Sometimes it’s the friends or family member of an alcoholic who help them see how jacked up their behavior was. For me, it was checkout girl named Roxie.
For much of my hardcore daily drinking, I lived across the street from a Von’s grocery store in the hip and occassionally dangerous neighborhood of Echo Park in Los Angeles. I lived in that apartment for 8 years and drank nearly every day during my time there. Having that “open until midnight” grocery store steps away from house was divine for a dialy drinker who liked to turn your plain old Tuesday into an excuse to get hammered. In many LA grocery stores, especially the ones in dicier neighborhoods, the liquor is kept locked behind glass doors on a walls near the registers. Going there daily, the checkers knew who we were and were always at the ready to unlock and pull out whatever it was we were drinking that night. During long runs of drinking, it felt shameful to have them yet again fetch booze for me. But not shameful enough. I got over it pretty quickly when it was in my hands and I was out the door. One Von’s employee, Roxie, was usually working nights when I would pop in after work to get a bottle before they closed. Roxie sold me alcohol many times when she probably shouldn’t have. Roxie rung me up in one or two blackouts. Roxie saw my disease almost nightly and was forced to deal with it for 9 bucks an hour. She was a doll though and we always had a cordial back and forth. Short, plump and kind of saracstic, Roxie was a friendly, if not always enthustastic enabler. Through the years, I saw her get pregnant, start college, change boyfriends. And then in 2009, I stopped seeing her altogether.
That Von’s stopped being across the street when I moved away to the West Side to get sober. Our paths didn’t cross until a year and a half later when I was back in the neighborhood housesitting for the summer. I stopped into get cigarettes, which were also behind the counter, and Roxie who rung me up asked “Do you need a bottle too?” And I said “No I don’t drink anymore.” To which she replied, “Thank God. You used to drink all the time. Good for you!” That exchange hit me in the gut. Here’s this girl who didn’t even know me but could see my drinking was totally out of control. For a long time, the story struck me as funny. Like when the checkout girl realizes how much you drink, you know you’ve got a problem! But now it reminds me how real the problem was. It’s an oddly powerful yet brief moment that sticks with me especially when my mind tries to tell me I could maybe drink like a normal person. It also reminds me how many were affected by my alcoholism and how truly terrible it was.
So thanks, Roxie. Wherever you are. You’ve helped me more than you’ll ever know.