Desire Chip

There is a psychology to drinking. Everything has to be just so. Not at the end, though. The end is a fabrication, a lie we tell ourselves. We are not drunks. We are misunderstood. Put upon. Lied to. We are cultured, educated, not of this world. We are sensitive. Outside is a cruel existence which tramples on our inner souls, so we push people away with both arms and a “Fuck You” to boot. We are lost, confused, scared. We live in continual fear of other people and of ourselves, what we should have done, and what we still need to do. The thoughts which lie inside our head, coupled with our erratic emotional state, make us feel like all of life is insurmountable. And then we want to die.

No alcoholic really wants to sober up. We want to stop hurting, feeling, thinking. We want to stop the pain. But we don’t really want to sober up. Sobering up only comes as a last a last resort.

 

It was an oppressively bright, sunny day as Lydia drove to the meeting. It was hot. Too hot. Too bright. The kind of hot and bright that only comes in late August as everyone curses yet another cerulean day. Houstonians everywhere choked on smog as sweat came rolling down their foreheads and into their eyes. Lydia turned up the air conditioner another notch and dreamed of October.

If she had stopped for a single moment, she might have contemplated what was about to happen. But she didn’t want to contemplate. She just wanted to go. To do… to do what? She didn’t know what she was doing. She just knew she couldn’t do this anymore. So, instead, Lydia concentrated on trying to find this defunct place in the defunct mall that she knew none of her friends had ever shopped at ever.

Lydia walked into the room. It was bigger than she thought it would be. And cozy. Was cozy the word? Anyways, it was clean. Lydia’s brain was in a fog. It made it hard to think, which was probably a good thing. She tentatively stepped into the room, one foot and then the other, as if the mere stepping into an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting branded one for life. She looked to either side of her, and sighed a sigh of relief as she realized she was alone in the room. She was scared someone would try to talk to her. She didn’t want to talk. She wouldn’t have been able to express herself anyways. Lydia tried to look like she belonged in this room, wanted to feel confident and in control, but simultaneously Lydia was scared she really did belong here and hoped against hope she was wrong. Lydia suddenly thought of the Groucho Marx joke, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept people like me as a member.” She smiled to herself. Lately it seemed if all of life was some sort of cruel, hideous, joke.

She looked down at her watch. The meeting was supposed to start in ten minutes. Maybe she had the wrong time. There were a couple people smoking people out front, and a man selling coffee. Maybe the other members all decided to step out for a midafternoon cocktail.

Lydia looked around the room. It was an inoffensive beige color. Along the walls were pithy sayings, “First things first” and “Think, think, think” and the infamous twelve steps. Lydia shook her head. This was her salvation? More like a farce. She should leave, she thought. But somewhere in the back of her head, Lydia could just not make the motion happen to walk out. Instead, she hung her head and silently began to cry. What was to become of her?

A minute later, laughter started migrating towards the room. Lydia quickly wiped her eyes. She took a seat in the back row and righted her shoulders. It’s going to be okay, she whispered unconvincingly to herself. The door of the room opened, and four middle-aged men entered the room. Several of them were involved in a conversation that Lydia could not seem to follow. It may have been about fishing lures. Instantly, Lydia was transfixed. All four men seemed to be happy, arguing in a good-natured way. Lydia realized she had not seen anyone genuinely laugh in a very long time. Life had been so difficult. So sad.

Suddenly, Lydia caught the eye of one of the men. Although she quickly averted her gaze, she was not quick enough. The man walked over to her, and stuck out his hand. “I’m Paul.”

Instantly, Lydia realized she should use a fake name. What’s her name? Her name? Her name? Lydia rung her hands trying to think her way out of the name situation as Paul stood staring at her.

“Ummm… Don’t take this the wrong way ma’am, but are you new here?”

Lydia stared at the kind man blankly, still unable to come up with a name, and burst into tears anew.

“Guys, I think we got a new one here.” By this time all four men stood staring at Lydia.

“I know they say don’t pass the Kleenex box, but man, do I hate to see them cry,” said one of the men.

