I met Clara halfway to Columbus, Georgia late last night. It was a spur of the moment encounter I so enjoy. I was pulling up into a convenience store's parking lot as she got out of a friend's truck and ran over to greet me. She looked so well, and had gained about twenty pounds. Her cheeks were rosy, and the color had returned to her skin. That old alcoholic pall had been cast away.
"Tell me about your living arrangements," I asked her as we sat in my car, smoking our cigarillos.
"I only have to pay 1/4th of my monthly income for rent," she said. "I got totally lucky in finding that apartment. The waiting list is usually two years for section 8 housing."
"Are you happy?"
"I have good days and bad days," she told me. "I still struggle with the drinking. I had a slip up a few weeks ago."
"I struggle, too," I replied. "So you are not alone. I hate to say it, but we will probably deal with these urges for the rest of our lives."
"It gets easier, though," Clara said with a smile. "My successes build upon themselves."
"Have you met anyone?" I then asked.
"Just friends," Clara replied. "You know what they say about relationships and being new to sobriety."
"They (AA) tell you to wait about a year."
We talked for a long time about AA. Clara got on to me for not going regularly and she is right. I need to get back to going, but my social phobias have been acting up lately. She seemed so well though -- so full of life and vigor. I was so excited for her. It is going to be a good Christmas, and I promised her I would take her out on a Christmas date in celebration of our sobriety during a time that would usually find us hopelessly drunk. She has come a long way since this summer.
With sadness, I watched as Clara left me to reunite with her friend who had grown impatient. It was a long drive home near midnight as I thought of my once homeless friend. We've both seen and gone through so much in our short lives. I wondered if it was our cross to bear to struggle so. Seeing her gave me hope in that old scourge alcoholism had relented some. That's all we can do is keep hope dear and continue to abstain. One day at a time is all it takes and meeting makers make it. Remind me to get to an AA meeting today. Seeing a sober and happy Clara makes me yearn for the magic you can only find in those meeting halls.