So last night I went to a Christmas party hosted for and by my knitting friends and the lovely store where we gather. Yes, that’s right, I’m a knitter, and lately, I’ve even learned to crochet, so one could argue that I’m a hooker now as well. The party was delightful and it was so nice to celebrate the season with so many folks that have meant so much to me over the last few years. There was quite a spectrum of women represented (we do have dude knitters, they just weren’t at the party) and I’m often humbled that I’m even included in their company. Professors, stay-at-home-moms, retirees, working gals, world travelers, and more. Every single woman there was an ass-kicking superstar and I’m so lucky to be under their sturdy and strong wings. We often liken the shop to Truvy’s Beauty parlor in Steel Magnolias as it’s where we all gather and celebrate, commiserate, support each other, and occasionally we DO, in fact, knit.
Most of the gals in this menagerie know my story. Well, the cliff notes anyway. I assume they’re learning a bit more if they’re reading this little blog. NOT UNLIKE MY MOTHER. Anyway, I had a choice (well, did I?) when the shit hit the fan in 2015 to be honest about my addiction and consequent situation, or to lie like I’ve been doing (mostly unsuccessfully) for the last 30 or so years. I don’t know if I chose honesty or if it chose me but the fact of the matter is that the truth was just easier. Remember Viola Davis in that gut-wrenching scene in The Help where she confronts the ruthless Miss Hilly and says “All you do is scare people and lie to get what you want. Ain’t you tired, Miss Hilly? Ain’t you tired?!?” Yes. Yes I was.
So, with that, I’m extremely fortunate. My friends and even most acquaintances know that I am an alcoholic in recovery. And per my nature, they all know they can laugh with me at my challenges as well as celebrate my victories, and that, my friends, is priceless. They know they can ask questions, as well. I’m “out” of the
closet liquor cabinet, one could say. However, I totally understand that many folks aren’t and that the holidays can often be filled with anxiety ridden events revolving around alcohol. I know a lot of people that struggle with alcohol also struggle with turning down a drink at a party, especially those new to recovery. “What will everyone THINK?” And that’s a fair assumption because really, when we were drinking we definitely didn’t turn down a drink and who in their right mind would?!? Well, don’t get your tinsel in a tangle, there’s good news. I’ve not been out of the cabinet long but one thing I learned quickly is this; no one else cares. That’s right, I said it. NO ONE CARES IF YOU DRINK OR NOT.
Now, this does not include active alcoholics because they just may give you some flack because your ability to say no may turn their high-powered accusatory finger back on themselves. I hear time and time again where people are flummoxed on what to say when offered a drink. I was no different. Last year at this time I went through a ridiculous week of sleepless nights leading up to my work Christmas party where only a few folks knew my truth and the rest did not, and they were a heavy drinking lot. What will I do if someone sends me a shot? What will I do if the president of the company wants to toast with me? WHAT DO I SAY?!? And guess what you guys? The president himself sat at my table and when the waitress came by for our drink order I ordered a soft drink and. . . nothing happened. Well, something happened. The gal brought me a diet coke and we commenced eating our holiday dinner. TA-freaking-DA.
Now I realize it can be nerve wracking to some and it goes against the social grain to turn down booze at a party but more and more I realize that it is not about ME at ANY gathering. Everyone else is so consumed with themselves that they are really not focusing on what you have or don’t have in your hand to drink. This was foreign to me of course, because as someone recently said, alcoholics are egomaniacs with an insecurity complex. Another friend of mine in recovery laments, “I know I’m not much, but I’m all I think about.”
Well, that goes for most people, I’d say. We’re all just doing the best we can every day and social anxiety and awkward holiday parties are just part of the package this time of the year. Try saying “no thanks”, it’s simple and it works wonders. You can always say you’re driving and most normal people will respect that. In my case I could never say I was the designated driver BECAUSE I NEVER, EVER WAS. I’ve told a stranger that I’ve retired from drinking, when asked if I’d tried a certain sangria. That worked and even got a chuckle.
I was at a party a few weeks ago where a lady asked me who I was and what I did. It was at the end of the evening and you know how sometimes inappropriate things just fly right out of your mouth? No? WELL BELIEVE ME, THEY DO. I casually replied with “Me? I’m an unemployed alcoholic.”
She retorted, “Oh no! You’re unemployed? I just recently got a new job myself.” I shit you not.
Like Nancy Reagan said, just say no. Well, maybe say “no, thank you”, I mean, unless you’re dealing with a pill-popping heroin pusher after school and then you can probably lose the Miss Manners etiquette and run like hell.
And no matter what you celebrate, to all, a good night.