Al-Anon & Onwards

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It was only a matter of time.

I have a tendency to speed, to the point that going even the reasonable speed limits agitates me.  I’d had enough close calls with speed traps to know that it was only a matter of time until I actually got caught.

I was speeding down a familiar highway to a familiar destination when I glanced over far too late and saw the state trooper. I glanced down at my speedometer: I was closing in on 80 in a 65 mph zone.

Only a matter of time.

As predicted, the state trooper pulls up behind me and I make my way to the breakdown lane. I remove my sunglasses and grab my registration and wait.

“Going a little fast there, huh?” He says when he walks over.

“Heh, yeah…” I say sheepishly.

“Where are you heading to, if I may ask? What could you be in such a hurry for?”

I stumble for a second. I’m tempted to lie, minimize everything by circumventing the truth. Oh no where, no where in particular…

“Um, actually, I have an Al-Anon meeting I’m heading to,” I say. “The meeting’s in 15 minutes and I must’ve gotten ahead of myself.”

“Aaaah,” the trooper says. His voice had been jovial since the beginning, but now there’s a new softness to it. “Well, I do need your license and registration…”

As everything is run through the system, I find myself fighting back tears. For why, I can’t exactly say. I’m not afraid of getting a ticket, and the days of me bursting into tears over the slightest hint of being in trouble are long behind me. But there’s a bubbling up from somewhere deep, something from a place that, for all my radically vulnerable and expressive ways, I know I keep repressed.

“So I’m going to give you a warning here,” he says when he returns. “But be careful with your speed. That would’ve been an expensive ticket.”

“Thank you, thank you so much…” I begin to babble.

“Now, I kinda know about Al-Anon, but tell me: that’s for people in recovery, right?”

“Basically,” I reply. “It’s for those affected by someone addicted. The same way AA is for the someone in recovery, Al-Anon is for the family of that person.”

“And you would be part of that family, I gather.”

“Yup.”

“Ah…Been there myself. I know what that’s like,” he says, trailing off, his eyes on the road behind me, his voice as distant as whatever it is he’s now looking out at. There’s a pause before he directs his attention back towards me. “You be safe now, okay? Watch your speed.”

“Will do. Thank you so much.”

“Have a good one.”

I pull back onto the highway, going 5 below the speed limit in the granny lane. Before I can even check my rear view mirror, I’m in tears. The kind of tears that you can’t even attempt to keep silent. The kind that draw out whimpers and yelps before you finally concede and let yourself cry to the degree you need to cry.

I drive past my exit for the meeting and keep going. I’m in the same raw newborn state I felt when I first started meetings — meetings I’d started as my own type of recovery after my father passed and I’d realized that I had hit my own version of rock bottom. But, unlike the cathartic rush from those first meetings, these tears feel cleansing and outright tender from the get-go. A welling to the surface of things that do no one any favors keeping down.

I end up pulling off a random exit and finding a nearby park. With my face a little less blotchy, I set out for a walk along one of the trails.

That day’s meeting did not take place in a rec room or church basement or function hall. That day’s meeting did not have any readings, or a motley of people in attendance.  That day’s meeting was a simple exchange between a trooper and a speeding driver. It lasted a fraction of the usual time, but the message was the same:

I know what that’s like. You’re not alone.

A few more tears roll down my cheek as I walk, the trails thankfully void of other people.  Up until my college years, I used to burst into tears over the hint of feeling like I was in trouble.  Perhaps now, I burst into tears over the hint of feeling like I’m safe.

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