The following is the first chapter of a manuscript I’ve been working on. The story is developed way beyond what is published below, but I’d love to hear what you think about this teaser.
He had been here over fifty times before. This journey had been made once a week for over one year. The path between his shelter on Third Street and Saint Mary’s Church basement had become second nature to him. Kurt Robinson had walked this way in the frigid snow, pouring rain, and glistening sunshine; however, no trek had been quite as glorious and memorable as today’s. It was May 15th and Kurt had now been sober for one year.
Living on the streets made this clean up difficult for Kurt. Previously alcohol had been his one true escape from the reality of his homeless situation. It had helped him to forget his surroundings, failures, and past. Most of all his loneliness was never more apparent to him then when he was standing on a dark city street emptying his stomach of its intoxicating contents. There were various times during his days of drinking where he had woken up in an unfamiliar part of town with foreign buildings and faces. Times like those left Kurt wondering how he was still alive, and why he had chosen this life over the one he had left behind.
Despite his numerous dark and trying hours, Kurt could now proclaim victory over his vice with the triumph of hitting this major milestone. As the sun hid behind the highest cloud, Kurt approached the heavy oak door at the back entrance of Saint Mary’s Church. The quaint church was settled into one of the city’s poorest blocks amid decaying brick houses and vacant duplexes. With one of the only basketball courts in that section of the city, rough young kids played pick-up games at all hours in the back lot.
As he pulled open the heavy doors, Kurt was overwhelmed by the familiar smell that greeted him as if it had been locked up inside the church waiting to escape. The smell was a mix between incense and mothballs. The lighting in the back corridor was dim, but the light was protruding from the doorway to the stairs in the basement. Kurt walked toward the light then made his way down the stairs into the basement. Six people had already gathered and were congregated around the refreshment table in the far east corner of the Fellowship Hall.
“Kurt! How was your week, man?” His sponsor, Ron welcomed Kurt’s arrival. Kurt nodded acknowledging the address and moved toward the table furnishing iced tea and water alongside styrofoam cups. Ron was an outgoing and philanthropic sponsor. He had been there for Kurt during his darkest hours of temptation. In a way, Ron’s own story of transformation proved to Kurt that there was hope. Hope to overcome addiction. Hope to achieve dreams. Most importantly, hope to get off of Chicago’s streets.
Outside of the support group, Ron was a computer programmer at a very successful software development company. He was extremely intelligent and often discussed his career throughout support meetings. Had Ron been around in the 1970’s, Kurt was sure he would have been a part of the hippie movement. This opinion was based on several of Ron’s passions and Kurt’s observations. Ron was one who grew untamed dark facial hair, was constantly sporting flannel tops, and was dedicated to charity and service.
Although Ron was only thirty years old, he was wise beyond his years. That’s what overcoming addiction does to you. Kurt always found hope in the fact that his sponsor could sympathize with him. He had faced his own addictions and achieved victory. If this journey had taught Kurt anything it was appreciation for others. He had a deep appreciation for his always-loyal sponsor, Ron.
As Ron approached Kurt in the church basement, Kurt noticed a new attendee following close behind.
“Carlos, this is Kurt. Today is his one year rebirth day. We are all so proud of him here. He’s come a long way.” Ron put a friendly arm around Kurt’s shoulder as Kurt nodded at the newly sober Carlos.
Carlos extended a firm hand forward to shake with Kurt. His dark eyes sunken into his caramel-colored skin proved to Kurt that Carlos was still dealing with the physical effects of addiction.
“Congrats, man. I’m sure you have a bunch of people who are proud.” Carlos muttered in a rich Cuban accent. This statement hit Kurt like razor blades to the heart. He couldn’t think of one person outside of the support group who even cared enough to ask about Kurt’s progress.
After several minutes of small talk around the petite refreshment table Kurt had learned about Carlos’ background. Carlos came from an immigrant family. They had migrated from Cuba during the reign of Fidel Castro. He had become a citizen of the United States ten years ago, but struggled to support his family without formal American education. He had learned much of the construction trade from his own father, but the economy was bad and steady work in the construction business was hard to come by. He had once juggled several part-time jobs at a time to support his family.
Carlos had a heavy build, caramel-colored skin and dark espresso eyes. His English was magnificent for someone who migrated later in life as Carlos had done. He seemed nice enough to Kurt; however, Kurt knew that the grip of addiction could ruin any life no matter how good or bad. Being a long time member of the program Kurt knew not to pry into the events that had led to Carlos’ dependency on alcohol or its effects on the family that Carlos had worked so hard to support. He would allow Carlos to reveal his life piece by piece, just as Ron had done for him over the past year.
It was easy to keep to himself and cling to his own story like a life raft: not wanting to let go. Only he could completely understand his choices and his past. It took strength to finally open up at the support group and reveal his empty and lonely life.
Along the way he had made some friends, though very few were still a part of the group. Some had succumb to relapses while others had completed their court-ordered number of appearances and then disappeared. None had sustained sobriety to the level that Kurt now had reached. That’s what made today such an anticipated milestone to Kurt. He had made his commitment and in spite of physical and emotional trials he had reached his goal of twelve months sober.
Sitting down to commence the meeting, Kurt reflected to himself on his vivid transformation over the past fifty-two weeks. He recalled memories of himself one year younger walking into this very church basement for the first time in his life with nothing but the clothes on his back to his name. He was lonely and empty, but ready to rid himself of the monster he had created. Although he had progressed little in the area of possessions that year, he had gained inspiration and confidence in his ability to take back control of his life. He was a changed man.
Kurt took his place in the circle of chairs in the center of the Fellowship Hall. He had chosen the seat to the left of Ron. The others began to file into empty chairs. Ron opened up the meeting as he always did with his own description of the group’s purpose.
“Together we can harness the beast that is addiction.” He started in his gentle, yet theatrical tone. “It’s not always easy, but I’ve come to learn that there is strength in numbers…”
He continued to explain how many had been freed from their violent and angry pasts through this very program, and how self-discipline could accomplish anything. Next, the members of the group introduced themselves and gave a brief overview of their personal journeys starting with the man on Ron’s right.
Just as Kurt had difficulty opening up to his troubled peers so also did each of the others present. Their monologues were brief and usually consisted of their first names and the time that had elapsed since they had last drank.
“My name is Anthony. I’ve been working to stay sober for five months.”
“I’m Emily and today is one month since my last relapse.”
“I’m Collin. I’ve been trying really hard, but I broke down and drank with an old buddy this week.”
“Hello, I’m Carlos and I have been sober for two weeks.”
Kurt was last to speak in the circle. He stood to his feet when it was his turn to speak. With as much confidence as the poor man could muster he said, “My name is Kurt, and I have been twelve months sober today.”
All fiction writing on this site is originally written by TheAmeriBritMom. All rights to these pieces is reserved for the author. It is unlawful to reproduce or plagiarise this work.