I have been sitting on this awkward moment of peer pressure for two months now, having to continuously brush it off. Apparently, I need to write about it. So here it goes.
It was a picture-perfect holiday gathering of friends. A gorgeous home on the lake, with a crackling fire and glowing x-mas tree. You could hear laughter from all corners, as we stuffed our bellies with warm, homemade lasagna and watched the children play with exciting toys they had never seen before. A few of the sticky-fingered rascals were repeatedly sneaking colorfully frosted sugar cookies from the table, devouring them one by one. One of the little bastards was licking just about every item and then putting it back on the table for unsuspecting fools to enjoy. Vowing to avoid the gooey bounty and stick with my water, my husband and I were sitting at the table, enjoying the night.
I will admit that although this was a party thrown by a close friend, I was still a little nervous to confront the whole “alcohol thing” once again. Shit, you would think I was a newbie. At six years sober, I would expect it to be a little easier. I’m not sure that ever completely goes away, though. I was also nervous to talk to some of her friends because I can never remember who I know from where, what their names are or what “memories” we might share. I used to see most of them when I was drunk, I think. Nevertheless, that is a challenge I continuously have to deal with in many situations.
My anxiety was on the mid-scale this evening, which I considered to be definitely doable. I was excited to see my friends, so I rose to the challenge.
My friend’s husband was the catalyst for the awkwardness. And it went something like this…
Friend: “Hey, Chrystal, do you want some champagne?”
Me: “No. Thanks.”
Wtf?! Did he forget that I am sober? Awkward…oh well.
Friend: “I’ve got lots of champagne here.”
Me: “No, really, I’m good. Thanks.”
Is he for real? Ahhhhh….he must be drunk. That explains it. I think.
My husband:(intervening) “She’s good.”
Friend: “Oh, come on. I can get you a different drink. What do you like?”
My husband: “No, she’s fine. Thanks.”
Am I seriously being peer pressured right now? I’m officially offended. How does he not remember? I’m defined by my sobriety! Heart rate elevating…
Friend: “I can make a blah, blah, blah, we have this and that… Have a drink.”
Damage control. Need damage control. Fight or flight initiating in one…two…
My husband: “No, she’s fine.” (Trying to change the subject somehow…)
Friend: “You sure you don’t want some champagne?”
OK. I need to get the F#@k out of here.
My husband: “How many hints do I have to give you, man? (With a light-hearted chuckle) She’s not drinking.”
He dropped it and carried on his merry way. And the night continued on without a hitch.
That moment seemed like an eternity to me. The way I felt inside, I would assume would compare to how a kid in highschool would feel to be pressured to do drugs with the cool kids. I can’t totally relate here, because I would just do the drugs and didn’t really care, but the amount of humility I felt is what I’m trying to identify with here. My words had completely failed me. Why didn’t I joke with him, “No thanks, you don’t have enough” or say, “No dude, I’m a recovering alcoholic.”? Why did I feel so awkward and where were my words?? I had so much going on inside, I failed at simple communication. Why did I freeze? Wtf?!
My friend did nothing wrong. He was drunk, but he wasn’t belligerent. A little dense, but that comes with drinking booze. Trust me, I know. I’m 35 years old, so I’m quite capable of acting like a responsible, confident adult. Why did I feel like crawling into a hole?
I’m confused by the way I’ve reacted because most of the time I cannot wait to tell or remind people of the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic. I’m so damn proud of myself. And I love opening doors, increasing awareness and finding others like me. Apparently, there are other times when I act like a timid, insecure schoolgirl. None of my resulting internal turmoil has had anything to do with my friend, who was mortified and apologetic as hell, by the way. But, my resounding question is, what the hell happened to me?
I guess I thought I had it all figured out. I guess I thought I had rehearsed enough responses to potential scenarios. Apparently, I was wrong.
Is this a simple thing, or totally complex? Why am I such a freak? Am I that insecure? Is it my social anxiety? Why did I feel so harassed and offended? Why couldn’t I just take it in stride? Why has this been bothering me so much?
I don’t have a clue. And I don’t know where to look. My bewilderment has not subsided, as I had hoped would result from writing this.
I need your help.