“Shit, she’s fine.”

“It’ll get better. I promise.” Paul turned to the man by the door, “Sammy, get one of them girls up in here.”

A minute later, Lydia looked up as Sammy returned with a young girl in her twenties. She was pretty in tight blue jeans and long blonde hair. She flashed Lydia a smile full of promise and confidence. Lydia looked into her face for a second before she lowered her head back down. But even in that moment, Lydia knew something was different about the stranger. The woman looked neither fearful nor anxious. There was a calm to her that seemed to fill the room. Two of the men took seats on the opposite side of the room against the wall, while Paul and Sammy sat in the two wing chairs at the front of the room. All four men continued to talk in lowered tones. The mood in the room at shifted subtly as people began filing in through the double doors.

The girl who returned with Sammy took the seat next to Lydia. She did not speak. She just very quietly took Lydia’s right hand and held it in her lap. At first Lydia was startled by the singular act. Lydia had not felt the touch of sincerity in a long time. The woman’s hand was warm. As Lydia returned the grasp, she could feel a sense of peace work up her arm and enter her body.

A moment later, Sammy began to talk. “Welcome to the regular 3:15 meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.” Lydia tried her best to concentrate, to understand all the things that people were saying. Many people seemed to be talking about how and why they got sober. Some of the stories seemed to be funny because people were laughing. But as hard as she tried, Lydia could not seem to grasp what was happening around her. All she knew was that she could not stop crying, and that for the whole hour, Lydia’s hand was wrapped in a warm embrace of a complete stranger.

By the end of the meeting, Lydia was exhausted. She had cried herself dry and now all she wanted was a warm bed. Lydia felt pressure on her hand. She looked up and into the comforting eyes of the girl. “At the end of the meeting, Sammy will ask if anyone wants a Desire Chip. A Desire Chip is a personal commitment to stay sober for the next twenty-four hours. If you want one, you will have to walk up there by yourself and get it.” Lydia let this information sink it. Twenty-four hours without a drink. It seemed such a short time, one day, what was one day? And yet, the idea of not drinking was petrifying. Suddenly, Lydia realized that the room had become quiet, and everyone was looking at her. Apprehension and fear fill the air. Slowly, Lydia raised her body and walked to the front of the room. In Sammy’s outstretched hand, was a circular, silver coin that looked like a half dollar. Lydia took the coin and looked at it. Sammy moved to give Lydia a hug. It caught her off guard. And yet, as Lydia took the hug offered, she could almost feel her body absorb strength and compassion. Paul then stepped forward. He gave Lydia a hug that felt like forgiveness. It all happened too quickly, felt so foreign, and so beautiful. Lydia turned to walk back to her seat and for the first time realized that the entire room was clapping for her. Lydia blushed crimson as she sat down.

As she sat, from behind her, somebody slapped her on the back, “Its made from recycled beer cans. If you put it on your tongue and it melts, it means you can drink.” The man broke out in laughter at his own joke. The woman next to him giggled. Lydia looked down the coin they called a “Desire Chip.” It was made of a thin, light metal. On one side of the chip was a prayer, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The other side of the Desire Chip had a triangle on it with the words, “Unity, Service, Recovery.” Along the top was the statement, “To thine own self be true.” Lydia turned the coin over and over in her hands as announcements were made. There was no way she was going to put that chip in her mouth.

Lydia looked up as everyone began to stand. The pretty girl once again helped Lydia. “We close the meeting by holding hands in a circle and saying the Lord’s Prayer.” Lydia could not helped but be surprised as her other hand was grabbed by a young man. He could not have been more than twenty. “Congratulations. Keep coming back.” Lydia just looked at him and nodded. She did not know what to say. This kid wasn’t even old enough to legally drink alcohol.

Then the meeting ended. Some people clapped. Some began talking. Some simply left. Lydia looked around, amazed at herself, what she had just experienced. “Congratulations. I’m Aiyana.” Lydia turned around and saw a young Indian woman with beautiful, deep brown eyes. “We passed around a newcomer packet during the meeting. All the women’s phone numbers are on it. You can call any of us anytime you need to talk.”

