Before I quit drinking, I worried what people would think if they knew how much wine I was *actually* sipping each night. You’d think that recovery would have brought instant relief from those concerns, but ironically I was just as embarrassed of not drinking at all.
Emphasis on the “was”.
Well into my second year of sobriety, I have begun to feel more open about this part of my identity. The words “No thanks, I don’t drink. I brought my own” just rolled off my tongue at a party one night.
Suddenly at restaurants I could look the server in eye and smile sweetly while saying, “I’ll have an O’Douls, please – the green label if you have it. And could you please bring me a nice big wine glass for that?”
What a huge relief it is to be able to just spit out the words now. I haven’t tattooed “Alcoholic in Recovery” on my forehead, but when asked why I’m not drinking I feel absolutely comfortable saying, “My nice nightly glass of wine quietly grew into an addiction and I had to quit altogether.”
Most people are fine with that and some will ask, “Does it bother you that we are drinking around you?” “Not at all,” I’ll say truthfully, “but what I do find is that I sometimes need to leave earlier that I used to so don’t be offended if I slip off, okay?”
What can be hard is that sometimes it’s the people closest to us that seem the most awkward. It can be really annoying when the people you most expected to count on ask you if you’re ever going to be able to drink again. You’ll notice I mention this particular line of questioning in a few different blog posts, so obviously it gets to me. I’ve thought about it a lot and here’s what I have come to understand:
It’s possible for people who love you to want you to start drinking again because they want you to be “fixed” and for your “problem to be over”. They have the misguided idea that you’ll be “cured” and return to your “normal” self, the old you they used to know.
It took me a long time to accept that I would never be able to drink again. For a long time I stayed open to the possibility that I might be able to return to moderate drinking. Some can, I get that. I’ve learned though, that it won’t be me. I confess that when my eyes fall upon a chilled bottle of white wine across a crowded room, for the briefest of moments it’s just the two of us and I want to grab it and run. I recently heard Anna David (afterpartychatter.com) say on the Dr. Drew podcast that the disease of addiction “does pushups” while you are in recovery and if you let it back in it will be even stronger that before.
This is not an easy idea to understand, and an even harder reality to accept for oneself. If it takes those of us in recovery forever to sink out teeth into these concepts, surely it will take our friends and family even longer. After all, they’re not living and breathing the changes of heart, body, and brain required in recovery. They’re not reading every bit of sobriety lit they can get their hands on, listening to The Bubble Hour constantly, or watching what every single person at a party pours in their glass like we are.
Sure, there will always be a-holes out there who make us feel like party poopers for staying true to our recovery. But some people, some, are just trying to catch up to us on this new path of ours and we need to be as patient with them as they are with us.