Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Some Are Sicker Than Others by Andrew Seaward (Excerpt)

Chapter 2 - Speaker Meeting

When they got to the second floor, they took a right along the banister towards the meeting room at the end of the hall. The room was quiet and still a bit empty with only a handful of people congregating around a coffee pot that was percolating against the back wall. The center of the room was filled with a sea of empty, folding chairs arranged in a horseshoe pattern around an old, dusty stage. On top of the stage sat a large, wooden podium, its paint chipped and cracked from probably more than fifty years of wear and tear. That’s where he’ll be, he thought, staring at the podium, his eyes a bit bleary from the smoke-saturated air—on that stage, in front of all these people, glaring up at him with their judgmental stares. Christ—what the hell did he get himself into? Why did he ever agree to do this thing?

“You okay?” Vicky said, looking back at him as she led him forward to the front row of chairs.

“Yeah, I’m okay. I’m just nervous, I guess.”

“Do you want me to get you something? Maybe some water?”


“Okay. You go get seats and I’ll get you some.”


Monty nodded and made his way around the maze of folding chairs to the foot of the stage. He picked the two seats that had the easiest access to the podium then pulled off his jacket and draped it across the back of the chair. As he sat down, he focused on his breathing, his eyes on the floor, his elbows propped on his knees. Vicky came back and handed him his water, then pulled off her coat and took her seat.

As the minutes passed, the room grew more and more rowdy with people greeting one another and taking their seats. As they wandered in, so did the stench of stale cigarettes, following them in like a stray cat from the cold.

Monty just sat there, quietly staring at the podium, going over the speech in his head. Then, like a host for some kind of obnoxious game show, Robby appeared and jumped up on stage. He smiled and clapped as he ran towards the podium then grabbed the microphone and pulled it towards his face. “Welcome,” he said, grinning like a maniac with that disgusting lump of dip still tucked under his lip. “Welcome to the Sunday night edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. I am your host, Robby, a grateful, recovering ex-crack head.”

Hi Robby,” the room replied in unison like the congregation of some kind of twelve-step church.

“How’s everybody feeling tonight?”


“Aw come on now. I know ya’ll can do better than that. I said, how’s everybody feeling!?”


“Isn’t it great to be alive and sober!?”


“Hell yeah it is!” Robby laughed and threw his head backward as he pounded the podium with his fist. “Boy, have we got a special meeting planned for ya’ll tonight. One of my very own sponsees, probably my best buddy in the whole wide world, Monty Miller, is gonna get up here and share with ya’ll his story of experience, strength, and hope. But, before we get into all of that, I need a volunteer to come up and read How It Works. Any takers?”

Vicky shot up and waved her hand around excitedly, so fast that she nearly fell out of her chair. “Oooh, Oooh, I’ll do it, I’ll do it!”

“Ah, yes,” Robby said peering down at her, “Vicky, our very own Venezuelan beauty. Come on up here girl. Show us how it’s done.”

Vicky smiled and set down her coffee then, in one quick thrust, popped up to her feet. She hopped on the stage and strutted over to the podium as the people in the crowd whistled, clapped, and stomped their feet. “Hi everyone,” she said, as she grabbed the microphone and pulled it so close that it almost touched her lips. “My name’s Vicky and I am a grateful, recovering addict.”

Hi Vicky!”

“Hi everyone.” Her cheeks turned red as she laughed with embarrassment, dropping her face into her hands. “Okay,”—she regained her composure and pulled her loose bangs back from her face—“so, this is How It Works:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest. Our stories disclose in a general way what we used to be like, what happened, and what we are like now. If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it—then you are ready to take certain steps.

At some of these we balked. We thought we could find an easier, softer way. But we could not. With all the earnestness at our command, we beg of you to be fearless and thorough from the very start. Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely.

Remember that we deal with alcohol—cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power—that One is God. May you find Him now!

Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.

Here are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of recovery:

1.We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2.Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3.Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4.Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5.Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6.Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7.Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8.Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9.Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11.Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12.Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Many of us exclaimed, “What an order! I can’t go through with it.” Do not be discouraged. No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.

Our description of the alcoholic, the chapter to the agnostic, and our personal adventures before and after make clear three pertinent ideas:

a. That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.

b. That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.

c. That could and would if He were sought.”

Vicky smiled and turned toward Robby, as she brushed a thick, dark curl away from her face.

