- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

RICHMOND She was dressed in her holiday best, had a ham in her car and was headed home to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.
She had one more stop to make.
It was at a small, unmarked building in the shadow of the opulent Jefferson Hotel. There, on the first floor in a light blue, smoky room with an upright piano, was the group that had given her a second chance more than a decade ago.
"I thank God I'm alive on this day," she said. Sober for 12 years, she stopped by the 2 p.m. meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous to pass around hugs to friends and strangers battling through the earliest stages of recovery. She called them the "youngsters."
The meeting was part of the extended holiday hours at two Richmond AA centers and others around the state. Organizers of the "Alcothon" hope the 24-hour availability through today will give people who are lonely or depressed or tempted somewhere to turn.
The plan is to have at least one volunteer at the sites at all times.
"This is a miracle," said one man at a center on Richmond's south side. He described a dysfunctional family that had drifted apart, an ongoing battle with alcohol and drugs, and a struggle to keep a positive attitude, especially through the holidays. He was "a few weeks" sober.
"The bottom line is, I'm grateful that y'all are here today. I'm grateful that I'm here. I'm grateful to be clean," he said.
Holidays are tough for recovering alcoholics. Advertisers and other influences build up the season to such an unrealistic level that most holiday celebrations are doomed to fall short, said Anson, a 44-year-old with 14 years of sobriety.

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