For my first assignment, once I’d decided to dive into the Twelve Awakenings, Santos told me to read the personal stories in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and see how my story stacked up to some those accounts.
Hungry Ghosts Anonymous utilizes the same twelve-step program created in the 1930s by Bill W. and Doctor Bob, two alcoholics desperate to find a solution for their spiritual malady. It is one of the many recovery groups that has adapted the language of the program to suit the needs of its members. The Holy Ghost Tribe of Tower 7, catering mainly to alcoholics and drug addicts, relies largely on the text as it was written, with a few minor modifications, due to the fact that they identify as hungry ghosts, or those who’ve gone so far as to lose their humanity to their addictions.
Before I became addicted to alcohol, I was addicted to comic books. Both of these are just manifestations of my greatest compulsion, the desperate need to escape so-called reality. As I began to read the stories of the alcoholics in the Big Book, I found myself as transfixed as when I was a young boy, reading about shy teenagers, suddenly able to take on whole street gangs, or mutants joining forces to turn back alien invasions.
It was the world of outsiders I’d grown up in, always moving, never quite fitting in. None of us had ever been able to scale walls or fly to distant planets, but we could sure drink alcohol when that opportunity came around, and for a long time it had given us our very own superpowers.
Bill W. trying to convince his wife that many men of genius come up with their best ideas when drunk, made me remember thinking that to fry my brain on acid if I could become the next Syd Barrett, had once sounded like a fair trade to me. Doctor Bob’s unparalleled drinking abilities in college, reminded me of my own. His resolve to never darken the doorway of a church again, after being forced to attend every service, Sunday School class, and Monday night Christian Endeavor, while growing up, made me laugh out loud.
One alcoholic with an inferiority complex wrote how the first time he drank, it suddenly made him everything he’d ever wanted to be. Another wrote how after a drink of whiskey he was suddenly the life of the party, glowing with wit, and no longer even self-conscious about his skinny legs. One woman writes about skipping school and taking road trips, how she considered a reprimand from any authority figure to be a badge of honor. I could’ve written those stories myself. These people were talking my language.
How had it worked out for them? Bill W. writes of physical and mental torture so hellish that he almost leaps out of a window. Doctor Bob gets locked up at least a dozen times in sanitariums. The man whose drinking made him everything he wanted to be, wakes up in a jail cell in Montreal one fateful morning. Old Skinny Legs passes out on a pile of hay. Miss Rebel without a Cause, winds up making several suicide attempts.
Was that my story too? Lately, for certain. Nerves shot. Nightmares. Dry heaves. The shakes. A seizure. Waking up in the hospital. Before that, probably more than I cared to admit. The trajectory of every superhero is the same. The discovery of their powers, learning how to use them, the moment they go public, the notoriety that follows, and not long after that, the backside, the increasing isolation, and eventual self-destruction, as they attempt to top themselves one last time, but finally meet their match.
Had I met my match? Maybe I had. Was my story over? I’d never straightened my story out enough to even know.