“Thank you,” Robby said as he walked back to the podium. “That was wonderful. Wasn’t that wonderful everybody?”


“Thank you,” Vicky said, then did a little curtsy and hopped down from the stage. When she got back to her seat, Monty put his arm around her and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. “Good job. You rocked.”

“I know.”

“Alright,” Robby said, as he winked at Monty. “You ready?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Alright. Let’s do this thing. Come on up here buddy boy.”

Monty took a deep breath then put his hands on his kneecaps and slowly pushed himself up from his seat. When he got to the podium, Robby was there waiting for him, his arms extended out by his head. “I’m real proud of you,” Robby said, as he threw his arms around him, wrapping him up in a bone-crushing bear hug. “Remember what I told you. Just open your mind and listen to your higher power, and I promise those words will pour right from your heart.”

“Yeah right.”

“Go get ‘em.”

Monty turned to face the podium and slowly looked out into the crowd. There were fifty of them, maybe a hundred, their heads like bobble-head dolls bobbing up and down. His hands were shaking, his heart was pounding, and everything inside of him told him to just turn around and run. But, where could he go? His family was afraid of him. His friends didn’t want to talk to him. The only friend he had was sitting right here in this room. This was it. This was what he’d been waiting for. His life, his future, his only shot at redemption—it all came down to this one simple speech.

He grabbed the microphone and pulled it towards him then cleared his throat and parted his lips.

“Hi,” he said, his voice a little shaky, his throat still parched from the dry, Colorado air. “My name’s Monty and I’m an alcoholic.”

Hi Monty.”

“Hi everybody.” And just like that the nerves began to leave him, the butterflies in his stomach emerging from their cocoons. “You know, when Robby first asked me to do this I was like, you gotta be kidding me. You must be out of your mind. There’s no way in hell you’re going to get me up on that stage in front of all those people and make me open up about my life. But, after a few weeks of coaxing and threatening to keep me on my fourth step forever, he finally convinced me to quit being such a baby and get up here and share some of the lessons I’ve learned. Now, I don’t really have anything written down or prepared, but Robby told me that if I just cleared my head and opened my heart that my higher power would grant me the words that I needed to say.”

Monty paused for a moment and reached for his water, closed his eyes and took a long sip.

“Now, a lot of people, when they get up here, like to talk about where they’re from and who their parents were and what their childhood was like and all of that. But I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time talking about that, simply because there’s not much to tell. I had a very normal childhood. Nothing tragic ever really happened. My dad was a commercial pilot, my mom was a personal trainer, and I grew up with my little brother and older sister on an average street, in an average neighborhood, in a little suburban beach town on the panhandle of North Florida. My parents were great. They’re still great. They got us everything we ever wanted—all the things that they never had growing up as kids. They sent us to the best private, Catholic schools in all of Northwest Florida and made damn sure that they were front and center at every single, trivial school function that we had going on in our insignificant, little lives. Whether it was basketball games, soccer practices, volleyball matches, swim meets…whatever it was, they were there. And they’re still there, to this day. Even after all the bad shit I’ve done and the horrible, hurtful things I’ve said—things that no parent should ever have to hear come out of their child’s mouth over the telephone in the eerie twilight of the early morning hours, after a hundred bottles of pills and a thousand cases of liquor when your mind is so fucked up you don’t even know if you’re running around or standing still. After all of that shit and all of that insanity, they never stopped loving me. Not once. Never.”

Monty looked up amazed and with astonishment, as if he didn’t believe the words he just said. He had to calm down. He was getting too excited. He didn’t want them thinking he was losing his head. He paused for a moment to regain his composure, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

“So what happened? How does a sweet kid from a supportive family go from being a straight-A student and a star athlete in high school, to a crazed, drunken, suicidal waste of a human being? How does someone with every opportunity to be successful in life suddenly decide to just chuck it all away?”

“Well,” he said, as if he was sighing, in one long, continuous breath, “if I knew the answer to that, I probably wouldn’t be up here. I’d probably be at some convention in Geneva, Switzerland accepting the Nobel Prize for Chemistry and Medicine.”

The room swelled with a sigh of laughter, as if they were relieved he didn’t storm off the stage. Monty relaxed and began to laugh with them, rubbing his hands, and shaking his head.

