Inspirational Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Disclaimer: According to the 11th Tradition, "[Alcoholics Anonymous'] public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion." As discussed in this story, AA is for narrative purposes only.

This story contains pertinent profanity.


December 31

I am about to do something incredibly stupid. I am about to quit cold turkey. This is incredibly stupid because I have been drunk for over a year, and I have been a drunk since I started high school, and everyone knows the dangers of quitting without detox for the chronically impaired. Anyone who has ever quit anything usually has a catalyst for doing so, say, a doctor’s stern, final warning; or the wife taking the kids; or getting fired from your third job. I am no exception. Over the phone, my lawyer lukewarmly offered that hey, it’ll be Dry January, you’ll be in good company. I wholeheartedly gave him the finger.

January 3

We are social creatures. We are not meant to be alone. I am alone. Dusk is falling and the evening shadows are stealing across my empty bedroom: my single, frameless bed here in the corner, beside this schoolhouse desk over which I stoop; there, my dresser, with peeled paint and fading Bazooka Joe stickers with mismatched drawers and ancient cast-iron wheels. Here, timeless gouges in the dull wooden floor from Tonka trucks and the free weights bench; there, faintly sun-bleached geometric shapes and constellations of thumbtack holes on the walls of since-removed posters and pennants, a visual timeline of boy to man.

The gleeful voices of children travel from several blocks away, like from a different time zone, jumping that last ramp, singing that last song before Mom has to call them one last time for dinner. The perfectly timed hoo-hooing of a mourning dove provides an additional hue.

I am alone. I am not away at summer sleep-over camp where I know no one. This is not the first day of kindergarten; I did not just drop that fly ball in left field. Those were probably lonely times in my life, and I probably felt an emptiness, a hurt, a longing for something, but I was not alone. Mommy was going to pick me up, the school bus was going to take me home, and it was Coach Dad who slapped my butt when we ran off the field at the long inning’s end. Even when Gabrielle and I split I was not alone. I still had Jason, and there were plenty of other girls.

But now. This. Stan told me not to do anything crazy, like drive, or drink and drive, or drive and not return, because if Greta dies there’ll be a warrant for my arrest and should I not be found I’ll be declared a fugitive, plastered across America’s Most Wanted.

Jason and I watched that program together just last Saturday, drinking a shot of bourbon every time John Walsh pointed at the camera.

Stan strongly advised that I put the drink down, though. Permanently. And, that I start going to AA. But right now…it has taken me an excruciating forty-five minutes to type these few words because of the tremens and nausea and sleeplessness, the screams and taunts and jibes from alien invaders, and Mom won’t let me smoke in this bedroom where, when I was a kid, I used to sneak drags all the time. So, my breaks are frequent.

January 7

Today is my seventh day without a drink. The shakes have chilled a bit but the monsters are still rousing and the bugs are still wriggling from my pores. Just last night there were visions of mango worms, and I awoke in a fever having gouged my skin in blistered knots. Mom came rushing in with a cold compress; dad said that’s it, we’re taking him to the hospital, but again I refused, through clenched teeth, Greta’s on a fucking machine and I put her there.

I don’t deserve reprieve.

Mom suggested I “journal”; so, this is me, using the noun as a verb. I’m “journaling,” my quiet way of saying sorry, Mom. Sorry for disappointing you, and Dad, and for having to move back home because I got fired from the carwash and I’m this close to being a Class D Felon.

January 11

Ridiculous it is to say don’t drink when I am destined to spend at least a decade in a place where there is no ready access to alcohol other than pruno, and while I’d never been choosy I will be way at the bottom of the food chain. So, no: no pruno for this weak and pretty white bread. But my lawyer says not to drink as a mitigating factor in court. Sure. As the snakes begin their hibernation things are slowly coming into focus, and what I see is bullshit: “Judge, your honor, the defendant has not had a drink for ------ days and we have these signatures to prove that he has been a regular attendee at AA, which provides a direct correlation to his commitment to blahblahblah, to which the judge will strike his gavel and finger point, YOU, young sir, might have taken these measures before you wrapped your car around a tree and vegetablized a twenty-year-old cum laude.

Day eleven. The epilepsy has now ebbed to a mild caffeine withdrawal, and I am not experiencing the cold/hots so much when I sleep. But the regret…the remorse…the play/rewind, palpable fear of the unknown.

