Two Days Sober and 13th Stepped

Two Days Sober and 13th Stepped


This post was originally published on January 30, 2015.

I had two days of sobriety when Bruce, a 50 year-old scumbag from the AA hall in North Hollywood, 13th stepped me. With no place to live outside a dingy puke-green halfway house in Van Nuys, I was giving $20 blow jobs to the guy in the room next door just so I could buy a pack of shitty Pall Malls, a cup of Joe and bus fare.

I was a mess.

No one would talk to me, no friends would come see me and my family—who lived nearby—dropped me. But Bruce, this crusty menthol-smoking douchebag, seemed to really care.

“I’m worried about you, Tracy,” he said one evening as I talked on the house’s cordless phone from 1996. I had no phone of my own—ATT cut off my cell phone service because I had a $400 past-due balance. Plus I had no car, no money and no job. Stitches still tied up the skin on both my right and left wrist from a suicide I attempted while drunk on two bottles of Trader Joe’s white wine.

“You know you have really great legs,” he said after asking me all about my recovery. “You should wear jeans more.”

It’s not like I had properly packed up my clothes. I don’t even know how the few dresses and pants ended up in my possession at that dismal house—my mother must have raided my former apartment and grabbed a handful of whatever balled-up junk was in the top drawer of my dresser and dumped it on me in the psych unit before I regained cognizance. I loafed around the halfway house and that dirty AA hall in this baggy floral sundress every single day. If it weren’t for the spaghetti straps and knee-length hem, it could have passed as a muumuu.

No way Bruce was coming onto me, I thought. He knows I’m a newcomer.

“You know, you’d look great in a bustier with some thigh-highs.”

Okay, he is definitely coming on to me.

I really didn’t know how to respond. I was shocked, offended, scared, flattered and numb. He kept going.

“I’d really love to suck on your pussy. I’ve got a great tongue.”

At first this disgusted me, then it turned me on. He kept going, adding some details I don’t remember, and because I didn’t give two shits about myself, because I was internally devastated by my recent alcoholic relapses and 5150s, I decided to take the bus over to Bruce’s the next day. I still don’t know why—I wasn’t even attracted to him.

It took two buses to get to Bruce’s shitty sober living. I wasn’t sure whose was worse, my puke green black widow house or his dilapidated 1,000 square-foot one-bedroom “house” with cheap wood paneling and mold growing up out of the tiles in the bathroom and the kitchen. It stank of three generations of smokers. Surely tobacco and menthol residue stuck in that old shag carpet dating back to the 70s.

Wow, you really don’t give a shit about yourself, I thought as I walked up the cracking asphalt driveway.

But why would I? No one else gave a shit about me. All my friends had abandoned me, my mother and father wouldn’t let me live with them despite their close proximity, and neither best friend nor my closest family members would buy me food. Yeah, I get it. They were erecting their stone-walled “boundaries” or whatever self-righteous crap they teach in Alanon. Those stone-cold boundaries helped me drop 10 pounds.

Bruce stood in the opening of a sliding screen door wearing a greyish T-shirt with a faded Miller Light logo on the front. His thinning hair flopped over the top of his scalp, and his chin was scruffy with two day-old facial hair. Those few hairs on his head were this odd copper color—an obviously synthetic attempt to cover his grey.

The moment I stepped up to the door he pulled me to him, shoved his tongue in my mouth and grabbed my ass hard.

“You have such a nice ass,” he said.

We ended up fucking, and it was just sort of bleh because I simply wasn’t into him. Unfortunately, I have this pesky pattern that just doesn’t seem to fade no matter how old I get—if I sleep with someone, no matter how douchey or disgusting or dumb they may be, I’ll start developing feelings. I’ll think I’m in love, the dude’s face will morph from scraggly and saggy to taut and alluring. Suddenly, the bastard has a full head of hair, deep dark wavy hair and pristine eyebrows, like a Southern Italian. That gut drooping over his toes vanishes, and in my eyes he has washboard abs, pecs and lats and delts and his body sets mine on fire. Plus, his IQ shoots up to 180.

So that’s what happened with this scuzzy menthol-smoking Bruce, and, as it turns out, he really wanted nothing to do with me outside of sucking on my pussy.

I’d bus myself over to his sober living, he’d fuck me, then he’d call me over and over to check in on me and tell me how he wanted me to wear this kind of dress or that kind of lingerie for him. And on one of our rendezvous at his lush digs, he confessed that he’d been hooking up with Debra, some 50 year-old woman with luscious long hair and doting big glassy eyes and the weathered face of either a chain-smoker or a professional golfer, who also frequented the NoHo AA hall.

I don’t know why guys do this but whenever they fess up to fucking someone else, they act like it should never ever bother you, and then they get all stunned when you get upset. Because it’s you, you’re the crazy one, so he doesn’t have to be the asshole.

When I left his place, after I got off the first bus that took me to Victory and Woodman in Van Nuys, the emotional fallout from learning he was fucking some other woman cut into my heart. Plus, the bus wasn’t coming fast enough. I’d waited at that shitty intersection for 40 minutes, sweating under the September sun with no sunscreen, and I really didn’t want to age my face.

I had no choice but to drink.

There was a gas station right there on the corner, and I hit it and bought a 40 of Miller Hi Life, which is disgusting piss water, but still. I needed something to take the edge off that awful heartache. Beneath the raging sun and in an alley just behind the gas station, I opened up the bottle and drank it out of the paper bag.

That was where 13th stepping took me. In an alley. In Van Nuys. Guzzling piss water in public. This was the first time I really fit the picture of an alcoholic. But somehow I could only swallow two sips of the beer. After two, I began to feel nauseous. Not only did I feel sick but I also realized how pathetic this whole scenario was—me, drinking out in public in an alley over a disgusting 50 year-old douchebag.

After this moment of clarity, I threw the bottle in the nearest trash can. Then I cut Bruce off for good, ignoring all his phone calls once I got back to the house.

Five years have passed, and I haven’t seen him or had a drink since.


About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.