This week, our good friend, Claire Nelson, returns with a humorous and heartwarming account of seeking and finding an AA meeting during her recent travels.


In gratitude, harmony, and support,



Looks Are Deceiving


by Claire Nelson


Recently, I traveled to the East Coast to visit family. As I often do (to preserve my sanity when visiting family LOL), I scoped out local AA meetings.

I had attended a wonderful women’s group during a previous visit, but I could not find the day and time online. I vaguely remembered the location, an AA clubhouse nearby, so I drove around town until I found it.

The parking lot was empty. I maneuvered the family car into the only available patch of shade, then trekked across the hot asphalt to the front door of the club, dreaming of the moment I would turn the knob and step into air conditioning.

Locked. Ugh.

Fortunately, the meeting roster was posted outside. Rather than stand in the sun and study the schedule, I took a picture of it with my phone and turned to leave.

Just then, a sleek European sports car wheeled into the parking lot. A very handsome, well groomed man hopped out and asked, “May I help you?”

“I was just looking for the meeting schedule,” I replied.

“For AA?” he quizzed.

“Yes,” I affirmed.

After a brief pause, he smiled and said, “You don’t look like a drunk!”

I laughed out loud. Though I am typically shy and reserved, especially with strangers, I literally laughed out loud––and kept laughing.

He laughed, too, until finally I declared, “I am most definitely a drunk!”

We introduced ourselves, then chatted for a bit as I wilted in all that heat and humidity. He shared that he had picked up his one-year chip a few days earlier. I congratulated him and even gave him a sweaty hug.

“How much time do you have?” he wanted to know.

“By the grace of God, one day at a time, I am coming up on three decades,” I humbly stated.

“Well, you don’t look like a drunk,” he repeated.

He then opened the trunk of his shiny car and gave me a phone list for the club. “You can call any of us, any time day or night.”

We said our goodbyes, and though I was tempted to quip, “You don’t look like a drunk, either,” I held back. After all, what does a drunk look like, really?

I pondered that question for a while, in the cool comfort of the car and the grocery store.

At noon, I returned to the club for a “coed” meeting. The room was packed, so I grabbed a seat on the end of the back row.

From my vantage point, I observed the people in attendance: men and women of different ages, sizes, and ethnicities. Beyond the visible, I imagined their differences extended to economic status, gender identity, and political affiliation as well.

None of that matters, I thought to myself. In this moment, in this very room, this swath of humanity is gathered together in the name of recovery––that’s the only thing that matters.

And what a beautiful thing it is.

In the few minutes that remained before the meeting was called to order, I considered the question once more: What does a drunk look like, really?

The answer dawned…

Like me. Like the handsome, fancy-car guy in the parking lot. Like everyone in this meeting. Like everyone, everywhere.


Looks Are Deceiving

6 thoughts on “Looks Are Deceiving

  • August 23, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    Very interesting. I have found myself looking around in a room and I say wow that person has the same thing as me “Alcoholic “. You are always amazing and loved your story. How very true.

  • August 23, 2018 at 8:46 pm

    I can go look in the mirror to see what a sober drunk looks like. Grateful that I can put the word sober in front of drunk. 😉

  • August 23, 2018 at 9:14 pm

    The first meeting I went to I couldn’t have seen myself in a mirror and I saw others who looked like me but others I felt couldn’t have been alcoholics. No judging a book by its cover in our rooms.

  • August 23, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    I like being in meetings where at least some of the people like like me. I hate to sound judgemental but sometimes I feel that I can look at someone and tell they’re an alcoholic… usually one that is not doing well, and I get a wave of sadness for them. Some people look like they have just had such a struggle with things, with life – they wear it on their faces and bodies. That hurts me to see that. But it is true and wonderful that so many people that are handsome in snazzy cars and women that looks cute and content walking the dog or shopping for salad items at the market are as much of a drunk as the one laying in the downtown doorway… But as Carri said the key is to have the word “sober” in front of the word drunk… make all the difference in the whole wide universe.

  • August 24, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Great story. I remember a meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska where it was me and 1 other person. We waited 10 minutes and decided to move the meeting to a coffee shop and have a meal😊

    • August 24, 2018 at 6:52 pm

      Hi Jon –

      Thanks for your comment – gotta love a meeting that includes a meal. I remember being on a cruise ship and they offered Friends of Bill each day at a specific time. The room where the meeting was held was not easy to find – way down at the end of one of the less used decks in a corner… I managed to find it – no one else did or tried to. I guess cruise ships that are nicknamed “Booze Cruises” don’t really want to overly publicize AA meetings. They can make more money in the dozen or so bars on board – but I did go and I was the only person there. I sat in for almost 1/2 hour and tried to meditate and think of gratitude things. It was an interesting experience – but I only did it once.


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