New Orleans is my favorite city in the world. I lived here for a couple of years in the 1970s during some of the absolute worst of my alcoholism. It was then that I learned that, yes, you can hallucinate with alcohol. I remember running down the street one Mardi Gras night chasing my brain that had left my head. I could not stop running because I knew if I did, I would never find my brain again. Amazingly, I still had another near decade of drinking and drugging yet to do!
Over the years since getting sober, New Orleans has taken on a different role. Here is where I have come for “retreats” for reflection. Typically I stayed in a hotel with no phone, tv, or internet access. I simply walked the streets for a few days, writing, reading, and thinking.
On a very hot August evening during one retreat about ten years ago, I was leaning up against the closed gates of the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I tried to find the wall I used to lean up against drinking myself into oblivion after climbing over the gate with a bottle of wine all those years ago. On that August night, someone came up behind me and asked for money for beer. I turned to see a young man who could have been my mirror image from the 1970s. We went back and forth for a bit. I told him I would not give him any money, told him my story of the cemetery, and offered to go to take him to an AA meeting. He told me why AA would not work for him, thanked me, and he turned away. I then heard his voice hustling some others, but when I turned back, he was gone. I never was quite certain if this was a sober hallucination on a sweltering evening in what I describe as the most magical city on earth.
Fast forward to 2014, this weekend we drove a truck down from Memphis packed with my wife’s 18 sewing machines, hundreds of bolts of fabric and stuff, as she starts into her next phase of life, in which I will have the monthly 4-day weekend until I join her full-time in less than two years. (Shameless plug for her new store.) So yesterday, after unloading the truck, I road my bike all over my favorite city in my typical retreat of today. Interestingly, and perhaps somewhat prophetically, when I stopped for coffee and to watch some videos on my iPad for the MOOC I am taking called How to Change the World, I nodded off to sleep!
I am grateful that recovery has allowed me a second chance in my favorite city in the world.