I went back to Minnesota last week, to visit the treatment center I went to a year and a half ago. When I was in treatment, it was April and it was still snowing. All the branches were bare. In September, the weather is warmer, but more unpredictable. Last week, it was warm and sunny. The trees were full and turning. I drove out to Eden Prairie, a suburb of Minneapolis, where the treatment center was having its weekly open meeting.
This was my second visit since being a resident. I visit it with a reverence, like a memorial or a museum. When I walk in, I recognize it immediately. The smell and feel of it. It’s a sense memory thing, like visiting the house you grew up in. I looked at the benches, the volleyball court, the vending machines, and remembered being there under different circumstances. I remember crying on the phone at night, gasping and choking. The phone that I had to have the staff dial for me and on which I could only talk at night, for a limited time. I listened to a Sia song called “The Moon” where she sings of two ships passing in the night. I played it over and over. Everything in my life was two ships passing in the night. Me and every person I knew. Me and myself. Drinking and not drinking.
I was with my friend Chris, who had gone to treatment with me. There were 80 or so people at the meeting, some current residents, some alumni, some random AA members from the community. Chris knew most of them, from other meetings in Minneapolis, or from treatment itself, since he was there three times as long as me. The secretary asked everyone with over a year of sobriety to stand, to show that it’s possible. Of the 80 or so people there, only Chris and I and one other guy stood. I never in my life thought I would be one of the few people to stand. I never before thought it was possible for me to stop drinking for that long. For a while, for a long time, I thought that I would probably drink after I had a year sober, or after I broke up with my boyfriend. First one of those things happened, and then the other, and on both occasions, I went to a meeting. I didn’t even think about it.