This story is by Michael Yadchuk and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Joseph Cumber was whom you might consider to be the typical alcoholic. Like many people who would turn to alcohol to solve their problems, he lived in a household where he was afraid of silence. When there wasn’t an issue that was trying to be resolved, he was worried that the issue was taken care of in the form of death.
To him, the fear of silence was greater than his fear of death, for death was merely a subcategory of what had defined him from the moment he was born…
“I can still remember sitting on my apartment’s balcony and staring into the populated urban hub I lived in as a kid. Somehow, every time I looked out into the distance, it’s like my mind took me back to the womb.That was the only place I had ever felt safety and comfort, and looking back, that was a genuine feeling I had. When I saw all the action taking place outside my parents’ eternal conflicts, I was taken back to a place of tranquility.
I’m sure that we all have that kind of feeling from time-to-time, but now, looking back to those mornings when I’d see all the action taking place, it reminds me of how it wasn’t the absence of courage that pulled me into this mess.
It was the presence of inability.
You know, I can go on and on about how much I hate waking up in a room that I got at the age of 16, or how much I despise the sound of my neighbors waking up each morning with a glass fight, but I don’t want to.
All I had ever wanted was tranquility. I wanted to permanently remove everything that made me bleed, and I guess that that was the incentive that gave me meaning.
Incentive is what motivates the lion to kill its prey when it’s hungry, what drives the prey to keep running, and it’s what kept me alive.”
As words fell out of Joseph’s mouth, it was as if he was simultaneously being stung by a thousand bees. He was mortified by his confession, yet he was also relieved to get his thoughts off his back, and trying to speak while juggling those two thoughts worsened his perception of himself.
He didn’t know whether this AA meeting was killing him or keeping him alive.
The pain his words gave him felt real, yet he knew that he must go on. After a brief pause, he continued to speak.
“You see, I’ve never witnessed what one would consider happiness. It was always either an argument that involved myself or one that involved someone else that started my day in my childhood. At times, it was as if I could feel ingesting the anger as I was breathing the intoxicated air. Whenever I had breakfast, it felt almost as if I was swallowing insecurity and anger when I ingested something. The eggs left me with neglect, the cereal gave me the feeling of abandonment, and whenever I had anything else, the celebratory mood made me uneasy. I got used to the crap that surrounded me, and in its absence, I feared that it would turn into something far more severe.
Little did I know that that severity became a reality when I discovered alcohol.
Like death, it lured me in and gave me a sensation of satisfaction, but instead of killing me, it took its time with me. A week, a year, 3 years, even 14 years later, it hadn’t killed me, but it was on its way. The trick was to find the right time, and the murder would play out itself.
The warmth, the happiness, and the overall experience defined my perception of happiness, and I couldn’t do anything but admire how clever my addiction was. I sculpted my version of perfection to a point where alcohol was the way out of everything.
I turned to those precious liquids because I felt like it was the only way out, and now, just a single drop gives me a reason to keep living. That’s why I came here today; not for pity, but for help.”
After he spoke, silence filled his head. Once again, he had found himself in a state of neither happiness nor sadness.
What he felt was like in the movies, where there was a silent buzzing sound that tuned him out from the rest of the world. As others spoke, his mind returned to the gruesome thoughts that he had just shared, and he reunited with the feeling of how desperate he really is.
Then, somewhat abruptly, he returned to reality and, once again, began to speak.
If there was one word that could define all of us in this room, it would have to be fragility.
We’re weak, and our journey to sobriety is lined with obstacles that simply cannot be overcome at the moment. That feeling is a feeling that anybody feels when starting out, but making that feeling dominate our emotions would force us into the kind of stress that steals our happiness, our homes, and even our innocence.
I’m no preacher, but I feel like, if there’s one way to describe all these gruesome thoughts, it would be with the use of the word fragility.
That’s what we’re trying to eradicate when we promise ourselves strength and progress, and I hope that all of us can see that.
There it was. Right there and then, when he saw the faces of those who were listening to him, he noticed that natural face you get when watching a horror movie.
Knowing that he had just captured the attention of 20 people gave him that feeling of nirvana, and he saw the next chapter of his life beginning.
When he came back to his apartment, he had a burning desire to put words onto paper. He wanted to talk to the antagonist that was paralyzing his life, and he found no better way to do so than with a letter:
I honestly can’t recall the last time I tried to do something. I was always either too stressed or too drunk to care about my life or its value to this world, and before today, I never really had the guts to do anything about it.
It’s odd how you work, old friend. One minute, you make me feel like the happiest person on the planet, but the next, you make me feel like the most mediocre piece of crap that I have ever known!
That’s right, you fatal disease! You can’t mute your own negative influence, so I guess that somebody had to do it for you!
You see how quickly I went from being an old friend to your greatest enemy? That’s because I chose to! Every other night, I cry myself to sleep thinking about how terrible I am at being a human, but you know what? That’s just me, a person who doesn’t have anything major to cry about. Think about all the other shit that you give to people who have more to cry for.
What do you use those tears for? Are they your goddamn currency in your little magical fairytale land of memes?
Talk to me!!!
I’ve discovered your true identity! You can’t hide inside your mask, because you wear it so frequently that you’ve become the mask! From now on, I’m done with the crap that you throw at me, and I don’t want to hear a single apology from you!
I hope that this could serve as a message to you and the crimes that you commit, and maybe you’ll think the next time you decide to stab an innocent person with the knife of guilt and mediocrity!
One of your victims,
Today marks day one of my journey to permanent sobriety, and I hope that, one day, I can look back at myself and perceive someone with the courage that it takes to get somewhere in life.
I am truly grateful for getting on the right track to being a better and healthier version of myself!
In the end of the day, I just need to realize that life’s a long and difficult journey, but giving up because of the obstacles that life throws at me is simply not an option. Wherever life takes me to next, I’ll just go with it. Whether it’s down or up, I know that I’ll always find my way back to success, and probably beyond just success!
In other words, regardless of how much of my sundae is gone, I know that all the cherries are gonna kick in and get me back to where I need to be!
My struggle will become happiness, and happiness will soon define me. I just need to keep believing!
You are no longer part of the equation, alcoholism!
You’ll soon be in my past!