This story is by Lisa and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Clare was getting ready to facilitate an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Conor, her sponsor, asked for her help after he realised he had double booked. She was always happy to help; he had been there for her so many times. But today was different and was going to be very difficult. Her husband was leaving her. He had met someone else.
Chairs were laid out in a circle, all facing inwards. The clock said five minutes to three. Clare closed her eyes and brought herself into the moment. She liked to practice mindfulness from time to time. Today she needed it. It focused both her mind and body, the latter being the part most likely to give her away today.
At one minute to go, she called out to the room.
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. If you would all like to take a seat, we shall begin our meeting.” Everyone shuffled from various corners of the room, to the circle in the middle. Clare was getting impatient with their lack of speed, but when everyone was sitting, she started.
“Welcome to Alcoholics Anonymous. My name is Clare, and I will lead the meeting today. A few of you already know me, but for those of you that don’t, I have been an alcoholic since I was fourteen years of age. I blamed everything in my life for putting me in that situation until I faced reality. I am the keeper of my own destiny. I am in control of my drinking; it is not anyone else’s fault.” The meeting had started.
Afterwards, it was usual for everyone to have a cup of tea or coffee. Sometimes, if anyone remembered to bring them, there might be a biscuit or two on offer. The meetings lasted about an hour, the cuppas no more than thirty minutes. Today Clare had no interest in chatting with anyone. With a cup in her hand, she excused herself from the group and went over to the window.
She watched the corn dancing in the field. The ears looked so heavy on top of the thin stalks, yet they were able to sway back and forth and remain strong. Clare envied them. She would like to have their strength. The golden field, in contrast with the blue of the sky, stretched for miles. She loved living in the country and eventually got used to its smells. Cradling the warm cup of coffee between her hands, she let her mind drift to the conversation she had with Tommy that morning.
“I am sorry Clare, but I cannot pretend anymore,” he started.
Clare had been sitting at their kitchen table, flicking through Facebook on her phone. She glanced over at him, waiting for him to say something else. When he did not continue, she slowly turned off her phone and faced it down on the table. Seeing he had her full attention, Tommy continued.
“I want a divorce.” The words still rang in her ears.
Tommy was her husband of two years. They dated for three before they got married. Neither wanted to have children and theirs was a carefree life. When they met, Clare was on a vicious circle of abuse and alcohol. Abusing herself through self-harm and drinking to forget the abuse; she drank vodka for her breakfast just to get through the day. Tommy helped her get control of her life. Clare had lived with twenty-two different foster families by the time she turned eighteen. Sexually molested by her father and neglected by her so called ‘socially up-standing Christian’ of a mother, Clare moved in with the first family when she was only four years old.
A chill went up her spine, and she shrugged off her thoughts. She was back in the hall. Looking around, she realised everyone had left. She hadn’t noticed them leave. She reached for her handbag and pulled out a bottle. She tipped some of the contents into her coffee cup. Shoving the bottle back in, she zipped up her handbag and placed it on the floor. She took a deep breath, followed with a long exhale, and then sipped on the warming liquid. It swirled down her throat, dripping into her stomach. She waited for the tension to seep out of her body. She focused on the ears of the corn swaying gently, letting it all go. With every sway she could feel the warmth envelop her and let her thoughts flow.
“You want what? A divorce?” she screamed at Tommy. The argument that followed was embarrassing. She roared abuse at him that no animal deserved. She loved him, but now he was abandoning her. He was just the same as everyone else she once loved.
“It’s not you, it’s me” Tommy said. “I met someone else.”
“Christ what a cliché. You could be original at least!” she screamed at him. Tommy dropped his eyes after that. Clare thought it was because he was embarrassed.
Bringing her back to the present moment, a voice called out “Hi Clare.” It was Conor. He had come to take the next meeting at five o’clock.
Without taking her eyes off her window view, she replied “How are you Conor?” She really did not care about his response; not today.
“Isn’t it gorgeous out there?” he said from the other side of the room as he unpacked his ruck sack. Conor always brought pamphlets to the meetings. “The sun smiling down on us, the heat bouncing off the ground. It’s fab!”
“The hell it is!” thought Clare quickly wiping her eyes before Conor noticed anything.
The door opened again and in walked Donnie and Mike, long time members. They greeted Clare and Conor and sat in the circle. Next through the door was Shona who looked very forlorn. She was part of the group for only a few weeks and was in her teens. She nodded a greeting, sat on the opposite side of the circle and pulled out her phone. Remembering that she was not allowed one in the meeting, she pulled out her iPod to listen to music instead.
Looking at her fellow alcoholics, Clare wondered how many of them were tempted to take a drink right now. How needy did they feel? How weak were they? What would happen if she pulled out the bottle in her bag? Who was angry? Who was sad? Who missed their best friend? It was the only friend that she could rely on. How do you attend an AA meeting when you were already three quarters of the way through a bottle of vodka? She was getting very agitated.
Clare took her seat in the circle. Just as Conor was about to open the meeting, two girls walked into the room. Both appeared to be there under duress. They were new to the group. Conor welcomed them and offered seats. Sitting together, they kept their eyes on the floor and hands in their pockets. Clare noticed one had a tattoo on her arm. Tommy had a tattoo. The meeting started.
“Hi, my name is Clare and I am an alcoholic. It has been 10 minutes since my last drink,” she blurted out. She was welling up and felt she was going to explode. Saying it out loud made it real, finally.
Conor’s eyes widened. Clare was staring at the floor. Slowly she raised her head and peeped out at him from the top of her eyes. He lifted his eyebrows in question. Clare nodded.
“Oh Clare!” he left out a deep sigh, his shoulders falling five inches. His disappointment was obvious. It flowed out the end of his feet and seeped over to Clare, crawled up her body and on to her face. Knowing she was heading for a vicious circle once more, Clare put her head in her hands and cried.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry Conor, sorry everyone!” she mumbled through her sobs. Then, getting angry with the eyes staring at her, judging her, she rose to her feet. “I couldn’t resist it, I wanted it. I needed it to numb the pain. It was too much for me to handle. I’d like to see how any one of you would manage.” She finally let out that scream that was bottled up all day. “Tommy doesn’t love me anymore. He is leaving me. The bastard is leaving me for a man!”
Everyone in the circle watched in silence as Clare exploded in fits of rage, fuelled by the alcohol in her blood. The two new girls looked at each other. Smirking, they took their hands out of their pockets and sat up straight, taking interest in the scene unfolding before them.