“The truth is, I don’t know why I did the things I did—why I gave up on life, gave up on my ambitions, gave up on my family, gave up on myself—why I couldn’t just stop after a few sips of bourbon or a couple shots of whiskey and just go to bed—why I had to drink glass after glass and bottle after bottle until I was so drunk, I couldn’t even make it from the couch to the bathroom without passing out in a puddle of my own piss. I mean, it obviously didn’t feel good, right? I didn’t really enjoy drinking by myself in some dark, university apartment trying to work up the courage to put a bullet in my brain. So, why’d I do it? Why did I keep going for that bottle, when I knew full well with every fiber of my being that if I didn’t stop and get some help, I was going to end up dead?”

“Well, that’s exactly what I was going to figure out. Me, Monty Miller; a clinically depressed, twenty-three year old alcoholic, with not even a second of sobriety or the physical ability to even get out of bed and pee. I was going to figure out what has eluded thousands of doctors all throughout the medical community for the better part of the last century. I was going to deduce the reason for the insanity—I was going to find a way to beat this thing. The only problem was, I was so fucked up from all those years of drinking that I couldn’t even hold the fucking steering wheel still let alone think with a straight head. But, I was determined, you know? I was determined to drink like a normal person—to live my life as a functional alcoholic. You see, I wasn’t ready to stop. I wasn’t ready to be sober. I could outsmart this stupid, little so-called disease. I had the brain, the knowledge, and the determination to do it. I graduated first in my class out of a total of fifty, in one of the toughest chemical engineering programs in the entire South. There wasn’t a problem I couldn’t solve, a riddle I couldn’t unravel, and if anyone was going to figure out the solution to addiction, it was going to be me.”

“So, I decided to do what any good research student would do—I’d take a trip down to the local library and check out every single book there was on the topic of addiction. Everything from self-help books and psychological case studies, to detailed pharmacological reports and articles in the New England Journal of Medicine. But, I couldn’t go to just any library. Oh no. I had to go to the absolute best one around, which, as you all know, is on the CU campus out in Boulder, nearly forty-five minutes from my apartment in downtown. I remember that day very clearly. It was a little over a year ago, during the week of that terrible blizzard, the one that shut down the city for two whole days. Do you all remember which one I’m talking about?”

Monty paused and watched as the heads in the room all nodded; the bobble-head dolls gyrating up and down. He picked up his cup and took another sip of water then cleared his throat and eased it back down.

“All the roads were closed in and out of Denver and there was absolutely no way I was going to get to Boulder in my car. So, I laced up my boots, buttoned up my jacket, threw on my helmet, and hopped on my bike. Now, I know what you all are thinking. What about the snow? What about the blizzard? What if I slip and crack my head on the ice? Well, that was a risk I was willing to take. You see, I was so deluded that getting to that library became my only saving grace. I thought that if I could just get on my bike and make it out to Boulder, I’d prove to everyone that I was going to be okay. Even if I died along the way, I’d at least be a hero, and everyone would remember me as a martyred saint. But, here’s the sick thing—before I went I had to make sure I packed enough provisions to keep me warm for the long trip. So, I took one of those Camelbaks—those little satchels that professional cyclists fill up with water—and I filled it up with an entire box of Franzia wine. I know, I know, pretty sick, right? Well, that’s how fucked up I was. I figured all I needed was a little bit of Franzia to ward off the pesky symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. I mean, I couldn’t very well risk hallucinating in the middle of the freeway and going into convulsions on the side of the road. I mean, that would be crazy. That would be absolutely absurd. I couldn’t risk dying, I was about to come up with the addiction cure!”

