July 30 marked my ninth year of sobriety, and while I didn’t get a chance to celebrate (thanks, Pandemic!), I did spend some time reflecting on the various milestones of my recovery.
There have definitely been some highs (no pun intended) along with some devastating setbacks, but in keeping with the occult theme of this blog, I will say that my favorite and most memorable 12-step moment involved a roomful of vampires.
There’s an annual LGBTQ+ recovery conference in Houston called the Roundup, and on the first night, there’s always a play, which, back in 2015, I somehow ended up writing and directing. Instead of trying to bang out one long, 90-minute show, I wrote eight short vignettes, loosely following David Ives’ All in the Timing, which I could rearrange and recast as necessary.
The final product — titled Sicker Than Others — premiered to great acclaim, but since it was a one-night-only performance, it quickly faded away into the annals of Houston recovery history. I recently came across a copy of the script, though, and seeing as how I didn’t really acknowledge my sobriety birthday on its actual date, I figured I’d do so now and share some dramatics with my readers.
Each vignette was based on something that happened to me in real life, just taken to a satirical extreme, and the scene that went over best with the audience was a creative retelling of the time I accidentally attended an Al-Anon meeting. Oh, and before we get into it, I should mention that everyone cast in this scene was a member of Crystal Meth Anonymous, so they were 100% in on the jokes, which kept the overall performance from being, like, unforgivably offensive.
So with that out of the way, and in honor of the day I decided to stop effing up my life with bottom-shelf bourbon, I humbly present…
The Wrong Room
GARY, CLARENCE, TOBY, and WINSTON are sitting around a table, chatting quietly. LILY enters, frazzled and slightly out of breath.
LILY: Hi, is this the meeting?
GARY: Yes! Yes it is. Come on in.
LILY: Oh, good. I’ve been running late all day, and I got lost trying to get here, and I just… I just really need a meeting, you know?
GARY: (smiling warmly) Oh, believe me, I know.
CLARENCE: Okay, everyone. Let’s go ahead and get started.
(Everyone else stops chatting, reaches back, and pulls on black cloaks.)
CLARENCE: Hello! I’m Clarence, and I’m a vampire.
EVERYONE EXCEPT LILY: Hi, Clarence!
CLARENCE: Welcome to the Father of Darkness meeting of Vampires Anonymous. Vampires Anonymous is a coven of undead individuals who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other, that they may solve their common problems and help each other stop drinking human blood. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking human blood. There are no dues or fees for VA membership: We are self-supporting through the estates and finances of humans who are now dead, on account of we drank their blood. Is this anyone’s first VA meeting, anytime, anywhere?
(LILY slowly raises her hand. Everyone reacts with controlled excitement – First Step meeting!)
CLARENCE: Hello! Could you give us your first name?
LILY: Um… hi. I’m Lily…
EVERYONE ELSE: Hi, Lily!
LILY: … and I’m in the wrong room.
CLARENCE: Whoops. Where did you–?
LILY: I, uh… thought this was an AA meeting.
CLARENCE: Oh. You’re an alcoholic.
(Everyone shifts in their seats and trades glances.)
CLARENCE: Nothing, nothing. It’s just… AA only meets here on Tuesdays. You’re a day early.
LILY: Ah. My mistake. I’ll just get out of your way.
(She stands and walks quickly towards the door.)
GARY: (helpfully) You can stay if you want.
(Everyone else hisses aggressively.)
GARY: What? She said she really needed a meeting.
LILY: Look, I don’t want to impose or intrude or anything. I’ll just…
CLARENCE: Yeah, it’s probably best if you…
GARY: It’s not an imposition at all! This is an open meeting.
TOBY: (stage whisper) Stop helping, Gary.
LILY: Are you’re sure it’s okay?
GARY: It really is.
LILY: Well, okay then.
(She takes her seat warily. GARY looks at CLARENCE expectantly.)