Lydia took the outstretched envelope. On one side were about twenty different names and phone numbers. Lydia tried to imagine any scenario wherein she would call a complete stranger from off an envelope. “Thank you,” she stammered.

Lydia walked out of the club and into the scorching hot sun. Some people from the meeting, including the pretty girl who sat with her, were standing under a tree smoking.

As she began to pull away in her car, Lydia saw the young girl flag her down. She ran over as Lydia rolled down her driver’s side window. “Hey. My name’s Tessie. I hope you come back tomorrow. I’ll be here.”

“I’m Lydia,” Lydia said. “Thank you. I might.”

“Okay, Lydia. Just don’t drink, okay? Just for the rest of today. Then come back tomorrow. Twenty-four hours, remember?”

“Okay,” Lydia said as she looked down at the Desire Chip still encased in her palm. The girl began to walk back to the group under the shade tree. A few feet away, Tessie turned back around. “Hey, Lydia?” Lydia looked up. “Just so you know… You never have to feel this way again.”

 

A Sunny Day Death Wish

Lydia expected to spend the rest of Friday night being twirled around a wood paneled hotel bar by a cultured and well-dressed businessman. What she did not expect was red and blue lights in her rearview mirror as she turned onto Woodway. The police cruiser had been sitting in the dark with its lights off. Lydia never even saw it until it was too late.

Lydia’s heart pounded as the dark figure approached the driver’s side window. While she knew she had never met a man she couldn’t charm, she also knew Houston had been cracking down on drunk driving. Lydia cursed her luck at being pulled over by HPD and not the lesser, more forgiving Village police. Lydia got out her driver’s license and insurance, quickly propped up her breasts, and put on her best pout. And then as the Mag flashlight lowered, she realized the police officer was not a he but a she. A stern she, at that.

What started bad, got worse. “Ma’am, do you know why we pulled you over?”

“Ma’am? You make me sound so old. I’m Lydia. I’m on my to see a friend in from out of town at the Omni Hotel.”

“Ma’am, have you been drinking?”

“Oh, just a glass of wine with dinner. I would never drink and drive. It’s abhorrent. I can’t believe that people would put their and other people’s lives at risk and drive in all sorts of crazy manners.” As much as Lydia knew she had to stop taking, words kept falling out of her mouth. “I actually saw a news report not long ago that said people driving to work the next morning are sometimes still legally drunk from the night before. Can you believe that? Imagine drinking that much.”

“Ma’am, can you step out of the car?”

“No, I would rather not. I have a friend. He is just up the street.”

“Ma’am, step out of the car…” The rest of the memory was a blur. In a flash, panic welled up and unleashed itself in a flurry of excuses and locked doors. Lydia refused to get out. A second and then a third cruiser pulled up. A scene was starting and Lydia was the star. Finally, a sergeant joined the scene. He was older than the rest. Somehow, he managed to get Lydia out of the car through promises of driving her home. But they did not drive her home. They drove her to the police station.

Harris County Jail is not a nice place. A solid concrete fortress on the outskirts of downtown, the jailhouse is intimidating in the light of day. On a dark, inebriated night, the jail is akin to a nightmare. Lydia got booked in the way she had only seen on TV. They took her heels, her purse, her phone. Then they took her picture.

The first cell was sparse. The entire room, ceiling to floor was concrete and white tile. A single toilet, without any type of privacy, stood off to the side. Lydia suspected this was a holding cell. The women were of various ages and ethnicities, but all looked equally intimidating to the middle aged, stumbling woman in a cocktail dress and booties.

After that, lack of sleep mixed with her sky-high blood alcohol level made for a blurry day. There would be three more cells, an orange jumpsuit, and a court appearance before the dirty and demeaning experience would be over early on Tuesday morning. Lydia stood outside the jail and watched determined suits hustling to work. On the city streets, the aroma of greasy diner food mingled with the smell of exhaust.

