We are here because we have made mistakes. Depending on who you ask there is either something medically wrong with our brains or we’re ungrateful scumbags, liars and thieves for whom the world is not enough, or too much. The suggested topic for tonight is “rock bottoms.” For the most part, the stories are similar: waking up in the hospital or jail, terrified family and friends, neglected children, debt, shame, half-hearted attempts at suicide. Outside of rooms like this one, these are the stuff of secrets and nightmares, but, here in Aftercare, they are just the price of admission to this social club. For some of the newly sober, there is still some perverse competition in the depths reached and escaped from. There is even some pleasure in our memories of insane behavior.
Vince D. recalls after a motorcycle accident left him with a mind that couldn’t remember how to walk or what his mother looked like, he still wanted cigarettes and dope. “I mean, I have brain damage. Literally. That’s pretty low.” Emily M. talks about when the DEA finally came to her pharmacy, ending her professional free-for-all among the pills. “But it is all I know how to do,” she says. “I loved that job. I helped people.”
Not surprisingly, this “rock bottom” meeting goes long, much longer than the ones devoted to avoiding relapse or performing service work to assuage addiction. Everyone wants their time to speak tonight. But dreams are only interesting to the dreamer, as it were, so we sneak to the bathroom and check our phones and roll our eyes at a friend across the room when the speaker tears up and finally passes, low lifes all.
Rachel L. is the last to share and begins in familiar territory—the shock of the hospital bed, the high regret—but her details win the night. Her grandmother held her hand and explained that she bought the plot next to Billy because she thought that’s what Rachel would have wanted, and Rachel remembers saying, “Thank you.” We don’t know who Billy is, probably would had we been paying attention at all of the other meetings, but, imagine that, her bottom already picked out and paid for.
To wrap up, the group leader, an addict himself now wretched and holy like some desert ascetic, reminds us that “rock bottom” is simply when we stop digging. How stupid. Outside, we smoke and wait for the big white van that could only be the transport of the terminally unique, comparing the price of clean piss and jackhammers.
© Sean Ennis
[This piece was selected by Sommer Schafer]