Thursday evening, October 23, 1986, I'd left my Brooklyn brownstone in such a rush to hit the road that I'd neglected to begin my habitual evening of drinking. (I never drank by daylight. That's how I knew I wasn't an alcoholic.)
As the Palisades Parkway stretched out behind me, I regretted my impulsive abstinence. I had another fifty miles to go on I-87 before I arrived at my tiny trailer in Woodstock, NY.
I cringed. Then I remembered a bar along the way where I could buy a drink, if only I could make it there before closing.
My accelerator dropped to the floor. As I barreled along I-87, a voice in the back of my brain whispered that I shouldn't be driving so fast, that a drink wasn't worth the risk. I pushed the voice aside: "What does she know?"
I slid into a packed bar minutes before closing, just in time to order a double. Boy, did that feel good! I slurped and looked at the reassuring lines of bottles glistening behind the bartender, at the clamorous crowd surrounding me. Their constant yakety-yak drowned the music except for intermittent crescendoes. I knew no one. Not one person even looked at me.
"What are you doing here? You don't belong here" whispered my brain.
"Get lost!" I chugged the dregs of my drink.
Ordering time had passed, so I shot out to my car.
The next afternoon, against my better judgement, I found myself walking up and down in front of a community building in the Catskills where Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) met. Finally I swallowed hard and entered a big room with a square table surrounded by wooden folding chairs holding many people. I chose a spot far away from the group leader and sat down.
I flinched as person after person defined him or her self as an alcoholic. Surely they didn't expect me to say, "I'm Marilyn, and I'm an alcoholic."
Their introductions marched around the table, closer and closer to me. When my turn came, I said, "I'm Marilyn but I'm not an alcoholic. I just have a drinking problem."
The group leader asked, "What's your problem?"
"I can't stop drinking."
That brought down the house, and after the meeting, so many alcoholics dropped by to talk with me that I couldn't split the way I'd planned.
A short time later in a New York City AA meeting, I watched a man receive a medal for ten years sobriety. Ten years! I nearly fell off my chair. How had he done that? I, by contrast, practically lived in AA rooms just to keep me away from the bottle day by day.
Now it's October 24, 2015, and I've been sober and drug free for twenty-nine years.
Don't bother with a medal.
But next year, if I make it to thirty years, throw me a humongous party.