January 16

It’s back. The self-deprecation comes in waves; for a few days I was doing okay, gently gliding on the backyard swing set from which I used to parachute as a kid, and making tracks in the freshly fallen snow in a slow, contemplative meander; and helping Mom in the kitchen, peeling potatoes, and helping Dad chop firewood on the driveway. And going on really long walks, the cigarette smoke my choo-choo.

But here I am again. I am alone in my mind. There are no doctor’s notes, no conferences to be scheduled. Jason can’t act as an alibi; Stan can’t sweet talk any district attorney. I am alone. If Greta dies, I go to prison. Prison, not jail, for an extended stay. A bit longer than summer camp. More like ten summers, if the prosecution goes for voluntary manslaughter.

If Greta dies. I never even knew this person, yet her death determines my life. I actually do have one thing, though, besides my health that is. At least I still have if. There’s hope in if. Everything in my world now depends on if. On one fucking conjunction.

January 19

I was not of sound mind when I hospitalized Greta. I was very, very drunk. In fact, I was in a blackout. The last thing I can recall of the evening was meeting her at the party, bringing her a drink. A vodka Red Bull. I know I made one for myself too because I was double fisting when I walked up to her. Then there were the lights, the cell phone in my hand. Apparently, I was the one who called 911, though I don’t remember that either.

The boys, we always laughed about blackouts, recalling mid-afternoon of the next day or piecemeal throughout the next week the crazy things we did, and “if we didn’t remember it, it didn’t happen.” That was our disclaimer.

I don’t remember this, but it did happen. The blood tests taken in the hospital had been verified by the State Bureau of Investigation: 2.8 B.A.C. But, your honor, my client…

The judge. Mitigating factor. I really think I should start this AA thing. I have no more excuses, now that the snakes have gone into hibernation and my thoughts are not like Alpha-Bits in the cereal bowl. Time to start living in a solution for this mess that I created.

January 27

I’ve been a few times, now. To AA. Dad was thrilled when I decided it was time. We went to his home group, the very same group where he received both his surrender and his fifteen-year chips.

I don’t know what I was expecting.

No. That’s wrong. I know exactly what I was expecting. I was expecting yellowed shades rolled down over filmy fenced-in basement windows; rust lines from flaky, leaky pipes streaked down cracked, dusty brick; a low ceiling with missing tiles, and the static bzzzzz of bare tube lighting, flicking shocks like a backyard mosquito zapper.

I was expecting the smell of morning-after tavern radiating sworn-off booze from weathered, beady-eyed and nerve-wracked zombies tossed randomly in corners or in clustered support groups.

I was expecting penetrating stares and murmurs, tsk-tsks and head shakes, finger pointing: See? That’s him, over there. I was expecting commandments and “thou shalts” and fire and brimstone allegiance.

The only thing accurate in my visual was the basement, the outside stairwell of which reminded me of those leading to a fallout shelter. There appeared to be a light at the end of the dark angled tunnel. I was so glad I had my dad with me to guide me towards it.

Outside the door, leaning back against the wall in a collapsible chair and holding a bottle of Dasani filtered water was a short, muscular, bald-headed man with a sleeveless lumberjack shirt, jean shorts, and work boots. Both ears were pierced with hoop rings. He wore sunglasses. He had a gruff voice.

He looked like a WWE contender, like a bouncer at a bar, checking ID’s.

“Hello, there, stranger!” he exclaimed, rocking forward to greet my dad with a clapped hand and a hug. “Chris. You look great man. Absolutely fantastic. How’s your pretty wife? Catherine, right?” I’d never pictured my old man holding a conversation with, much less hugging, a man who obviously rode a Harley.

“Catherine it is, Greg, and she’s still just as radiant, thanks for asking.”

“Cool, cool. That’s cool, man. Name’s Greg, man,” he said to me, and he pulled me to him in like clapped-hand fashion. I wondered if he was about to bounce me off some ropes.


“—Greg, this is my son.”

“Great to meet you, Young Sir. Your dad here’s a great man. First face I saw when I entered, eight years ago next Friday, Chris. Eighth blue chip. You gonna be able to make it?”

“Wouldn’t miss it, Greg. Listen, we’re gonna go get settled—”

“—go, go, please. Pleasure to meet you, brother.” Greg hugged me again.

“Pleasure’s mine.”

Greg must not have heard about me.

Here was a clean, well-lighted place. Here there was laughter around the coffee pot, a mingling of societies: a Pierre, a Lamont, a Rosalba, a Logan; a lawyer, a doctor, a bum; a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker. Most knew my dad by name, and my dad knew most. 

But when the gavel struck and the voice rang out, “All right, people, let’s have an AA meeting,” the talking ceased, the seats were taken, and with bowed heads we said the Serenity Prayer in unison.

