It was the first meeting of Trumpaholics Anonymous. The group gathered in the basement of the Presbyterian Church in Jamaica Estates, Queens. The leader began by reciting from the preamble: "Trumpaholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from Trumpaholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to emotionally detach from Donald Trump."
Then she said: "Who would like to share?"
One volunteer came up in front of the people sitting on gray folding chairs arranged in a semicircle: "Ok. Hi. I am a little nervous. This is my first…"
"We are all in the same boat," said the leader.
"Yes. Sure," said the volunteer. "Maybe someone else wants to…"
"It’s ok," said the leader, "We’re glad you broke the ice."
"OK, OK. My name is Robert, and I am a Trumpaholic."
"Hi, Robert," said the group of 22 souls, barely in unison.
"Hi. Well, I can tell you it was hard to find this meeting. When I googled Trump addiction, I found #trumpaholic on Twitter, something on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. I found a definition, a book, actors being funny, but no meetings. A friend of a friend got a random text the other day, and my friend told me to hop on the F train tonight and here I am. I’m a wreck. I can’t eat a meal away from my laptop. I yell back at Bill O’Reilly and sometimes cry watching Rachel Maddow. She’s so smart. Lawrence is on vacation this week and I feel lost. He helps me get through the night. I really need help. It all started for me when he walked down that escalator in his tower with Melania. I can’t really say how I got hooked. Maybe the gold furniture and hair, the red clown tie, the orange skin. Maybe the menacing smile, the thing he does with his fingers, the wise guy Queens accent. I don’t know. Anyways, it got to the point that I can’t sleep. After Colbert, Chelsea, Corden, Conan, I wind up watching Fox at three in the morning. I’ve forgotten all my students names. My therapist reminds me of Sean Spicer. I can’t look at the new assistant principal without thinking of Steven Miller. My wife has blond hair, she’s thin and I always liked that, but now I can’t bear to look at her because she reminds me of Kellyanne Conway. Or Melania. I love my daughter, but his thing with Ivanka makes me turn away when she walks into the room. I can’t look at my own flesh and blood!"
Robert took a deep breath, letting it out as if air was slowly released from a balloon.
He continued: "And what’s the deal with Barron? The kid builds hotels with magna tiles and legos. He speaks fluent Slovenian, for Chrissakes. Melania said on one of the talk shows he wears suits and ties, like his Daddy. She calls him Little Donald…"
"Little Donald," echoed a voice from the group.
Robert countered: "I’m thinking Donald Rumsfeld. Don Corleone."
The group, animated, called out a gaggle of Donalds:
"My cousin Donald from Secaucus, New Jersey, who would’ve taken a bullet for Trump," said Robert. "I’m done for now."
"Anybody else want to jump in?" asked the leader.
"Sure," said a middle-aged woman who vaguely resembled the real Kellyanne Conway.
She walked to the front of the room and said: "My name is Kelly and I am a Trumpaholic."
The group chorus, warmed-up, responded right away: "Hi, Kelly."
"I work in real estate and go back maybe 35 years with the Donald, ever since he got involved with the Grand Hyatt Hotel. I just don’t know how to get away from his face and his hands and that mawkish, whiney voice that makes me want to run into traffic. First it was Trump Tower blotting out the elegance of Tiffany's, Gucci, Armani, Bergdorf Goodman. I could cry. Then it was The Wollman Rink, which he bragged about so much I couldn’t bring myself to skate in Central Park. Then the casinos, the golf courses, the Miss America pageant, the wrestling, the so-called university, the Apprentice, the meat and the perfumes, the ties and the water and the wine. He thinks he’s Jesus! I know, I know, step two is about God."
"A higher power," said a person from the rear.
"I need a power higher than Trump," answered Kelly. "Last week I dyed my hair brown. I bought a pink pussy hat. I’m investigating how to legally change my name. This I can do. But I’m powerless to find a man whose power is his kindness. I’m powerless to get toxic images of massive buildings and rare steaks out of my head. I want to be able to walk down Fifth Avenue again without shaking all over in a rage."
Kelly sat down, relieved. Another woman took her place before the group.
"My name is Makayla and I’m a Trumpaholic."
"Hi, Makayla," said all in the room.
"I didn’t start out that way, you know—addicted," said Makayla. "I thought Trump was a joke. I voted for Hillary, knowing she would keep up Obama’s legacy. Like everyone else, I pretty much knew Trump was going to lose and lose bad. It wasn’t that he won that stunned me most. It was that my boy, Andre, wore the red hat, voted Trump and celebrated like he was gonna fix everything that was wrong. My boy. I took this kid with me to Obama’s inauguration. I sat him in front of the TV when he was a little kid and cried while we watched the cops beat up Rodney King. He grew up on Martin and Malcolm and Spike and OJ and Obama. What went wrong? Was it the media? Was it Clarence Thomas? Ben Carson? Was it when Trump said the inner cities were burning and asked all black folks: ‘What do you have to lose?’ When I listened carefully to Trump’s message I heard venom, ignorance, fear, hate, narcissism. Andre? He got something else. Maybe power that he never had and that was stolen from me the day that man was elected with his foul mouth, small mind and empty promises. I want my boy back, but that man stands in the way. I can’t escape his ugly face and bloated body. I want my boy back, and can’t get it through my brain that he is so easily hoodwinked. Take off that dumb red hat, Andre! Remember where you come from. I am so angry that I lost my job and two of my closest friends. I can’t keep this up. I need help."
Makayla walked slowly back to her seat. It was getting late, but before the closing rituals, a thin man in the back stood up and walked to the front of the room. Although well dressed in a tan windbreaker and gray slacks, he looked harried.
"Can I have the floor for a minute?" he asked of no one in particular. When no one responded, he spoke, ignoring the customary greeting.
"I’m just gonna say that I had a big life long before Trump. Very, very big."
A woman responded from the group: "Keep it anonymous. What’s your name? First name only."
"I’m…John," he said.
"Are you a Trumpaholic or are you here for some other reason?" asked a young man.
"He’s ruined my life you could say."
Several others spoke out: "Hi, John."
"OK. When you are in a high position and tens of thousands of people are under your command, you get used to the power and you think you really know what you’re doing. I had lots of ideas about how to straighten out the filth in this dirty world. I know who to lock up, who to throw out and who to keep out. I know how to hold my friends close and hold my enemies closer. And then along comes Trump, with his smooth words and his swagger, and he thinks he knows better. But don’t be deceived—he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and because he wants to turn it into gold, he keeps sinking deeper into the gutter. He knows nothing about leading men like I do. Nothing about sacrifice and loss. And so he held me up as if I was his fool, and he dropped me like a hot potato to save his own saggy skin. I fell on my sword like I was taught. I have a family, a reputation, a life. I am not dead yet. I want you to know that. I will not allow that man to…"
John stopped suddenly. After a few long seconds, he sobbed. Everyone went silent. Two group members helped him back to his seat, offering tissues. He did not notice the gold plaque on the wall recognizing the generous contribution of Frederick Christ Trump for refurbishing the basement.
It was time to close. The leader passed around a basket and urged everyone to contribute something, even if only a dollar. She invited everyone in the group to come up, form a circle and hold hands. Then she recited number 12 of the 12 traditions of TA: "Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities."
All nodded in agreement. Some uttered, "Amen." It was time to go home.