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Alcoholics Anonymous
Calvin's boss's son, Kristoff, dropped Calvin off at the AA Meeting that Dr. Pirozzi had mentioned to him at their meeting the night before. That had gone better than expected - at least he felt like he had a plan. Despite that, he felt nervous being here. Kristoff broke the silence. "Here we are. Do you want me to walk in with you?"

"No...I think I need to do this part on my own."
Calvin fumbled with the door handle, his shaking hands making opening the door difficult.

" me when you're done, and I'll come get you. We're rooting for you, Cal."

Calvin nodded at him, and walked to the building. The trip to the hospital had taken some time and they were just about to begin when Calvin entered. There was one empty chair so Calvin sat down, slumping in the chair and trying to make himself as small as possible. He was already embarrassed about being almost late. He gripped the arms of the chair hard to prevent the shaking, but his hands still tremored with nervousness, despite his knuckles turning white.

"Alright we have some new faces here tonight, so lets go around and introduce ourselves and tell each other why we're here."
the facilitator said.

Calvin awaited his turn and said, "I'm Calvin and that's all I'm comfortable sharing right now."

The facilitator gave Calvin an encouraging smile and nodded. He wouldn't force him; Calvin had to make the leap on his own, but he would be there to help when he was ready. Calvin had to admit that he was scared. He was in a room full of strangers and his only thoughts were on whiskey.

They finished introductions, and Calvin had unfortunately forgotten most of their names; his mind was elsewhere. A courage he hadn't felt before came up though and he spoke. "Ummm...can I say something."
The facilitator smiled at him and nodded; Calvin was ready. "Ummm...I'm Calvin and I'm here because I'm depressed and have a drinking problem and I want to get better..."
Calvin's breath began to quicken. "But all I can think about is that I want a drink right now so bad....I'm sorry...I don't know what to do anymore."
Calvin was only partially aware of the tears that had begun to fall.
Lucas sat in the meeting. He felt pretty good this evening. It was the tail end of winter and the days had already started getting noticeably longer. It had a been a good day.

When it was his turn, Lucas introduced himself and mentioned how long it had been since he'd used. Three weeks and two days. He explained only briefly. The looks he saw were empathetic and he took comfort from them. He didn't beat himself up about it. He wouldn't let himself. That had been a...unique situation. He didn't think people manipulating his emotions could be laid squarely at his feet. So while he was honest, he clung to his belief that had he not been manipulated, this wouldn't have happened. Still, he didn't like admitting it to the group, like he had let them down. He needed a way to fix this.

The last guy to talk was new. He looked familiar to Lucas, though he wasn't sure from where. He'd seen him before, that was for sure. Poor guy. He remembered the withdrawals. It was bad. Thankfully, his slip hadn't brought them back. He felt for the guy. He and some others spoke up, giving him encouragement, letting him know they understood and were there for him. He hoped the guy was ready to work at it, though. He was here, which was a start. But there was a lot more to it.

When the meeting ended, Lucas walked over to the man and held out his hand. "Hey. Name's Lucas. I'm glad you came."
He paused. "I know I know you from somewhere. But I can't place you."
The people there were encouraging and supportive. He had started to cry, feeling completely scared and vulnerable. A couple of those next to him placed hands on his shoulders and it startled him at first. A few people in the group spoke to him, telling him that he could beat it and he didn't have to fight alone anymore.

The depression lessened at the encouragement, and with it the desire to drink diminished. It was still there - his body still craved it, but it felt more manageable. He became less ashamed of himself and looked up, meeting the eyes of some of the people in the group. Their eyes showed no judgement. In one he saw compassion, in another - sympathy, in another - understanding. All were encouraging, and Calvin realized that they were right. All of them had beaten their addiction and now helped others do the same. They kept each other accountable as well. He wasn't alone anymore.

The tension eased in his body and his muscles sighed in relief as it happened. He sat up straight in his chair and allowed the relaxation to happen. For the rest of the meeting he stayed mostly quiet, but paid close attention. It was still easy to lose focus - the depression was still nagging in the back of his head and his body still screamed for alcohol, but he kept bringing himself back. All in all, Calvin enjoyed it though.

As the meeting ended, many in the group approached him - welcoming him and saying they were glad to meet him before heading home. It was a great experience for him. The last man to approach him was about Calvin's height. He stuck his hand out for Calvin to shake. Calvin took it as he spoke.

