I am on a flight where you choose your own seat and this is new to me. At the same time that this empowers me, it also makes me feel like the unpopular kid in the lunch room, searching frantically for one of the last spaces and a welcoming face. Much like the last four and a half months of sobriety, I think, because I always think in analogies. I can’t help it.
I spot the middle seat in the exit row and ask the Aisle Man if it’s taken. He kindly says it’s yours and I slide in and stretch my legs and start to realize he’s been drinking. He makes jokes that aren’t funny, loudly, trying to entertain the whole plane. Some people chuckle softly, a courtesy laugh. Others shift uncomfortably in their seats, trying to ignore his volume and obvious drunkenness.
He orders a drink and then another on a flight that’s not two hours. I read David Sedaris and somehow I feel at ease. I feel comfortable with him, a kindred spirit even though I’m on this side of our addiction. I understand him and I forgive his clumsy words and actions and talk with him about Minneapolis. I am on my way home and I’m sober and it’s surreal and good and different. And I think, when we’re together we are not okay while we’re okay, we are on different pages in the same book. And then I pray there is speed-reading involved in his story, even though I’m not ahead of him while I’m on this different page.
I get off the plane and I walk with this man until we say goodbye. Then I wait to claim my overstuffed bag. We’re early, maybe the wind hurried our flight. So I lug said bag over the edge of the carousel and I go and stand outside while it starts to drizzle and I wait. I’m feet away from a bench and so I hear her when she slurs. She’s talking to me and to everyone and no one and I don’t know what her words are, but I know she’s drunk. She can’t sit up straight, her body sways from her intoxication and she rolls her eyes and waves away a woman who approaches her. The woman is her sister and she’s anxious and embarrassed. She gives me an apologetic shrug of the shoulders and I touch her arm and tell her I understand, that I’m recovering, slowly. Her eyes light up and she says me too and she grabs my hand and tells me it’s always so comforting to meet a fellow friend of Bill W.
She needed that right then and I did too and it was no coincidence at all that we stood there together just two people making an army.
With her garbled words, my new bench friend tells me she will be taken to Hazelden. She flew here to go to treatment. She laughs, like it’s the best joke of her life and then the corners of her mouth shiver in fear. She is doing an excellent job of having one last hurrah before treatment, and my heart hurts for her and with hers and next to her soldier sister. I want to tell her that things are about to get better. I want to tell her that she’s on her way to something good. I want to fix it. But I know she won’t remember and so I just stand close by and I wait and I silently pray that she makes it, that her sister makes it. I really want them to make it.
And I pray and want the same thing for me, because we who are not on the same page but living the same story, we are different while always the same.
Then my ride pulls up to the curb and I don’t want to leave while I want to leave.
That’s how it feels, in this book, my addiction story, their addiction story. We are always both saints and sinners while we get better or we don’t.
Whatever the page, there is always growth in the pain, while we wait for our rides home.