Claire wasn't hiding her alcoholism from anyone. But her children weren't sure how to deal with it, and no one else had the audacity to mention it. She tried to limit her drinking to after hours, but more often than not it spilled over into the daytime. She supplemented with coffee, to ward of the tremors and the sour smell on her breath. No matter how many times she brushed her teeth she couldn't shake it. No matter how many times she poured the vodka down the sink, it always returned full force within a day. It was the most frustrating thing she had ever dealt with, her husband included. She had always known she couldn't control her husband, but what she didn't understand was why she couldn't control herself.
Claire wanted more than anything to leave the booze and carry on with her life. It wasn't getting in the way of Hot Flash or anything- not yet- but the alcohol felt like a crutch, and she hated feeling weak. But like it or not, she had to admit that booze was her greatest downfall. She had almost let it drive her insane before, and she was determined not to let that happen again.
Upon entering the empty storefront with the curtains drawn across it, Claire Meade was greeted by the sound of metal chairs grating across faux tiled floor. There were about a dozen others, clutching Styrofoam cups as if they were life preservers, seated in the cold metal chairs that were pulled into a half moon. Her heels clicked, echoing more loudly than she had anticipated, as she made her way to a vacant space and sat down. A few people raised their eyebrows, obviously recognizing her, but still others smiled earnestly in her direction. There was idle chit chat and Claire sat alone, counting the tile squares that surrounded the semi circle.
"Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women," the man started, and the private discussions ceased. He kept reading for a bit, then asked, pointedly, "Is this anyone's first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous?"
Claire shifted her gaze, inhaled deeply, and lifted her left hand.
"Would you like to introduce yourself?" he continued.
There was an uncomfortable pause, while everyone waited for her to complete the sentence. She didn't.
The man continued, and passed a laminated page to a woman beside him.
"I'm Karen, and I am an alcoholic. And this is How it Works. Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. They are not at fault, they seem to have been born that way."
The sentence caused Claire to catch her breath. "What if I'm one of those people?" she asked herself, suddenly terrified. Her heart raced and she became lost in her own thoughts. She didn't hear, "Let's go around the room and introduce ourselves."
Someone nudged her softly, "Claire?"
"Oh, yes, mmhmm."
"We're introducing ourselves. It's your turn."
"I'm Claire," she stated confidently. Slight pause. Softer voice, "and I.. am an alcoholic."
And all at once she knew it was true. It felt like a giant weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Everyone had always said she was an alcohlic, but Claire had never quite believed them. She liked vodka more than she liked most people, that's all. But deep down, she realized, it was far more than that.
After all those years, she finally had clarity.
"Yes, I'm a real alcoholic."