"Hey. Name's Lucas. I'm glad you came."
The man paused. "I know I know you from somewhere. But I can't place you."

As Calvin looked at the man, he realized he recognized him too, but couldn't place him. Calvin frowned."Calvin...hi. I recognize you too, but can't place you either. That probably means that I was hammered and forgot - and probably tried to hurt you or someone with you. If that's the case...I'm sorry. I was a different man then, and did a lot of things that I regret."

Shame began to take over him as he thought of the people he had hurt over the last couple of months. Calvin hoped that man never came back.
The man frowned at Lucas. "Calvin...hi. I recognize you too, but can't place you either. That probably means that I was hammered and forgot - and probably tried to hurt you or someone with you. If that's the case...I'm sorry. I was a different man then, and did a lot of things that I regret."
The look on his face said that he was ashamed of his behavior.

With the man's words Lucas remembered him. He'd been walking with Aria after mass and he had been outside the bar. Aria had hit him with a snowball. Looking back, he felt bad at having beaten the man. His nose looked to be ok, though, so that was something.

He touched the older man's shoulder. "Look man, we all do things under the influence that we later regret. All of us. Or sometimes we do things to get our drug of choice."
He tried to get the man to look at him.

He felt no shame in revealing this to him here. "I sold my body so that I could score heroin. Mostly to men. All I wanted was the next fix. I was nearly killed once, doing it."
The memory was bitter, but it only strengthened his resolve. He would not go back down that path. He wanted to live. He had a good life. Good friends. Valentin. Sergei. Boris. And Aria.He wasn't sure what he was to her. A support, certainly. She was another reason for him to always be careful. But most of all, he did it for himself. He would not be that person again. That had to be the overriding reason. And then God would help.

"You are here and are seeking help. So don't feel bad at what you were before. All of us have been there."
He smiled at the man. "If you are willing to do the work, I am happy to be your sponsor. You can do this. It WILL be hard. Accept that. Be prepared for that. But you CAN do it, Calvin."

He thought of Aria, of her struggles. "You would not believe the stories of people here. And how beautiful it is when they begin to get control of it."
He looked around, seeing the faces of men and women who had all come together and shared their daily struggle. "Honestly, that is part of the reason I come here. I am encouraged every time."

His voice became earnest. "You can do this. IF you want to. If you are willing to do the work."
Lucas opened up to Calvin and told him things that he would not have expected a man he had just met to do. He had even almost gotten killed trying to get his fix. Calvin didn't judge him for his actions; he wasn't in a place where he could. Calvin had contemplated killing a man - he was really glad that he didn't. The thought made him think of Sierra and how much he missed her.

It was Lucas offering to be his sponsor that really surprised him. Calvin was sure he had tried to hurt the man, but yet the man wanted to help him fight his battle. It was encouraging and lifted a large burden for Calvin. He met the man's eyes.

"I'm willing to work for it and I know it will be hard. The last couple of days alone have seemed like hell. The only thing I can think about is"
The last part made Calvin look away - he had revealed his second addiction to Lucas. He turned his eyes back to Lucas. "I became I man I didn't want to be...and that man will never again exist, but I know I can't do it alone. I'm honored that you're willing to help. I'd like to start now - by sharing some things. Not to gain sympathy, but to get them in the open - out of my head. I'm not ready for everyone to know - can we talk privately."

Lucas agreed and they went into another room and closed the door.

"I'm not sure where to start, but there's a lot of background so I'm going to ramble for a bit. Please bear with me. My mother died of cancer when I was 23. My dad became depressed after that and committed suicide a year later. I've only told my therapist this, but I blame myself for it."

Bad son...

The battle with his internal demons began as he faced his past. Calvin trudge through, telling Lucas of his wife and son - how he had lost them to a drunk driver and blamed himself for that too - if he had done something differently they might still be here.

Bad husband...bad father...

Calvin showed physical signs of the struggle that was happening in his mind. His breathing seemed to choke up a bit and quickened and tears began to fall. The desire to drink became stronger - his emotions screaming for something to make the pain he faced going away. He kept his eyes on Lucas. Lucas was his strong point - he wouldn't give in to it.

