“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.” - Mary Pickford
It had been three weeks since she was released from rehab. She had gone to various meetings over the weeks, but none seemed to fit. The general meeting was filled with reformed partiers in their early 30’s with boring desk jobs. She tried the women’s group, but there she was surrounded by bored housewives and vapid socialites. These people couldn’t possibly understand what drove her to drink.
As a last-ditch effort, she decided to try one more meeting. Steeling her courage, she headed over to the local Presbyterian church, which had generously donated space one night per week. She saw the sign on the door. Beltway Clean Cops.
She walked in with all the dignity she could muster. She scanned the room and noticed that she was the only woman present. She was used to that, though. When she joined the FBI, it was even more of an old boys’ club than it is now. She took a seat and began observing.
Her turn came, so she stood up and began to speak. “Hello. I’m Erin.”
She had been Section Chief Strauss for so long that she didn’t remember what it was like to be just Erin. She continued, “I have a problem. I’m an alcoholic. I didn’t want to admit it because I have to project an air of unflappability in order to succeed as a woman in the FBI. I tried to quit on my own several times, but I failed. Two of my subordinates finally had to do an intervention after I got drunk on a case and nearly tipped off the suspect that we were onto him.”
“Even then, I tried to deny it. I begged them not to send me away. But I’m grateful that they did. I’ve been clean for three weeks. It’s a struggle every day. I can only hope it gets easier.”
As she finished her monologue, she looked out at the others present at the meeting. She expected to see judgment, derision, pity, or disdain. Instead, she only saw understanding. She scanned the crowd and was surprised to see a familiar face sitting in the back.
She was glad she hadn’t seen him sooner. She probably wouldn’t have had the courage to make her confession if she had known someone here would recognize her.
After the meeting was over, she tried to slip out unnoticed, but there he stood, right in the archway near the courtyard, as if he was waiting for her. She was tempted to ignore him and walk on by, but something in his eyes compelled her to stop. “Agent Reid,” she said neutrally.
“Not here. Here we leave our ranks at the door. It’s just Spencer,” he said.
She nodded. He looked at her for a moment and said, “It does, you know.”
“I beg your pardon?” Erin said.
“You said you hope it gets easier. It does.”
The moonlight filtered through the trees and illuminated Spencer’s head in a soft halo. He looked angelic, and his purity made her want to confess all of her sins. She simply said, “I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”
He reached behind her ear and produced a gold medallion. Erin flinched slightly at the intimacy of the action. “Where did that come from?” Erin asked.
Spencer grinned like a child. “I’m a magician, and a magician never reveals his secrets.”
Spencer’s face got serious as he cleared his throat and continued, “It’s my one year medallion. It took me two and a half years to get it. I want you to keep it until you get your own.”
“To remind you that it’s possible.”
“No, I mean why are you helping me? I’ve been a thorn in the side of the BAU since day one. I know that ‘Bitch’ and ‘Ice Queen’ are two of the more polite nicknames that people have for me. Just a few months ago I nearly got your team disbanded. I would expect you to gloat at my downfall, not reach down to lift me up,” Erin said.
“When I was doing Dilaudid, nobody helped me. Hotch and Morgan and Prentiss all knew I had a problem, and they did nothing. I guess they thought I would come to my senses eventually. It was so hard to do it all by myself, and I almost didn’t make it. No one should have to go through this alone,” Spencer said.
After a long pause, Spencer broke the silence. “Call me anytime, day or night, if you need to talk to someone.”
Erin’s face softened. She took the proffered coin and placed it in her handbag. “Thank you.”
“Hell is yourself, and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person.” -Tennessee Williams