My dad approached parenting in his own way. When my older brother Taylor started wearing obscene clothing during his rebellious youth, my dad responded by wearing a brown bag over his head like a chef’s hat the next time the two of them went grocery shopping. He’s a maverick in just about every way except his fashion, so it makes sense he made me attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting after I was caught drinking during high school.
In early 2007, my friends and I got together at a house without parents and went to town on a bottle of cheap whiskey called Black Velvet. Being 14 years old, as well as a fool, I couldn’t handle the liquor and started throwing up on the driveway. They didn’t know what to do with me so they called my dad and told him I had food poisoning from a burrito — a classic cover-up. My dad picked me up and soon noticed the scent of alcohol. When I awoke from my slumber, he had a repentance list ready, and at the bottom was “attend an AA meeting.”
I found a meeting at my local community center, and with a belly full of butterflies, I entered the room. I was hoping it would be a low-key experience, but that was not the case. It turned out to be a chip awards ceremony (a celebration in recognition of sobriety), and the room was packed. I tried to disappear in the back with the Oreos and coffee, but a generous woman spotted me and offered a seat that was at the very front of the room. Terrified and noticeably awkward, I listened to the stories, accomplishments and regrets from local townspeople.
An older gentleman gave his testimony and then earned his 30-year chip, but even after such a feat I got the sense that he battled with his alcoholism day by day. I then recognized a friend’s parent and together we shared a tender moment of confidentiality. Strangers exchanged their problems and successes and after an hour we all held hands and chanted, “Keep coming back; it works if you work it.”
The whole experience was an echo of that scene in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when Luke has the vision of Vader in the swamp caves of Dagobah. There’s a thin line between control and powerlessness. My dad didn’t send me to an AA meeting because he thought I had a problem — he did it so I could see what might happen if I let alcohol control my life. Eight years later, I’m at the end of my college career, a time where alcoholism has lobbied its way into the norm, and due to my childhood AA visit I’m able to appreciate the value of choice.