Serenity by the Sea

At six last Thursday morning I told Ed, “I’m going to Mass in Lahina. I’ll be back in a few hours.”

​I needed to get away and have some alone time. I have missed my morning solitude…. hours before I have to speak to anyone — where I can sit and pray.

And, I have missed not having to share…. a bed, a bathroom, a car. I’m a very selfish person.

​So yeah, I left in a huff this morning — feeling overwhelmed with the feeling of being crowded by the human I am joined with forever and ever, but feeling so damn lonely. I thought a little Mass might fix that.

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​When I got in the car I noticed the pamphlet for one of those meetings I attend — oh, yeah, they have them here, too, on an island far away from home. I picked the schedule up at the club I stumbled upon last Saturday when we were walking around getting our tourist bearings – I noticed that there are meetings on the beach here, but hadn’t made it a priority to get to one. Too busy sitting on the beach, I guess. Of course there was a meeting — a little cheesily named “Serenity by the Sea” at 7am — the same time as Mass and a few blocks away.. “on the grass – oceanside in front of the old Lahina Public Library” When I got out of the car, it was breezy but warming up. I remembered how my knees sweated and stuck to the kneeler in the Maria Lanakila church the last 7am Mass I went to, so I turned and walked away from the church towards the ocean in search of the meeting, thinking that at least there will be coffee and the cool breeze off the water … sorry, Jesus.

​I didn’t have to go too far before I came upon a circle of eight cheap lawn chairs arranged around the end of a coffee table that had an urn and a tupperware container of cookies. The styrofoam cups were in a bag weighted down with a large piece of coral. There was nobody in the chairs, but there was a guy sitting on the rock wall overlooking the bay, smoking a cigarette while he watched the boats bob in the harbor. I noticed he was drinking out of a styrofoam cup so I walked up to him.

​”Hi. I’m JB, I am glad you’re here.’ He looked up and smiled.
“Friend of Bill’s?”
“Yup.”
“Well, JB, I am glad you’re here. I’m Al.”
“Hey Al.
“You from off the island?” (he looks at my sunburned feet in my flip-flops”
“yeah — first meeting I’ve made it to here”
“squirrley?”
“oh yeah — I’ve been here a week.”

We bullshitted for a few minutes where I learned that Al is a nice Italian Catholic boy (my higher power is Jesus) from where I grew up who has lived on Maui for 22 years and cooks at a fancy schmancy restaurant …. at 6:50, we went and joined the circle. Al introduced me to Pope. Pope lives in the park under the Banyan tree. He handed Al his paper to get signed because the court is helping him get it together by making sure he going to these meetings. Pope is glad that Al started this meeting outside so close to the park. He doesn’t feel right about going to the “fancy church meetings” or the meeting at the club house. He likes to be outside where he can see God’s beautiful creation.

​Al called the meeting to order a few minutes after 7. He pulled out a little service bell from his beach bag and dinged it a few times. ‘I love to do that.” After we did the readings and passed the basket for the 7th tradition, Al said. “Well. it’s Surprise Speaker Thursday, and today’s speaker is JB from Portland! Surprise!!! — Give us what you got for 15 minutes, JB.”

​So, I did. Gratitude was my topic. That is always my go-to in-a-pinch impromptu share. “I’m grateful to be sober today. I’m grateful to be in a meeting, I’m grateful for you guys who are willing to do whatever it takes to stay sober, even get to a 7am meeting on the beach. I’m grateful for another 24 hours reprieve from having to take a drink to ease the discontent I usually feel. I’m grateful for your sobriety and look forward to the experience, strength and hope I will receive from you today.”

​That takes up a whole minute.

Then I got into the high-level story …. and then opened up the meeting for sharing.

Four locals. Four off-island visitors…. two had less than a year and it was their first time on the island without drinking. We got to double dip… so on my second time around I confessed that I had been a real B.I.T.C.H. to Ed for the last few days, because, as much as I don’t like to confess it, I have a resentment that he can sit by the pool and drink fancy rum drinks while I sip sparkling water. I’ve been watching that handle of rum that is sitting on top of the fridge go down an inch or so a day, thinking, “Damn, get with it, already….. I would have wiped that bitch out by day two!”

​I shared that in the photo of me and Ed at the Luau that I put on FB and got 50 likes for being such a happy and wonderful couple. That photo where we beam in matching aloha outfits, with lei’s around our necks and a golden glow framing our happy smiles… I am churning inside with anxiety being at the place where, nine years ago I lost six months of abstinence from alcohol with the MaiTai I was handed … and that sent me on what I hope to God was my last binge… a four year ride to incomprehensible-kill-me-now-demoralization.

​I got a little weepy when I told how relieved I was to be in a meeting… where for the first time in a week, I feel like I can 100% be myself and say things that people will understand.

And. I don’t feel lonely anymore.
Then the young woman from someplace back East who is a newcomer who had been quiet opened up. “JB, I am going to the luau tonight, and I have been terrified. I, too, have been here for a week with my family and they are all drinking…. it’s been really hard. I’m so glad you shared that. Now I know I’m not crazy. I’m just an alcoholic!”

Pope said that he is tempted by the fire all the time. ‘There is always a trigger!” With that, the sweet smell of marijuana wafted into the circle. We all sniffed and turned towards it, inhaling deeply.

​We laughed when we realized what we were doing.

I hung out for awhile after the meeting talking, lingering…. drinking bad coffee in a styrofoam cup… watching the boats on the harbor.

I wasn’t sorry I missed Mass.