“So, I took my Camelbak, slung it over my shoulder, hopped on my bike, and headed off down the road. I don’t remember exactly what happened next, but somewhere between my apartment and downtown Denver, I must’ve slipped on the ice, hit my head, and lost consciousness and ended up passed out somewhere in about a foot of snow. The next thing I knew, I was being wheeled through the Denver county hospital, connected to a bunch of machines and those long, spaghetti-like, plastic tubes. And I was a mess too. My face was frozen, my lips were purple, and my fingertips were so frostbitten, they looked like pieces of black liquorice. When the doctor came in, he said they might have to amputate if the color in my fingers didn’t come back soon. But I wasn’t really too concerned about that. I didn’t really care if they had to cut off all my fingers and leave me with nothing but two nubs for hands. As sick as it sounds, the only thing that I really cared about was getting the hell out of there and back to my apartment so I could polish off my box of Franzia wine. That’s how sick I was. That’s how fucked up I had become. I didn’t give a shit about losing my fingers. I didn’t even care if I died right then and there. Anything was better than the pain I was experiencing. Anything was better than the alcohol withdrawal. My head was on fire, my body was thawing, and I was shaking and heaving so much that I was willing to do anything for just one sip of alcohol. So, I did what I had to do. I got out of the bed, ripped out all of that tubing then marched out of the room and into the hall. Well, I didn’t even make it three steps before a nurse saw me and started shouting, chasing after me like a wild boar down the hall. Two seconds later, a stampede of security guards jumped on top of me and dragged me back to my bed, kicking and screaming, while nurses with latex gloves and giant sized needles strapped restraints to my wrists and ankles to hold me down. And they basically left me like that—strapped to a bed, sweating and seizing, staring up at a fucking wet spot on the wall. I pulled against those straps until my wrists became bloody and cried out constantly for someone to come let me out. But, no one ever came. I was stuck there, alone in the dark with my hallucinations, seeing things move that weren’t moving, watching things crawl around the corners of the ceiling. The feeling that at any moment, someone could come into that room and do whatever the hell they wanted to me and I wouldn’t be able to do a god damn thing, was without a doubt, the most terrifying experience of my entire life. To have your freedom and your liberty taken away like that is the worst fucking feeling in the whole world. I’ll tell you this much…I would rather put a gun in my mouth and pull the fucking trigger than ever have to go through that experience again.”

Monty shook his head as he stared down at the podium, breathing slowly in and out through his nose. He could actually feel the straps getting tighter and tighter, cutting into the soft flesh on his ankles and wrists. He looked up at Vicky whose hands were folded, her fingertips touching the bottom of her chin. She nodded once for encouragement. Monty nodded in return and took another deep breath.

“So what happened?” he said, shaking off the memory. “How did I escape all of that madness? How did I find a way to end all that suffering and pain?” He looked once more at Vicky, closed his eyes, and blew her a kiss. She smiled and mouthed the words, “I love you,” then folded her hands against her chest.

“Well, it’s simple really,” he said, as he moved his hand against his pocket and felt the ring box that he knew was still there. “I finally found a reason worth living. I finally found someone who made it all okay. All that guilt, all that suffering, when Vicky smiled she took it all away. Now, a lot of you in here said that it could never happen…that rushing into a relationship would only make matters worse…that after a month, we’d be out of the program, relapsing together, getting high and getting drunk. You told me to wait a year and see what happened, wait a year and see if I was still in love. Well, if I’d listened to you guys, I wouldn’t still be here. I wouldn’t have made it one day, let alone an entire year. Vicky gave me something that no God could ever give me—she made me feel that I deserved to be loved. And all that crap about twelve steps and higher powers…well, it’s all a bunch of bullshit if you don’t have love.” Monty paused and looked directly at Robby, at the look of betrayal on his knotted face. His arms were folded tightly across his chest and his eyes were filled with a deep, disapproving rage.

Monty stepped off the stage and moved towards Vicky in the front row. “Vicky,” he said, as he knelt down before her, the thousands of butterflies flying from his throat. “You are my heart, my soul, my reason for living…without you, I know I would’ve never made it this far.” He paused for a moment then reached into his pocket and pulled out the box that contained the ring. “Vicky,” he said as he pulled it open, “will you do me the honor of accepting this ring?”

Vicky’s eyes lit up and her mouth fell open as the entire room gasped in complete disbelief. She looked at the ring then back at Monty, then at the ring and back again.

“Well,” Monty said, scooting closer, trying to balance the ring on his quivering knee. “What do you say, baby? Will you marry me?”

“Yes!” Vicky shot up and crashed into Monty, throwing her arms around his neck.

“You will?” Monty said, as though he didn’t believe her. “You’ll marry me?”

“Yes, of course! Of course I will!”

Monty got to his feet and wrapped his arms around her then pressed his mouth against her lips. He held her there for what felt like an eternity, caressing her face, and tasting her peppermint kiss. The room went wild with whistling and shouting, people clapping their hands and stomping their feet. But, Monty didn’t care, because he couldn’t see them—all he could see was Vicky’s face—her perfect smile, her perfect cheekbones, her perfect eyes, her perfect lips. She was everything in the entire world to him and now the moment was finally his.

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Genre – Literary Fiction

Rating – R

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