As she was about to step into a cab that would take her home, Lydia turned her face up at the beginning of another gloriously humid and bright summer day and silently wished she were dead.

Last Days

Lydia opened her eyes. They were crusty with sleep. As she raised her head to look around, waves of pain shot through her body. With a groan, Lydia settled her head back on the pillow. After a few minutes, she braced herself against the impending pain, and swung her legs over the side of the bed. Carefully, Lydia raised her body from the bed and slowly made her way to the kitchen.

Lydia stared at the bottle of vodka. A shadow of disgust crossed her face as her trembling hands poured a belt into a cut crystal rocks glass. She looked deeply at the venomously clear liquid. She did not want to drink it. A complex system of emotions flashed through Lydia’s mind as her hand, almost of its own volition, required her to drink the liquid. As much as she did not want to drink the vodka, she had to.

As soon as the alcohol touched her stomach, Lydia retched. With surprisingly quick reflexes, she covered her mouth with her hand as sour vodka and stomach acid pushed against her palm. She ran to the kitchen sink just as the second convulsion shook her body. Brown water spewed forth and splattered into the ivory porcelain sink.

Lydia looked at the contents of her last day of drinking and started to cry. She walked back to the vodka, picked up the glass, and finished off the shot.

Hello!

Thank you for visiting my blog! My name is Ann G. Kroger. For years now, I have thought of myself as a writer. The problem, though, was that I was always too fearful to actually let anyone read my writing. My stories were always in a state of flux, never quite good enough to suffer the blows of criticism.

Then one day, with the help of some friends, I realized I just needed an extra dose of courage. I decided to spend a year writing to see what happens. I write almost every day, but a couple of times a week, I take a deep breath and push the “Publish” button. Holy cow.

Anywho, a few weeks ago, I starting writing about this character, Lydia. It was a little thing about how bad things should not happen on sunny, bright Houston days. And in this story, Lydia’s husband left her. I liked the story very much. So, I decided to write the story of how Lydia and her husband (who I subsequently named Henry) met. Then I wrote about Lydia entering recovery.

I’ve grown very fond of Lydia and Henry. Most of my posts are about their parallel journeys through life. As I post them, they are a bit neurotic and disordered. I think confusion has made it difficult for new readers to catch up to whats happening.

Therefore, I have rearranged my website to accommodate Lydia and Henry. You can click on the Lydia and Henry tabs where I have re-posted the stories in a chronological timeline. Hopefully, this will make it easier to catch up. Then you can join the roller coaster in progress as the episodes post.

Thank you for reading. I know there are never enough hours in the day, so it means a lot to me when even five people set aside a few minutes of their life to support me and my writing. Feel free to email or post comments. I would love to know who you are and what you are thinking.  Thanks again.

 

Best regards,

Ann G. Kroger

When Sad Things Happen on Sunny Days

It is somehow worse, Lydia thought, when sad things happen on sunny days.

Lydia sat by the pool, two ice cubes melting under the stare of the hot in her glass of bourbon. Any other day, any other time, one might have thought she was luxuriating under the elms in order to bring a rose hint to her cheeks. But today, unable to move, to move put one foot in front of the other, she was sitting.

He just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. There was no fight, no hysteria. She wanted to muster the energy to throw something or cause a scene, but a scene for who? Why? To what end? He had left a long time ago, or so it seemed. All he did now was occupy a space in the closet. Its good he’s gone. Lydia thought for a moment about the kind of fear, stagnation that caused a person to stay, against all hopes of happiness, for just a little longer.

Yes, there should have been an argument, Lydia determined. It would have looked better. It would have made a better story for the girls. Lydia imagined a handful of select women scattered around her den, sipping some sort of cocktail appropriate for the solemn occasion. Someone would pat her back as she sobbed and recounted the tearful accusations, the appeals to stay, the shattered Baccarat, and finally the pointed finger showing the way out.