"I moved here and met someone. Someone hurt her - not physically, but emotionally. I wanted to hurt the man who did it, and I planned to kill him. I don't like to hurt people and I couldn't go through with it. Now I'm glad I didn't, but then the only the thing I could think of was how much of a failure I was. How useless I was. That was the night it started. I went to a bar and got a bottle of whiskey. I left the bar that night with a prostitute. It's when I realized that the alcohol and sex made the pain go away - at least for awhile. When I woke up, I felt just as empty as before. Pretty soon, it didn't matter. I needed the alcohol and needed sex. I can't tell you how many women I've woken up to that I don't remember meeting."

Calvin closed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm himself.

"It wasn't enough was fighting. I started to fight people - usually drunk - I don't remember most of them - just waking up with bruises. I remember it not being about winning - it was about making the pain go away. Everything I did was so that it wouldn't hurt anymore. I started to hit rock bottom when I woke up in a jail cell - hungover - with a fractured nose and the only thing I remembered from the night before was snowmen. I was charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct. The fine was large and ate up my savings. I don't remember the fight, but it started to get others concerned about me. A few days ago, my boss almost fired me. The only reason he didn't was because he knew something was wrong and didn't think firing would help. He also said that he couldn't force me to get help, but also said this was my only warning. It was clear if I didn't get help I would lose my job, and honestly, I would have deserved it. I'm seeing a counselor now for depression and substance abuse, and my coworkers know what's going on and are being supportive. They even worked out a rotation of people to stay with me so that I'm not alone for awhile. They don't think it's safe for me to be alone."

Calvin closed his eyes. He had fought the battle and had won, but the desire was still there. He still wanted to drink.

That was really hard."
He felt a little better having told it now to two people.
Lucas listened. The story was sadly familiar. Addiction to anything- alcohol, drugs, sex- really came down to an inability to control something even when it was ruining your life, when you had every reason to stop. When your desperation for it became all-consuming and you'd do just about anything for it. He remembered his own hungers. He'd never liked men. get the heroin....He shied away from the memory. He shook his head, dispelling it. This was doing no good.

"I appreciate your telling me that. Now, at this point, it's time to make sure that you put that stuff behind you. Use it to motivate your desire to change."

He smiled at Calvin, put his hand on his shoulder. "I am happy to help you Calvin. But you will have to do the work. I know what works- what has helped people here. I'm going to tell you the same things that have helped all of us. Soon, you will know it all by heart. You will be irritated with me when I repeat it. But that's ok. It's still good to hear someone else outside ourselves say it."

He smiled, remembering. "Sometimes you are going to get angry with me. You may want to fight me or resist. You're going to have to expect that and deal with that now. Because I know what works. We are all human."

He looked Calvin in the eye, encouragingly. "It all comes down to whether you really want to change this about yourself. I think you do. So you will have to be forceful with yourself, especially when you don't want to do it. Trust me."

He shook his head smiling, wanting Calvin to understand that he was there once too. "I've been there man. It's gonna be hard. But you can do it. And it will help if you get other things to occupy your hands. Be busy. A hobby. A sport. I took up Jeet Kune Do. Being physically active really helps you. Takes your mind off of the craving. Your brain follows the body's action. Whatever it is, have a routine and stick to it religously."

He let go of the man. "Here's my contact info."
Lucas was a good listener. He didn't interrupt, but kept his eyes on Calvin the whole time. Reliving his past was scary. It opened old wounds and Calvin could feel the depression clawing at his mind, trying to force him back to the bottle. Lucas' calm demeanor helped and the simple touch on the shoulder brought some stability back to Calvin's mind. Calvin listened to Lucas explain what would happen next. He heard every word - their friendship - did Lucas even think of Calvin as a friend - would be rough at times. Lucas was telling him that he would be hard on him because that's what he needed.

Most of all, Calvin understood that the man had been where he was. Maybe Lucas had even had the same exact conversation with him. Calvin felt a stab of guilt for not telling him about the Wolfman, but he wasn't sure he could yet. He would in time, but now just didn't seem right.

The hobby idea caught Calvin's ear. He needed something to do when the times got really rough - something to focus on. He remembered a guitar he had picked up shortly before his mother passed away. He had always intended to learn how to play. Unfortunately, he sold it with most of his assets. Maybe the guys would give him a loan to get an instrument and get started. He hated asking them for money, but he didn't want to follow Lucas and get involved in martial arts - with his struggles, he didn't think it was a good idea.

