A belated, but heartfelt congratulations to the the wonderful LushNoMore who has not been a lush for SIX MONTHS! Well done LNM. You rock!
Most of us lie when we first stop drinking.
This is an entirely unfair state of affairs. When people stop smoking they shout about it! Everyone pats them on the back and supports them. Ditto dieting. How many conversations have you had with friends over the merits (or not) of the latest fad diet?
But, quit drinking, and we mumble about antibiotics, designated drivers and detoxes.
We are, quite justifiably, terrified of people's reactions. We worry that we will become pariahs at the time when we most need our friends around us. We know that in our drinking days we would treat non-drinkers with suspicion, possibly contempt.
I started off with the simple explanation: I've given up for Lent. I needed a detox! Could do with losing some weight.
This worked a treat. Lots of nods. Well done you's. No uncomfortable silences or tricky questions.
As Easter came and went, and people kept seeing me sober, my 'excuse' morphed into this one:
I gave up for Lent and it felt so brilliant that I've kept going for a bit. Who knows, I might even do a whole year!
This one leads to a lot more questions: what are the benefits? What are the downsides? etcetera. It makes people a bit more uncomfortable, but they can manage it.
The problem is that it's a lie. Plus, I'm concerned that every time I state out loud that I may start drinking again it gives a bit of life back to the Wine Witch (see my post on Neuro-Linguistic programming). I worry that I'll get to 365 days and she'll pipe up "There you go! One year, tick. Crack open the bubbly!"
So, what next?
What I'm not able to do is say this: I am an alcoholic in recovery. I am never drinking again.
Here's why: Firstly, as soon as you mention the A word, people imagine you are a horribly neglectful mother, pouring vodka on your cornflakes for breakfast and passing out nightly in a pool of vomit in front of your kids. It's not true, and it's not fair, but that's the way it is.
Secondly, I do not view myself as 'in recovery'. I don't believe that alcoholism is a disease - it's an addiction. (see Is Alcoholism a Disease?)
Thirdly, the reaction to the 'alcoholic in recovery' stuff is that people assume you are miserable. Taking one awful day at a time. Constantly yearning for the amber nectar that you can never reach for again. That's not me; I'm happier (after a fair few ups and downs) than I've been for years.
Fourthly, it makes people question their own (possibly addictive) behaviour, and they do not like this. We understand that, don't we?
Finally, it makes them uncomfortable drinking in front of us. As if we're going to forcibly wrestle their glass from their hands, down it and go on a three day bender.
So, for all of those reasons, I avoid that one like the plague.
Instead, I am playing with several different versions of the truth. Depending on my mood and who I'm talking to I wheel out one of the following:
1. The Allergy Story
I seem to have developed a sort of allergy to alcohol. It just doesn't agree with me any more. Perhaps it's age. Hormones. Whatever. But it makes me fat, depressed and unable to sleep. Bummer, but there it is. So, no more vino for me.
2. Been There, Done That
I have this theory that we are allocated a life time supply of vino at birth. I got a bit carried away, and I've drunk mine already! Hell, it was fun while it lasted, but I just can't do it any more. It doesn't agree with me. I don't agree with it. I've moved on.
3. All or Nothing
I ended up drinking more that I should and, you know me, all or nothing! I don't do stuff by halves. I find it easier not to drink at all than to drink one small glass of wine four times a week. It's like smoking - I had to quit that too when I ended up on more than a pack a day.
The reason these work for me is that (apart from number 2 which has to be used sparingly, choosing your audience, as it can make people think you're a little weird...) not only are they true for me, but they are also true for most of my friends.
Most people, I've discovered, find that alcohol agrees with them less and less as they get older. Most people, even 'normal drinkers' find moderation hard. Instead of thinking "ooh, she's an alcoholic! Not like me then!" they are nodding away and empathising.
And, it makes them think perhaps I should quit too.....
On the whole, these conversations convince people that I am happy! I am not 'recovering' from some terrible disease, pining for some past nirvana. I am okay. Better than that - I'm AWESOME.
And so are you, my friends.
Have a great weekend!