She's a large woman in both girth and heart. I have come to love her dearly these many months I have been attending Alcoholics Anonymous. Brown locks of hair cascade down her face framing her green eyes. Rosy cheeks bounce when she laughs. Her green nurse scrubs make her look professional and caring. She has a sensuously alluring and smoky voice from years of cigarettes that reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. We are having a quiet lunch at a local seafood restaurant. She is enjoying the seafood buffet, while I begrudgingly try to enjoy a bowl of chowder with a side salad. Being on a diet sucks sometimes.
"You sure you're not drinking?" she asks over plates of food and glasses of sweet iced tea with little lemons perched on the rims.
I assure her that no, I am not. I was so worried when I quit going to A.A. that my friends from our local group would abandon me. I have a hard time making friends, but did manage to make a few these last few months of attending. I have been so relieved that Wanda and me are situation normal – nothing has changed.
"What made you decide to stop?" she then asks.
"Stop is such a finite word," I reply, avoiding gory details. "I am still going on occasion when the need arises."
Not being a Christian. Group politics. Old timers. Cultish atmosphere. There are many reasons I wanted to shy away from Alcoholics Anonymous. I struggled with the idea of me using the group as just another addiction and caught myself doing just that. Going to meetings every night religiously. Reading copious amounts of A.A. books and pamphlets. My group of friends slowly diminishing to only include members of the local chapter of our group. I had to step back and reevaluate the situation and take a breather, or break, if you will.
"Well, every time I've seen a member do what you're doing, they end up drunk and drinking again," Wanda said.
I very well could drink again, but it won't be the end of the world. I hope I have the good sense to know when I need to stay on the wagon, or get up off the wagon-trail and try again. I have so many things now that can and do help me that I didn't have when I was homeless and a drunkard. A supportive family. A mental illness under check. A stable living arrangement. A decent and steady income. Self confidence and esteem. I explained some of this to Wanda and she replied that I had her, too, as well. It is interesting to me how us people who have struggled so in life can come together and give each other a helping hand. It gives me hope for the human race as a whole when my hope will often falter. There needs to be more Wandas in this world.