It was busy enough at work that I was back and forth behind the registers as much as I was trying to be everywhere else at the same time. "What the hell is this?" I asked, after tripping over a bundle underfoot for the third time.
"Oh, somebody left it here last night. I think someone called about it so we were keeping it up here instead of putting it in the office."
I looked inside the bag. After more than 20 years sober I can recognize the blue of a 12&12 and a Big Book in a personalized leather book cover from about one square centimeter of exposure and in less than a second.
"Someone called about this? This bag, I mean?"
"Huh? Yeah, I think so."
It was marginally in the way, but I left it up front.
The next morning I was at work well before everyone else. I pulled the bag out to see if I could find a phone number or recognize a name.
There was a Big Book, in its leather book cover, a 12&12 and a journal.
I was honestly not trying to read what was written in the journal, but in opening it up to look for a name on the inside cover I couldn't help -- well, maybe I could have, but I didn't -- scanning the first page. I flipped through a few more before I decided that there was both nothing there to tell me who it all belonged to and I was definitely drifting over the line into reading it rather than trying to find its owner.
From what little I glanced at I got the sense this was a person who had struggled to stay sober -- and it was not their first attempt.
The Big Book and the 12&12 had notes in them, some passages highlighted, but nothing to give me a name or number to call.
I put the bag back up front, wondering a little at the too-cute-coincidence of me and a forgotten bag full of 12 Step literature at my job.
It's been there for going on a week now. It's gotten so that I look for it when I go in, to see if someone's come to claim it.
It makes me both sad and hopeful at the same time.
Still, it's just a little ridiculous too, isn't it?
One in six American adults is a binge drinker, consuming alcohol in excess about four times a month, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study — which defines binge drinking as five or more drinks in a short period of time for men and four or more for women — breaks down the nation’s 38 million binge drinkers by a variety of measures, including geography, age and income level. Wisconsin is the state with the most binge drinkers at 25 percent of the population, while Utah, home to the teetotaling Mormon church, comes in last at less than 11 percent.
“Binge drinking falls into a category of risky drinking,” Dr. Marc Galanter, director of the NYU School of Medicine’s Division of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, told The Daily. “As someone who treats people with alcohol problems, I’ve seen people start with binge drinking and carry on to more severe alcoholism.”
The CDC report noted that half of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. is consumed during binge drinking. For young people, that rate shoots up to 90 percent.
Binge drinking may be considered socially acceptable — to many, a fun night out at a bar. And many don’t see it as a sign of a serious drinking problem. Indeed, experts say less than 20 percent of binge drinkers would be medically diagnosed as alcoholics.
But health officials say binge drinking accounts for more than 40,000 deaths each year. It contributes to problems like violence and drunken-driving accidents and longer-term issues like cancer, heart disease and liver failure.
Other findings of the report:
• Binge drinking continues to be most common in men, people who have been to college, and those with incomes of $75,000 or more.
• Only about 4 percent of people 65 and older binge drink, far fewer than adults in other age groups. But they do it more often — five times a month, on average. Younger adults average closer to four episodes per month.
I thought this article, and the study it discusses, was interesting. But I think it is important to note that the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" suggests there is a difference between a "real" alcoholic and someone who merely abuses alcohol. Speaking for myself, I have found that to be both experientially and observationally true.
To put that idea more simply: All alcoholics are alcohol abusers, but not all alcohol abusers are alcoholics.
A personal milestone this weekend: My natal birthday. One of "Those" Numbers. Having been in AA for a long time now I've seen enough people die younger than they ought to feel that it drifts into sacrilege if I bemoan getting older. But as I've written here before, milestones have an effect on us; at the very least they trigger no little bit of reflection. This year, more than others, I've been thoughtful and (to be honest) a little upside down about the whole thing -- more vulnerable to looking at the distances between where I seem to be and where I thought I might be, in all arenas. If expectations are my dreams with a deadline and a specific self-will-driven outcome, the dreams themselves are good things; part of the human experience and maybe even sometimes Divinely Inspired.
(Though it is a delicate balance between compassionate self examination and maudlin self reflection. This I know for sure.)
With all that said, I thought, wrote and prayed a lot today. This is what I came up with:
If I have any strength at all, it is because I have admitted -- and embraced -- the depth of my weakness.
If fear rarely holds me back now, it is because I have grown familiar with its clammy fist around my heart, learned to name it for the illusion that it is, and to see past it to the ongoing truth of God's gentle Hand at work in my life.
If I have any wisdom at all, it is because I have sometimes been so very (very) foolish, and then been as honest as I could be about my ham-handed egotistical clowning with the people whom I trust and can learn from.
And if I have any real joy in my life today, it is because AA has taught me how utterly, ultimately useless it is to focus overmuch on myself (my petty score keeping and my vain advertising-slogan-based self judgments), and instead to constantly look for ways I can be of service to others, and continue to seek a conscious contact with a Power -- so far beyond my limited understanding -- Greater than myself.