Allow me to brag for a minute: I’m a pandemic-shutdown champion. I sit in my apartment day after day, week after week, focused on getting through the next few hours and not allowing myself to worry too much about, or even think too much about, the future. For this superpower, I have to thank Alcoholics Anonymous.
I joined AA at 19 mostly because I loved cocaine, truly loved cocaine, but also because I loved vodka and cheap white wine and diet pills and valium in enormous quantities. I wanted to not die, so joining was an easy decision, helped along by the knowledge that I came from a family of female alcoholics: My mother had written novels about her drinking, and my grandmother was famous for her drunken vomiting at various fine restaurants throughout Manhattan. So, on November 1, 1997, I boarded a plane for the Hazelden treatment center in Minnesota. Soon after, I began attending AA meetings, which I still attend to this day, though on Zoom right now. AA saved me. I’ve been sober through numerous life experiences—my 21st birthday, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (I went to a meeting that night), my wedding, the births of my three children, and now months and months and months of a pandemic that may go on for months and months longer.
I guess I’m not supposed to talk about this. One of the founding principles of AA is anonymity, which is stated in Tradition Eleven: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.“ I regularly break my anonymity at the level of “press, radio, and films.” I am careful not to out others, but I feel that I can help people by talking publicly about my sobriety, and that’s why I do it. Also, I wrote a novel when I was 21 about getting sober, Normal Girl, which got a terrible review in The New York Times Book Review that still haunts me. I’d feel silly pretending I’m not sober when I’ve written an entire book about it.