First of all, don’t tell me I should see a counselor, I’m done interviewing and exhausting myself with them – I have the skills and resources to find my own way at this point. I think. Second, don’t tell me to go to AA. I have zero patience for listening to people going on and on about how their higher power saved them…where was it when they were half dead, slowly killing themselves and their relationships? I’m not meaning to totally bash “believers,” but I need to relate to rational people who are accountable to themselves and to society.
So here I am, reaching out, simply asking for someone to tell me they can relate to my experience and that I’m not completely off my rocker.
Thanks for listening, friends.
9 thoughts on “Awkward moment – PEER PRESSURE and its impact on me…”
No idea what was going on with you at that moment. You’ve done a great job describing it, though, so it’s more a case of sharing your mystification than not understanding (I hope.) That said, had it been me in that situation, I can imagine the same thing happening for this reason:
It’s a holiday. Everyone is there to have a good time. We’re all relaxing, we’re all sharing joy and fellowship and good food and pleasure in each others’ company. ahhhh… lovely…
And then my disease pops up its ugly head, like Banquo’s ghost. Eeeew. No one really needs to deal with that right now, do they? Least of all, me… Let’s just get PAST it, with as little notice as possible, okay? Let’s not TALK about it?
In most contexts I have no problems letting people know that I’m respecting my own recovery. But sometimes I’m in a lovely “here I am part of this wonderful social group of normies and we’re all having a nice time and wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to think about my disease for a little while?” place. And then, I get agitated, a little annoyed, defensive even, at having to parse out my difference again.
I shouldn’t. But I do. Thereya go.
And the test is never, “Did I handle that in a way that made me or others ‘feel okay?'” but “Did I NOT DRINK?”
You passed with flying colors.
Cecile, you just completely validated me. I needed that. I’m so glad I have you in my corner. You’ve been a huge support to me – more than you’ll know. Thank you SO much!
Hey Sober Crystal,
Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy reading your articles and find them/you insightful and thought provoking.
What struck me in reading this article was the fact that your response was more flight related than a trigger for relapse. Your recovery remains intact and you were reacting as you needed to in order to remain safe. And your husband sounds like a very supportive person in your life.
As you say, you are usually more adept and comfortable at declaring your sobriety, so I am wondering if the ‘peer pressure’ was more like what some therapists would call a ‘shame bind’ (not my favourite phrase) in that you were being called upon to declare it in front of a large audience, that you say you were unsure of given your history with them? Maybe your sobriety was not in danger from peer pressure (thanks to your ongoing recovery) but you were in fear of being judged by those present? Perfectly reasonable response and I wouldn’t beat myself up about it. Sadly, society can still see addiction as a moral issue rather than a disease.
In any event, you came out of it unscathed and a better person for the experience. And with further evidence of the support of those close to you.
I look forward to your next blog and wish you all the best.
Thank you, Mark. I love your perspective and appreciate it so much! Thank you, thank you, thank you. Hope you have a great day.
Great article… nice job. I love your blog. It just plain sucks to have to deal with that situation but I think you handled it well – and I’m just wondering… to what degree does writing about it help you? It definitely helps me to read similar experiences of others – as well as writing about them. I also liked Todd’s suggested response and will keep that handy. Stay well.
Thank you, Michael. Writing has always helped me, ever since I got my first diary in 3rd grade. 🙂 I started a blog and got a Twitter account when I began a new job that required me to at least be familiar with social media. It feels amazing to know that complete strangers are reading my words, instead of just shoving it all in a notebook underneath my mattress. And it feels even more amazing when they (YOU!) take the time to respond and relate to me. It’s freaking awesome! Btw, I like your matchup of distance runners and alcoholics on your site – a persistent ability to ignore self-inflicted pain. Crazy. 🙂 Thanks again.
I don’t believe in a higher power nor do I attend AA. I’m not convinced that either of these things are helpful in supporting people to remain sober. I’ve seen many people fail in AA, especially folks who have a strong faith in their higher power. Most of my clients found long-term recovery after they left 12-step support. Oftentimes I sense that people confuse most successful with most popular.
My sense is that people who do not respect your boundaries are abusive. I’ve had similar experiences where people didn’t get the hint and I found I needed to be more direct:
“I need to let you know that I don’t drink and I need you not to ask me again”
Thanks much for your post. Always appreciated.
Thanks so much, Todd. I always appreciate your insight. Normally I’m pretty good at being direct – too direct, probably. That’s why my inability to do so in that moment troubles me.
I can relate. But hey, you’re human, you’re allowed.