of them are Irish anyway. I’m pretty sure their weather is wet and windy, just like home. Isn’t that half the reason us Paddies are such drunks? It doesn’t matter now. I am Irish. I am American. I can kick their asses. Tonight I will not drink. One day at a time. That night I ended up in the hospital. Tonight I will sleep in my own bed.

I got to the meeting at 20:29, a minute to spare. The room was packed. It is Saturday night and the place is packed with mostly twenty-somethings. It is officially a young persons’ meeting. If people saw this group in any other setting, I would expect them to be doing something entirely different on a Saturday night. I hark after my wild nights out at that age. Or do I. I go between being glad I had my fun times, and am only getting sober now, and wishing I hadn’t wasted so much of my life away. I am forty. I don’t think I qualify as young. All that said, a gent who I’ve seen several times at another location is at this young peoples’ meeting. He has been here every time I’ve come. He is in his late seventies. I guess age really is just a number.

The meeting was great tonight. There were two speakers: a male; and a female. I recognized the female. She was extremely expressive, and she had everyone’s undivided attention. She mentioned her home meeting, which is the one meeting you always attend each week. Most people catch other meetings too, but they are not set. I had attended the meeting she mentioned, for the first time this past week. It was amazing. Probably the best meeting I have ever been to. Today’s meeting was excellent too. The guy who spoke was great. Both of them really summed up how it feels to be an alcoholic. The comments from the room were also fascinating.

There is very rarely a speaker, with whom I cannot connect to. Even if someone has a completely different background to me, there will be something in their story that I will see myself in. Alcoholism knows no bounds: religion; gender; race; education level; financial situation; criminal or not; age; political views. It’s amazing who I now consider friends who I never thought I would. I was too good, or just different. I have heroin addicts as friends, people in their seventies, people in their twenties, all colors, people with jail time behind them. In the rooms (what we call being in A.A.) everyone is equal. We are all there for the same reason. We are all addicts. We all need each other to survive.

At the end I jumped into the car and headed home. I decided to take the streets, instead of jumping on the expressway. I wanted to wind down, have a slower journey, and just enjoy being in the city. I took Clark St. north. Possibly not that brightest idea. Clark St. is lined with bars all the way from downtown to where I was headed. I didn’t have major urges, but every block or two, a memory would pop into my head of a time when I’d been in that bar, or that one, oh and I forgot about that one. I took Addison west to go through the drive-thru Dunkin Donuts. As I passed Target, the thought of buying booze entered my head. I told Target, out loud in the car, that he could go fuck himself. Apparently Target is male.

When I got home, the hubby was watching a movie, Bourne #56. I think there are about that many Bourne movies at this stage. I was glad I was at home, and had not bought alcohol. I was glad I had chosen to go to the meeting I went to. I was glad I would not be hungover the next day. But still I wanted a drink.

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