"I can get a hobby. I always wanted to learn how to play guitar. Maybe now would be a good time to start."

Lucas gave him his contact information and Calvin responded by giving Lucas his own.

"I hope you know how much this means to me - to not have to do this alone. I might have a lot of questions at first - so I might call a lot. I hope you don't mind. I'm going to be very honest - I'm fighting pretty hard right now - I still want to drink. I know it won't magically go away, but it's difficult. Guess I shouldn't go to bars anymore."

He hadn't meant it to be funny, but it triggered a small laugh. It had been a long time since he had laughed and it felt good to do so.
Lucas laughed, clapping him on the shoulder. "No...Bars are a VERY bad idea. It is going to be tough. But you've made the first step."
He looked around the church, thinking. "And guitar would be a good hobby to take up. You want to avoid being bored with nothing to do. But I'd also recommend a physical program of some sort. Sometimes you get the jitters and you just need to let them out, physically. You'd be surprised how you feel after you exercise too. Give it some thought."

The room was nearly empty. And he needed to go too. Sergei was at the shop by himself and he had appointments later on. And maybe plans with Aria. He smiled, thinking of her. She was another one. Hard worker. He wanted to see her. Make sure she was ok.

"Calvin, I am glad you came. I think you're gonna make it. Just remember something. If you don't change anything, nothing is going to change. And our bodies and minds HATE change. So know you're gonna fight. But it's worth it man. I promise you. I've been clean for...a while."
He felt a bit like a hypocrite, but he had learned enough not to be unreasonable even with himself. Especially with himself. Still, he was starting his count over again. "Everyday, I thank God for that. Every day. You can do this."

They walked to the exit.

Chris had seen the new guy come in - almost late - and his heart went out to the man. He looked to be scared to death to be here. Sometimes, they came in here like that. It was hard to admit to a group of strangers you had a problem and needed help. Hell - it was hard to admit that to your friends too. Chris determined to keep an eye on the man throughout the meeting and would make a point to connect with him as soon as he could.

They went through the introductions, and the new man, Calvin, declined to offer more than his name. Chris gave him a smile and nodded. They had to come to the decision to speak on their own. Inwardly, Chris worried for the man, but soon the man asked to speak. Chris smiled, excited. The man was ready to talk. The next part of the meeting is what made Chris really proud. The group began to talk to Calvin - encouraging him and letting him know they wanted to help him. Calvin's posture shifted and became more relaxed. Chris had been drug free for ten years, three months, and thirteen days, and in all that time, this was the moment he always loved to see - people realizing that they could overcome their addictions.

The meeting ended and the others welcomed Calvin more. The man still looked a little scared, but he was talking to people and building connections that would help him in his struggles. Others in the group came to talk to him, keeping him from approaching. He wanted to talk to him and tell him what a big step he had made tonight, but he didn't want to be rude. He kept his eyes on the man though as Lucas approached him. A few moments later, and the moved off to the side to talk privately. Chris hoped Lucas would offer to sponsor him. Lucas would be a good match.

The crowd began to leave and Chris waited. He had to be the last to leave anyways. Lucas and Calvin made a move towards the exit, and Chris walked to meet them.

"Calvin. I just wanted to touch base before you left. I'm Chris, and I'm really glad you came out tonight. You took a really big step tonight in your recovery process. I hope we continue to see you...and it looks like you made a friend."

Calvin stopped as the facilitator approached and introduced himself. The mention of Lucas made him smile.

"Yeah...Lucas offered to be my sponsor. I'll keep coming. I feel better than I've felt in months."

Chris smiled at him and said, "I'm glad to hear it. Lucas is a good man - he'll be hard on you, but if I know him, I'm sure he's already told you that. Keep in mind that its for you to get better. Glad to meet you Calvin. Lucas."
They all shook hands and Calvin was aware of the grateful look that Chris gave Lucas.

Calvin looked out and saw Kristoff's truck outside waiting for him. "That's my ride. I should get going. It was nice to meet you Lucas." Calvin shook his hand and then pulled him into a hug. "Thanks"

He broke off the hug. "I'll talk to you soon. Have a good night."

Calvin then got into Kristoff's truck and told him that everything had went well and he had a sponsor. Kristoff smiled at him.

"Oh...and I think I want to start playing guitar."

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