But instead, he just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. Left a note. She wouldn’t have even noticed he was gone had he not left the note. Lydia looked down at the bonded paper she had been holding this whole time. There was no need to read it again. It held no answers. Nor did it need to. Lydia knew the problems. Had known it for years. She originally said she was staying for the kids, but they had left a long time ago, off to lived their own lives in distant places. But then she still stayed. With a sigh, Lydia realized she stayed because she wanted to. No, it was true; the marriage was over a long time ago. But Lydia loved the house with the trees and the sparking pool. She loved her place amongst their society. And she loved her husband.

As she put the rocks glass against her lips, she smiled. She loved the bourbon.

What Lydia did not love was being the subject of speculation. It was hard to contemplate Christmas while the shone so brightly, but she knew it would be here faster than she could imagine. Lydia squinted off into the distance as if this small change in perspective would somehow give her foresight into the future. In her daydream, Lydia saw women leaning conspiratorially over the dinner table to their husbands, “But we can’t invite both of them. It’s too soon. Do you think she found out?” Lydia and her husband had this conversation themselves many times over. They feigned concern, but in the light of the summer afternoon, Lydia admitted to only the trees that it was really just a way to pass idle gossip off as something more than it was. They would invite her husband, of course, save a select few.

Lydia looked down at the empty glass. She wanted more. But she usually wanted more. That was nothing new. Lydia hoisted herself up from the pool chair and walked towards the backdoor. That’s the odd thing about change, it seems to happen quickly, without warning. He just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. It felt like an instant, but in reality, it had taken years. One shirt in the bag this year, a pair of shoes the next, until twenty-five years later the bag was packed.

Lydia paused as she looked at her reflection in the glass of the backdoor. She was still young. Weathered, perhaps, but still beautiful in certain lights. Lydia knew one day she would have to sell the house and leave the neighborhood that she knew she could not afford by herself. But she will find a new house. And new friends. She will find a new lover, feel new fingers press into her hips. A sly smile crossed her lips. She might even quit drinking. Lydia took the bottle in one hand, the glass in the other, and walked further into the recesses of her dark house. But none of that would happen today. All she had to do today was this.

When Sad Things Happen on Sunny Days

It is somehow worse, Lydia thought, when sad things happen on sunny days.

Lydia sat by the pool, two ice cubes melting under the stare of the hot sun in her glass of bourbon. Any other day, any other time, one might have thought she was luxuriating under the elms in order to bring a rose hint to her cheeks. But today, unable to move, to move put one foot in front of the other, she was just sitting.

He just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. There was no fight, no hysteria. She wanted to muster the energy to throw something or cause a scene, but a scene for who? Why? To what end? He had left a long time ago, or so it seemed. All he did now was occupy a space in the closet. Its good he’s gone. Lydia thought for a moment about the kind of fear, stagnation that caused a person to stay, against all hopes of happiness, for just a little longer.

Yes, there should have been an argument, Lydia determined. It would have looked better. It would have made a better story for the girls. Lydia imagined a handful of select women scattered around her den, sipping some sort of cocktail appropriate for the solemn occasion. Someone would pat her back as she sobbed and recounted the tearful accusations, the appeals to stay, the shattered Baccarat, and finally the pointed finger showing the way out.

But instead, he just left. He came home, packed a bag and left. Left a note. She wouldn’t have even noticed he was gone had he not left the note. Lydia looked down at the bonded paper she had been holding this whole time. There was no need to read it again. It held no answers. Nor did it need to. Lydia knew the problems. Had known it for years. She originally said she was staying for the kids, but they had left a long time ago, off to live their own lives in distant places. But then she still stayed. With a sigh, Lydia realized she stayed because she wanted to. No, it was true; the marriage was over a long time ago. But Lydia loved the house. She loved her place amongst their society. She even loved the trees and the sparkling pool. And she loved the bourbon.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Of course, I would have people read more.

Hi Mrs. Ann!
Here are the questions. Thank you again for helping me out!

Questions:
1. Do you think that there is too much hate in today’s society?

I do think there is too much hate, but I think any hate would be too much. Hate is a powerful word that carries strong connotations. Hate is not annoyance or irritation. Hate is anger and fury and spite.

