I sat crying in the passenger seat of my car.
I was shaking uncontrollably.
Outside, the sun beat down, stifling each breath I took.
How did I get to this point?
Mr C gently took my hand.
“If you aren’t ready, we don’t have to do this today.”
I shook my head.
No, if I didn’t do this now, I knew it was unlikely I would ever do it.
I pulled down the visor and looked at myself in its tiny mirror.
I was tired, beleaguered, I had reached the bottom. My face was red, bloated and the person that stared back at me was a stranger.
I drew a deep, long, staggered breath.
Please dear God, don’t let this really be my story.
As if he was reading my thoughts, Mr C squeezed my hand a little tighter.
God, it is so hot inside this car!
“Are you ready?” he gently asked.
No, no, no. No I am not ready. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be here. How did I get here? Why did I get here? I am not this woman that stands before me. I am not this story. This is not MY story. This is not me. I don’t want it to be me.
Another deep, tired, staggered breath.
But it was me. It is me.
I slapped my hands to my face and screamed, tears flowing freely down my ruddy bloated cheeks. I sobbed.
People around us were piling out of their cars, but I did not notice them, did not see them.
All I could hear was the beating drum that was my shattered soul.
How on earth did I reach this place?
I cried a little longer.
“Okay, we better go,” I said. “Wait. What if there is someone I know there?”
“Then they are there for the EXACT same reason you are, Sarah. And your secret is safe with them.”
I got out of the car and walked to the entrance of the church hall. Mr C held my hand tightly. A lady was there, welcoming members old and new.
“Is this your first meeting?”
I nodded assuming I looked lost and frightened.
“I’m Ann*. Welcome. You will find love and support here. What is your name?”
“I’m Mr C and this is Sarah. I’m here for support.”
Ann* looked at me and smiled. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes.
“Oh, my dear.” She gently put her arms around me and led me inside.
I looked up and my heart stopped.
My worst fears.
A mom from school.
We didn’t really know each other. Only by sight. We had that relationship that extended to a nod if we happened to see each other outside of school. I tried to remember if there were any signs of her affliction. None that I could remember, none that stood out.
Mr C and I sat down.
I was struck by how many women there were. When my dad had become sober, all I remember at those meetings were men and one or two women at best. Now, as I scanned the room for any other people who may now know my secret and my shame, I saw at least 50/50.
I listened to the stories. I saw myself in every single one of them. With each one my heart sank a little lower, something I didn’t think was possible.
There was no escaping the truth.
I am an alcoholic. I am powerless over alcohol and my life had become unmanageable.
I felt sick.
A feeling of panic rose up inside of me. I knew that in order to mentally heal, I had to be free of alcohol. And that scared the fucking crap out of me.
After the meeting, everyone chatted over a cup of tea.
I wanted to run, but Mr C would not let me.
“Let’s just get tea.”
I didn’t fucking want tea. I wanted to run, to dive into a bottle of wine and pretend this whole fucking thing had never happened.
I turned around.
The mom from school!
“I thought it best I just come and say hi. I didn’t want you to feel awkward.”
And without warning, no fucking warning whatsoever, I burst into tears. I couldn’t help it. I was broken. My soul and my life was so broken. How on earth did this happen? I knew the signs, had lived with them my entire life. Why the hell didn’t I recognise them in myself?
She put her arms around me and hugged me. She hugged me tighter than I would normally allow any stranger to hug me. But I didn’t care. I couldn’t care. I was broken and I had no idea how to fix it.
She didn’t say anything at first. She just hugged. And Mr C stroked my arm. And 30 other members drank their tea. And my tears kept coming. And I couldn’t breathe.
After a while, I found my breath. I pulled away slightly and nodded.
“I don’t think we have ever been formally introduced,” she said, “I’m Alice*.”
Alice* had got up to tell her story. A story which was every bit the mirror of my own.
She handed me some literature, a standard procedure at an AA meeting. She also handed me her phone number. She asked where I lived. It turned out we lived right around the corner from one another. For a second, my heart sank at that knowledge. No sneaky trips to the bottle store then.
“Would you like me to pick you up to take you to a couple more meetings this week?” she asked.
“Sarah would love that,” Mr C replied, before I had chance to decline.
And so it began, my journey to sobriety, with a woman who had the same journey as I but far more wisdom, and patience and kindness. Nearly six years in and I am far less broken, but not quite whole. That is okay.
[clickToTweet tweet=”This human existence is filled with potholes, it is our job to navigate our way around them.” quote=”This human existence is filled with potholes, it is our job to learn to navigate our way around them.”]
I still miss alcohol. I do.
But like any loss, you learn to live without it.
It doesn’t call me like it used to, but I still have to keep check. Sometimes, I miss the dutch courage it affords me, I miss being the life and soul of the party. Sometimes I find myself inching towards its clutches of seduction. I have to remind myself that what alcohol affords me is an illusion. That what alcohol brings out in me, is not real, not the real Sarah.
And that is something I learn and improve upon one day at a time.
* Names have been changed to protect the identities of the people in this story.