BOONSBORO -- The neon sign out front screams LIQUOR, but the proprietor doesn't drink the stuff.
Christie Kefauver, a recovering alcoholic, runs Boonsboro Liquors in Washington County. She is 35 and lucky to be alive, having survived five serious automobile accidents, three drunken-driving arrests, innumerable blackouts, drug use and one suicidal encounter with a shotgun.
She says she hasn't had a drink in seven years. But for the past three years she has sold beer, wine and liquor to customers of her Main Street store, situated at the corner with the town's one traffic light.
She and her husband, Mike, a District of Columbia firefighter, bought the building that houses the liquor store in 1990 as an investment. The couple had discussed whether Mrs. Kefauver, then four years without a drink, would be capable of running the business.
"I had serious doubts at first," she says. "But in AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] they tell you you can do anything as long as you stay sober."
She told her husband that if she ever was tempted to drink inside the store she would immediately walk out and lock up. That hasn't happened, she says, although she has been tested -- when the pre-mixed pina coladas arrived (that had been an old favorite), and when a bottle of liquor leaks or a beer bottle breaks.
The liquid on her hands smells tantalizing and repulsive. "I have to go wash it off," she says.
She also had to resolve the moral dilemma of selling alcoholic beverages to potential alcoholics.
"I had to basically disassociate myself as a recovering alcoholic from my business," she says. "Anyway, if it wasn't me in here, it'd be somebody else. It's a legal product."
It's legal if you're of age, but Mrs. Kefauver was far from it when she drank for the first time. She was 12, and a friend, who was 14, stole two six-packs of beer from his parents. The two youngsters drank the beer in their tree fort.
Young Christie adored it. The feelings of dread and insecurity that had tormented her as a girl were gone. For some reason, she says, she had never felt good about herself.
"I spent the next 16 years chasing that euphoric feeling," she says.
It nearly destroyed her. One of two children of well-to-do parents in Bethesda, she smoked marijuana and drank throughout high school. In the 11th grade she wrecked her mother's car, wrapped it around an elm tree.
She was drunk. She didn't get hurt. The car was totaled, the first of three she would destroy while drunk.
At college she joined the sorority that had a reputation for drinking. Her second year, after a sunrise cocktail party, she passed out behind the wheel at 10:30 a.m. and plummeted down a 20-foot embankment.
Neither she nor her three passengers were injured seriously, but she was arrested and charged with drunken driving. She would be charged with drunken driving twice more.
She managed to graduate from college and to hold a few jobs, but then she started using cocaine and drinking at the same time.
Chasing that euphoric feeling of her first intoxication had led her into deep depression.
After losing a job in Ocean City, and after snorting cocaine and drinking cheap wine, she loaded a double-barreled shotgun and contemplated shooting herself in the head. She says she didn't because she realized she wanted to live more than she wanted to die.
In 1983, a friend took her to an AA meeting.
"But as we say in AA," Mrs. Kefauver says now, "you can talk the talk, or you can walk the talk. I could talk the talk, but I hadn't gotten honest."
She attended meetings for three months and didn't use drugs or drink. But then she met a professional golfer and traveled around the country caddying for him.
She binged, then moved to Florida, then totaled her third car, then moved back to Maryland, and finally got arrested for drunken driving twice in the same month.
"When I tell this to you now," Mrs. Kafauver says, "it's like: Why did it take so long?"
That last DWI in late 1985 was the end -- or the beginning.
"I went back to AA, and I got honest," she says. "I really got involved. For the first time in my life I knew I could not drink, and I could not drink one day at a time.
"Without my sobriety, I was a dead woman. I was either going to jail, or I was going to an institution, or I was going to die."
She has not had a drink since, she says, although in 1988 she got involved with drugs again and spent 28 days in a rehabilitation center.
She volunteered and then worked a couple of years for the National Council on Alcoholism. She coordinated National Fetal Alcohol and Other Drugs Awareness Week and assisted the lobbyist who tried to persuade lawmakers to require warning labels on liquor bottles.
Behind the counter of her store Mrs. Kefauver has hung a sign that says drinking while pregnant can cause birth defects. Twice, she says, she has mentioned that to pregnant women buying liquor.
"If you can imagine what one drink does to you as an adult," she told them, "imagine what it does to a fetus."