I'm sitting in my car in the church parking lot. I want to go in. I don't want to go in. I watch as people saunter into the meeting, sipping coffee, chatting with each other. Laughing.
I'm sick, and I'm miserable. I'm here because I have to be here - my husband told me to go to meetings, or else. I don't know what the or else is yet; in my heart I can't really believe he would leave and take the kids, but that is my fear. Part of me doesn't care. They would be better off without me.
I glance at the clock - the meeting starts in three minutes. I don't know what to do. I could drive around for an hour, say I went to the meeting. But I know where my car will go: to the liquor store. I want to prove to my husband that I can do this. I still don't know what this is, I can't imagine it will be to stop drinking forever. I've lied so much, though, said I would stop, tried to stop, and I can't. I just can't. I know I need to go in, but I can't get my feet to move.
One minute until it starts. I burst into tears. I'm so angry. So, so angry, that I've let it come to this. A life of church basements, coffee, strangers. If only I had stopped after one last night, like I promised myself I would. Steve wouldn't be so angry today, and I wouldn't be here.
I wipe away my tears, grab my coffee mug, and get out of the car. Maybe there won't be an empty seat, I think. If there are no seats I'm turning around and leaving.
I swing open the door. Right in front of me is an empty seat. Shit. A woman smiles at me, pats the seat, and says, "Welcome."
I knew it was a cult, I think. I keep my eyes on the floor as the meeting starts. I feel like everyone is staring at me. The weak one. Most people are smiling, so they can't be as bad as me. I'm the worst. I'm the worst ever.
The chairperson, or whatever he's called, says, "Anybody new here? Anyone want to introduce themselves?" No freaking way, I think. But my hand goes up. All heads swivel towards me. I'm staring at my hand like I've never seen it before. I'm supposed to say something, I think. Crap, what do I say?
"I'm Ellie," I stammer. I'm not going to say it, I think. I'm not going to say the A word. "And, I think I'm an alcoholic."
"Welcome, Ellie," they say in unison. I'm shaking from head to toe, and the tears start flowing before I can stop them. The woman next to me puts her hand on my shoulder. "It's okay," she says. "You're going to be okay."
No, it's not okay, I think bitterly. Screw you. Screw you and all you people in here. You have no idea how much pain I'm in, what a terrible person I am.
A woman about my age gets up to the podium to speak. I stare at the floor. She is blonde, pretty, smiling. She introduces herself, says she is a grateful recovering alcoholic. Whatever, I think. Cult.
And then she tells my story. She's a mother, she has two kids, she has been sober two years. She hid her bottles the same place I do, she came here because her husband made her come. She stays now, she says, for herself.
I'm not looking at the floor anymore. I'm staring at her, agape. I thought I was the only one, I think.
Someone else gets up to speak, but I don't hear what he says. I keep stealing glances at the pretty blonde woman. There is no way, I think. There is no way she did those things she talked about. There is no way she's just like me.
Suddenly, the meeting is over. An hour passed? Already? One whole hour passed, and I didn't think about drinking. Not once. Some people come up to me, give me their phone numbers. I'm just trying to get out of there. I'm wondering if I'll go straight home, or if I'll stop at the liquor store. I don't know yet. I never seem to know.
I stuff the phone numbers in my pocket and mumble some thank yous. I don't think I'm thankful. And I'm definitely not calling anyone. As I open the door to leave, I feel a hand on my shoulder. It's the pretty blonde woman. "There is a meeting tomorrow too, you know. I hope I see you there." She smiles and walks out to her car.
I don't know if I'm going to the liquor store or not, but I do know I'll be back tomorrow, because I can't remember the last time I didn't think about drinking for one whole hour.
It felt pretty good.