From the January 2010 magazine.

A room full of smoke and grace

Sober many years, a woman recalls her first meeting

The day of Sept. 5, 1975, started like most of my days. The first thing I did after waking was to see where I was sleeping--the couch or the bed. That might give me a clue about the night before. Then I would look at my husband and try to read his expression. If he was pleasant, I tried to piece the evening together from clues he might drop during conversation. If he looked disgusted, there was a good chance I had done some of my drunken behavior, i.e., calling people in a blackout, bringing people home for a party or having a fight with him. If he told me in detail, my shame and remorse would overwhelm me, and I would once more promise to never drink again.

That morning seemed okay. I almost always managed to be on time for work. Looking back, I wonder how I ever managed. The job it took to present as normal to my coworkers was a supreme effort. I was once asked what the bruises on my leg were. Since it was too embarrassing to say I was falling down in blackouts, I said I had a rare blood disease! Another time someone asked me why I had called them on the phone. I had no recollection! What a lie I was living. Many days I was too hungover to think of drinking, but often around 3 o'clock I would think about stopping for a bottle of scotch for cocktail hour or in case someone dropped by for a drink.

-- JOAN N.L.

Gloucester, Mass.

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