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Sunday 15th March 2020

6:45pm- I am sat in my car outside a local community centre, obviously not local enough where people might know me. Thank God it’s dark so people walking past my car can’t easily make out my red blotchy face. A lady walks past who looks about the same age as me, I feel instant relief. I won’t be the only woman sat in, what I imagine to be, a room full of men in their 50/60s. But perhaps she was there for a different meeting? There is more than one room inside. Anxiety creeps back and the tears resume their freefall. I sternly tell myself to “get it together”, I can’t go home and face my husband having not gone in. That will not prove to him that this time it will be different.

6:59pm- I force myself out of the car and towards the front door. I look for signs to indicate which room I’m supposed to enter. There are no directions, these meetings are secretive and shameful, providing one hours solace to those who lack restraint and find themselves lost. I go up the stairs I saw the woman climb, praying that she is one of them. I knock on the one door available to me and enter.

7:02pm- Shit, I’m late, it’s started. Fourteen people turn to look at me. One man jumps from his seat and offers it to me which I gratefully accept. As I sit there trying to stop my whole body from shaking and blinking my eyes furiously to fight back the waterfall of tears that would surely drown everyone in the room if they were to escape, I notice the kind, reassuring faces smiling at me. There is about a 60/40 split of men to women and the ages must have ranged from early 30’s to late 70’s. I listened intently to everyone’s stories, all were different, some stemmed from childhood, some from job losses, some entwined with other drug use and others just liked going to the pub so much it became their second home. Everyone who shared spoke candidly about their experiences and with a sense of pride at how far they had come.

8:00pm- The end of the meeting arrived and as I was leaving a number of people approached me urging me to “keep coming back”. One woman gave me her number and said I could call her at any time for a chat but again to make sure I “keep coming back”, I assured her I would. I was flooded with relief as I left the building, I got into my car and allowed the tears to fall that I had managed to contain for the hour. Driving home I reflected on how the meeting was not at all like what you see on TV. The people there were kind and supportive, not off their face on some other drug or only there as part of their probation conditions. I was relieved I didn’t have to share my story and say those infamous words ‘My name’s …….., and I’m an alcoholic’ There were some elements of the approach that did not sit right with me, but I was confident I could reconcile those in a way that worked for me. I would certainly, as advised, keep coming back.

Wednesday 18th March 2020:

Coronavirus got real and my world went into lockdown. I could not, as advised, keep coming back.