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.