I got sober in August, and I’ll be damned if they didn’t still have Christmas parties four months later. With complete disregard to my feelings, they were going to be serving alcohol at these events. My wife informed me that I would be going to one. I ran it by my A.A. group, came home, and told her: “They said I can’t go. It would be bad for me this early in recovery.”
“No. You’re going.”
Back to the group. Back to the wife. “Okay, they say I can go, but I have to bring my own car in case I start feeling uncomfortable. Then I can leave.”
“No. You’re going, you’re not going to drink, and you’re going to stay the whole night. This is my Christmas present from my boss to me. I’ve been waiting all year for this. All my friends are going to be there with their husbands and wives, and we’re going to be there, too. And you’re damn sure going to be pleasant!”
“But… I could get uncomfortable, and really want to drink!”
“Yeah, you know, funny thing about that. I really don’t give a shit. When you were drinking and we’d go to a party with your redneck friends, sometimes I’d feel uncomfortable. When you’d throw up in the bushes or flirt with a girl… or insist upon driving home… Yeah. Sometimes I felt uncomfortable. Part of me might even like it if you were uncomfortable. It’d be about time.
“I’ll tell you what you’re going to do. You’re going to man the fuck up and go to the party. You’re not going to complain or be rude. For one whole goddamn night this is not about you. This is about me. This is about me having fun with my friends from work, just like you did every goddamn Friday for the last twenty years. For one damn night I don’t care about how you feel. I care about how I feel. You’re not staying at home. You’re not going to a meeting. You’re not bringing your own car. We’re not bringing one of your support group with us. We’re not leaving early!
“Your suit’s at the cleaners. Pick it up on your way home tomorrow night and be ready to smile for one whole goddamn night.”
So I went. It was a really nice banquet hall and there were a dozen tables with 4 couples at each. The talk about alcohol started as soon as we sat down.
“Oooh, look at the wine list! They have Chateau Lafeet! I love that wine! It’s got this fruity-woody-flowery…”
And on and on.
I got a feeling that something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
When the wine came — and the three other couples ordered four bottles between them – the mouthy girl across the table took a sip and exclaimed: “This is SOooo Good! Try it!” as she passed her glass to another girl.
And the thought went through my mind: “You’re a goddamn liar! If it tasted really good, you don’t tell anyone, ’cause they might want some and there’ll be less for you!”
And I realized what had struck me as strange before; they were talking about drinking. Alcoholics don’t do that. If a drunk is going out tonight he will bore the pants off you telling you where he’s going, what he’s going to wear, how much or how little money he’s going to spend, how early or late he’s staying out, how many women he’s going to fuck and how many guys he’s going to beat the shit out of. He may tell you what he’s going to do to stop from getting so drunk he pisses his pants on the dance floor. He may try to convince you that he’s going to be responsible and not drive home when the ‘staying reasonably sober thing’ doesn’t work, but the one thing an alky won’t talk about is actually drinking. We don’t talk about it in the same way a person who breathes doesn’t talk about breathing.
You just do it because it’s the most natural thing in the world to do.
Once I realized this, I saw that I was in the midst of some serious amateurs! There were four bottles of wine on the table for six people, and after an hour — counting what was still in their glasses — I don’t think a half a bottle was gone. I remember thinking two things: 1) if the waiter came by saying there was something wrong with their liquor license and they had to take the wine back, nobody would be jumping up talking about kicking his ass and 2) I hope these people fuck with more enthusiasm than they drink. (stroke-stroke, aahhh, That was great! Let’s do it again next year!).
My wife — not being an alcoholic — was looking at how much wine was on the table (lots), rather than how much was being consumed (little) and grew concerned. “Are you all right? Do you want to go home?” I laughed — mostly at how nervous I’d been about coming — and told her: “No, I’m fine. In fact, have some wine yourself.”
“But there’s so much drinking going on!”
“No, there isn’t. I don’t know what sport these folks are playing, but it’s not ‘Drinking’! I know that game and this ain’t it!”
What I learned from that night is that I never have to fear alcohol or situations where there is drinking. Later, I learned fun games like “Spot the Alcoholic”, but that first night I overcame a fear that has never returned. I can go where there is drinking with impunity.
“And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we recoil from it as from a hot flame. We react sanely and normally, and we will find that this has happened automatically. We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality—safe and protected. We have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for us. We are neither cocky nor are we afraid. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition.”
Alcoholics Anonymous pp.84-85
“Assuming we are spiritually fit, we can do all sorts of things alcoholics are not supposed to do. People have said we must not go where liquor is served; we must not have it in our homes; we must shun friends who drink; we must avoid moving pictures which show drinking scenes; we must not go into bars; our friends must hide their bottles if we go to their houses; we mustn’t think or be reminded about alcohol at all.
“We meet these conditions every day. An alcoholic who cannot meet them, still has an alcoholic mind; there is something the matter with his spiritual status.”
Alcoholics Anonymous pp.101