“Dad?” I whispered.

“Yes, son.”

“Should I say I’m an alcoholic?”

“What does your heart say?”

“I haven’t heard it yet.”

“Then wait.”

So, I waited, and I listened. There were a few preliminary readings that allowed me to grasp the simple idea of what this was all about, and a few words popped out at me—powerless, unmanageable, sanity, God—that made me think very, very hard about why I was in that chair.

I looked around. There were still a few smiles, but more now a concentration; an absorption, a serious stillness and a telepathy of which all seemed to be a part.

There was healing to be had here, that much was obvious.

And there were many, many stories to be told.


“Yes, son.”

“I have my answer.”

“That’s good, son.” The group began introductions. It was coming around to us.

“Oh, and Dad? Sorry. One more thing.”

Dad looked at me, put his hand on my knee, smiled, and winked. “I love you too, son.”

The guy, he sometimes beat me to that one.

January 31

My phone buzzed at 6:30 this morning, jarring me from one of the soundest sleeps I’d had since the days before alcohol, way back when I rode the school bus to Carver Middle, and I knew without looking at the number who it was, and what it was about. Letting it vibrate, to go to mail, I turned on my back and faced the ceiling. I closed my eyes, I palmed my face, and I summoned tears from the hurting place. They were not long in responding.

I screamed into those palms. I pounded the mattress, and I stood up and I flipped the mattress off the frame that Mom had resurrected from the basement just yesterday. I paced the small room like a caged cat, pulling my hair and pounding my temples and seething no no no through clenched teeth. My dad charged in; he grabbed me, he spun me around, he took me in an embrace and gave me a hug that forced me to hug him back, to dig my nails into his shoulder blades and to cry into his neck like I’d done when Gabrielle had broken my heart and Jason was letting his calls go to mail.

She’s dead she’s dead I’m so sorry Dad she’s dead.

My boy my angel my boy.

February 19

I think I am going to make this a daily thing, this journaling Mom suggested I begin. I learned in AA about complacency, about how when things start going our way, we quit doing the things that (might have) helped get us there. Journaling was good for me. I am able to look back today and see where I was, back then. Kind of like the “worry box.” Mom had me do one of those as well, way way back when I was in Carver Middle School.

I am in a bit of a better place today. A bit. That call that I knew was from Stan was indeed from Stan, though the call was optimistic: Greta had come out of her coma, and she was responsive. I was not going to be arrested on January 31 as my meltdown had thought. Of course, I am still in big trouble. My trial has been set for the end of this month and I might still be looking at a prison term, or permanent license revocation, or both, but you know what?

Greta is alive, so I am at peace with whatever the future holds.

I myself am surprised that I am okay today with the idea of prison, or of never driving an automobile again, or both. I am not thrilled, but I have acceptance. My sponsor chalks it up to “the powers of the Program,” as well as to the thirty-one dry days of January. “That one-month chip is huge, Hero.” He calls me Hero. “It’s amazing how much brighter the future looks through that new pair of glasses.”

January 14, 2024 19:12

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Erin Bell
09:51 Jan 19, 2024

Wow, unexpected tears finishing your story. It makes you realise that the physical act of quitting drinking is only a small piece of the puzzle as the waves of guilt, regret, and dread surface and need dealt with. I too feel at peace with the narrator's journey and also hope for their future. Really enjoyed this. Thanks for sharing


Jeremy Stevens
19:02 Jan 19, 2024

Thanks Erin. I had a bit of an issue with what some might consider an abrupt ending, but oh well. I appreciate the read!


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Hannah Lynn
02:42 Jan 15, 2024

Emotional story especially when he received that phone call and assumed the reason for it. He was fortunate to have so much support from his parents.


Jeremy Stevens
16:10 Jan 15, 2024

Thank you, Hannah. Language from the heart is the easiest to articulate.


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Sunny Rainville
04:23 Feb 20, 2024

The “fallout shelter” notion is pretty apropos, in my mind - for that place and for that concept. The half-life of the danger outside is much longer than the lifetime of any alcoholic. We have to keep coming back so we can be suited-up for our ventures out there. Thanks for the heartfelt read.


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David Sweet
22:09 Jan 20, 2024

Enjoyed the story. It is good to see the progress but difficult to know that this is just the beginning of the road for this character.


Jeremy Stevens
22:36 Jan 21, 2024

Yeah man, things probably won't get too much better for our boy. Not any time soon, at any rate. Thanks for the read!


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