CLARENCE: (ruffled, but trying to stay in control) Okay, where were we… ah, yes. I’ve asked Toby to read the 12 Steps.
TOBY: Hi, I’m Toby, and I’m a vampire.
EVERYONE ELSE: Hi, Toby!
LILY: (weakly, a beat behind) … Toby.
TOBY: These are the steps we took, which are suggested as a program of not drinking human blood. One…
WINSTON: One! Ah ah ah aaaah!
TOBY: We admitted we were powerless over drinking human blood, that our gruesome, nightmarish existence had become unmanageable. Two…
WINSTON: Two! Ah ah ah aaaah!
TOBY: Came to believe that an unholy, unspeakable power greater than ourselves could keep us from drinking human blood. Three…
WINSTON: Three! Ah ah ah aaaah!
LILY: You know what? This is like the opposite of okay, so I’m going to just go ahead and get as far away from here as I can.
GARY: (dejected) Oh. Well, if you gotta go…
LILY: (halfway to the door) I do.
GARY: Okay then. Be safe.
LILY: Thanks. I will.
TOBY: (not quite under his breath) It’s not like you need to be here anyway.
LILY: Excuse me?
LILY: Did you just say I don’t need to be here?
TOBY: Well, I mean, you’re an alcoholic.
TOBY: We’re vampires.
TOBY: So, y’know, we feasted on the souls of the innocent, and you… (he looks her up and down) what, had too many appletinis? Spilled a vodka cranberry on your favorite silk shoes?
LILY: THEY WERE MANOLO BLAHNIKS.
WINSTON: Blahniks! Ah ah ah aaaah!
TOBY: (to WINSTON) Really?
LILY: Look, you don’t know anything about me, or where I’ve been, okay? You don’t know what I’ve gone through…
TOBY: … or why you think your addiction is as bad as ours.
LILY: It’s Toby, right?
LILY: Toby… eat me.
TOBY: (whining to CLARENCE) The alcoholic is trying to trigger me!
CLARENCE: Alright, everyone, calm down. Toby, go to your happy place. Lily… Gary’s right. This is an open meeting, so if you want to stay, you can.
LILY: Thank you. I think I will. (She sits and smiles triumphantly at TOBY, who sulks back.)
CLARENCE: Let’s just move on with the meeting, okay?
CLARENCE: Good. So today, I thought we could talk about… gratitude.
(Everyone except GARY groans.)
GARY: Yay! I love gratitude meetings!
TOBY: Of course you do.
LILY: Listen, I really appreciate you letting me stay, but I think I’m going to take off.
LILY: I just… can’t handle another freaking gratitude meeting.
TOBY: Wait… you hate gratitude meetings?
LILY: Ugh. I really do.
TOBY: I hate gratitude meetings too!
TOBY: Oh, they’re awful. I mean, if I wanted to hear someone listing off all the things they’re so damn happy about…
LILY: … I’d watch The Sound of Music.
TOBY: Exactly! You know… maybe we’re not all that different.
LILY: You know… I think maybe you’re right.
TOBY: Okay, so you drank alcohol, and I drank…
LILY: … human blood.
TOBY: (chuckling) Yeah, human blood. But… but, I guess it doesn’t matter what we drank. What matters is that we’re recovering from our drinking.
LILY: (smiling) I agree.
TOBY: I’m glad you’re here.
LILY: Me too. (She pulls up the hood of her sweatshirt to match everyone else.)
GARY: May I share now?
CLARENCE: Sure, Gary. Go ahead.
GARY: I’m grateful that regardless of what we did or how we did it, we’re all able to support each other in recovery. And I’m grateful for new friends, and I’m grateful that we’re all sober, and here together, and I’m grateful for everyone who’s in recovery.
GARY: Except for the tweakers.
(A beat. Then everyone bursts into laughter.)
LILY: Ha! Tweakers. They’re horrible people!
TOBY: (nodding confidently) It’s true.