2. Do you think there is too much love in today’s society?

I have found through the course of my life, a surprising amount of love on the planet. It sometimes appears from the unlikeliest people and manifests in ways that never cease to amaze me. But, if you ask me if there is too much if it… No, I think we could probably do with a little more.

3. Is there any personal experience that is behind your opinion?

A little over seven years ago, I can to the realization and understanding that I was an alcoholic. My life was very sad. And especially lonely. I did not know what to do. I think now, that I could have probably gone to my family and asked for help; my family is kind. But at the time, that idea seemed too far-fetched, too humiliating, too debilitating.
So, I turned to complete strangers for help. These people, AA, showed me that I could live a better type of life. They taught me how alcohol manifests from the worst part of my psyche. Then they showed me how to be happy. I hated myself and who I was. I hated that I was a failure. That I let so many people down. But the women of AA “loved me until I could love myself.”
And they still do.

4. In general, what are some examples of too much hate and too much love?

I think one just has to look around to see examples of hate and love.

Drive down one of Houston’s freeways. You will see drivers cut one another off. Some drivers speed dangerously, swerving in and out of lanes, because where they are going is of far more importance than another’s safety. You will see drivers slow down to see if the accident is a fatality.

But you will also see people let others calmly merge. You will see people stopping at accidents to call for help and then stay to serve as witnesses.

5. Why would people in today’s society show too much hate towards others?

People have always had a fear of the unknown. There is a philosophy that says that people cannot know themselves. All one can know is what they are not. In other words, I look out in the world. You say, Ann what do you like? And there is too much of everything. How am I to know? Where do I begin? So I start by trying something, taking something, listening to something, seeing something. I say, I do not know what I like, but I know it is not that.

I think this philosophy is right.

People look out in the world and it scares them. And they see someone of a different race, who has a different culture. Rather than exploring or learning or understanding, they say, I do not know what I am, but I know I am not that. That mentality, the fear, that’s what spreads hate.

6. How would you think of solving this problem?

Of course, I would have people read more.

– Victoria

P.S Based on the answers you give me, I may make up new questions for my paper… thank you!

There’s Zen and the there’s Zennnnnnnn…

On page 72 of the Twelve and Twelve, it says, “Whenever we had to choose between character and comfort, the character was lost in the dust after what we thought was happiness. Seldom did we look at character building as something desirable in itself, something we would strive for whether our instinctual needs were met or not.”

I keep re-reading this page. It was the impetus for starting this website. My whole life, I have thought of myself as a writer. And yet nothing was ever good enough or finished enough to be shared. Then, a few weeks ago, I was at a retreat. It occurred to me, through the help of my women, that “practicing principals in all my affairs” included having the courage in all my affairs too. That night, I came home and signed up for WordPress before I could chicken out.

And so here we are. And all is good.

Except… WordPress keeps track of all the numbers for every single day. How many people have read your shotgun writing. If they clicked on the “About Me” page. It even tells me what country people are from. (Not surprisingly, it says my readers are all from the United States.) And this whole numbers mojo is messing with my headspace. I’m sure other writers must know what I’m talking about. It has become almost obsessive when I get the rare email that someone has decided they like my writing enough to “follow” it. Reminiscent of Veruca Salt, “But Daddy, I want them to follow me now!”

So, yes, here’s the thing. I would like to tell you I’m all adult and Zen about this thing and that my recovery is so strong that I will continue to expose the ridiculous nature of my life as an experiment in self growth regardless of who follows me and who does not. And that’s all true. But I kinda need you to follow me too. Five people. There’s like a hundred billion people out there and I would like five to scroll to the bottom of the page and click the follow button. Five would make me happy. Nine would be like crazy train. Okay, nine people (one from a foreign country and who is not a spambot) and two comments. That’s the most I dare ask for.

 

And yes, I get it. I’m chasing after what will make me happy. I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow. Thank you for indulging me.

Love,

Ann Gabriel Kroger