Sunday night AA. In the parking lot, it’s the meeting after the meeting. Cigarette smokers and laughter. People talking in twos and threes. Two women hugging, one in tears, the other whispering comfort and encouragement.
JJ met with his sponsor, Professor Tom, in the front seat of Tom’s old Chevy pickup (bench seat!). A little close for comfort, from JJ’s perspective. “I’m going on a trip,” JJ said.
Tom didn’t respond right away, but stared into the dark, chewing his gum. He always had some gum going since he quit smoking a few years back. Or so JJ’s been told. He’s only known Tom for about a year, since limping back into the AA fold. Tom asked, “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know,” JJ said. “Me and Lila are going to drive around the country.”
“To be with Lila. To get away for a while.”
Professor Tom chewed and JJ could feel the beginnings of internal squirming. “It’s not a good idea,” Tom said.
“I met this guy on the mountain. He inspired me to take a journey.”
“Does this mountain guy know about you? About your love of self-destruction, self-deception, and self-sabotage?”
It’s Mountain Dude, JJ thought. Mountain Dude. “No, but it feels right. I didn’t get sober to not be free. Besides, Lila…we just want to be together.”
Now Tom turned. JJ could just see Tom’s eyes in the yellowish light from a parking lot lamp. There was concern there in the warm depth of his look, but cold skepticism in his squint and cocked eyebrow. “As your sponsor, I suggest you not take any journeys of discovery right now.”
“And here are my reasons. One, you’re still a newcomer and only on step three. That’s the only journey you need to be concerned with right now. Two, we often plan our relapses without even knowing it. Three, you won’t be doing any service for other alcoholics while roaming the land. That’s key. And four, the last thing you need is to detach from the roots you’re putting down. You need to stay put and dig deeper.”
“Are you forbidding me to go?”
“It doesn’t work like that. You can do whatever you want. I strongly suggest you stay put, though. For both you and Lila’s sake, if you really want to be with her.”
“It’s different this time.”
“Yeah, you have more to lose than ever. Your house. Lila. The lottery money. You can’t see it, but I promise that you can lose it all and wash up somewhere pretty quick.”
“But…I feel so good. I haven’t wanted to drink at all.”
“Like I said, I can’t stop you. But I strongly suggest you stay close. Go away for the weekend with Lila. What does she say about this?”
Pause. “I haven’t told her.”
“Okay. That’s your assignment. Go tell her what you’re planning for her. Then call me.” Tom reached for the column and started the truck. “Meeting over.”
“Alright, thanks.” JJ hopped out and closed the door. “I’ll call you,” he said through the open window.
“Talk to Lila,” Tom said and drove away.
“That didn’t go well”, JJ thought. “Well, fuck him. Lila will love this.”
So, he went to find out.