Like anybody with an iPhone and a lack of assertiveness, when I need to make a decision, I head over to Google to find advice. Before AA, the World Wide Web, or the internet as it’s become incorrectly known, was my sole source of information for sobriety and alcoholism. That, and podcasts.
One common piece of advice for sobriety the internet provides in regard to alcoholism is to avoid seeing, hearing about, or being exposed to alcohol at all costs. Stay away from the bars you patronized, avoid friends who are heavy drinkers, switch to an alcohol-free mouthwash, and if you get a cut on your big toe, acquire a gangrene infection before you put any rubbing alcohol on it. It’s better to stay sober and lose your big toe, than tempt the devil.
This advice is often punctuated by this cliché, which I’ve seen touted on sobriety forums: If you keep hanging around in barber shops, it’s only a matter of time before you end up getting a haircut.
I’ve heeded this advice as gospel; on the surface, it makes sense. But I read something in the Big Book this week that contradicted this advice. I don’t want to locate the passage, so I can quote it verbatim, but it goes something like this: “If you have to avoid the deadbeats you hung around with because they drink too much, or it crosses your mind that swallowing Listerine while rinsing after brushing sounds like a good idea, then you aren’t sober. Not properly. And in the case of the latter, you’re probably an idiot.” (Okay, so I made up that last sentence.)
This shit was music to my ears.
I’ll still buy the brand of alcohol-free mouthwash I’ve gotten used to, but it’s refreshing to know that I shouldn’t avoid situations where people are consuming alcohol. Next week’s my birthday. I’ll be celebrating surviving thirty-three years after the umbilical cord was cut, and I think it’s just great that I can now encourage, no, demand, that the people with whom I celebrate do what they do best: drink until they think everything they say is funny and or clever.
Here’s a little story. Around eight years ago, I went to a daytime party to celebrate the marriage of Prince William to his lady friend. I was a heavy drinker at the time, and was known as such, and one of the guests who invited me forbade me from drinking alcohol, as there was a dude there who was an alcoholic.
They wanted to keep the crazy drunk away from the guy who had a problem with raiding grandpa’s medicine cabinet when he should’ve just been pissing. I resented that guy the whole party, but I never let my feelings known.
I didn’t care about the wedding, or the royals, and I definitely didn’t care about what dress the bride was wearing, but I was super pissed about not being able to celebrate those things I didn’t care about in the way I knew best.
This story isn’t about me. I was behaving and thinking the way any active alcoholic would. The story’s about the dry alcoholic, and about that as alcoholics, we shouldn’t be trying to change the world around us, but trying to change ourselves.
It’s only this way we can stay sober. Alcohol is ingrained into the fabric of our culture. It’s the cart-wheeling clown at the circus, the wart on the end of a witch’s nose.
That party shouldn’t have accommodated him, and definitely not because this idiot wanted to get shitfaced to make watching a marriage ceremony entertaining. It’s for the other people. The regular drinkers, who’s afternoon would’ve been so enriched by a few glasses of wine. It’s also for his benefit, as sitting there white-knuckling isn’t the best way to be a guest at someone’s party. What’s the point of being sober, if that is what’s now ruining the relationships you have with people?
I agree with the Big Book. If the only way you can stay sober is to design life to fit your mold, then that’s a really shitty way of staying sober, and a miserable way to live your life.
Sure, you can lock yourself up in your apartment and watch movies with your wife, who’s graciously started this journey of sobriety with you, and it’ll work. And in the case of the story told in this blog post, you can be that douchebag who’s ruining everyone’s fun because you ruined drinking for yourself. But that’s not the type of sober alcoholic I want to be.
This doesn’t mean I’ll be hanging out at bars all Friday night, because it doesn’t hold the same appeal without a drink in my hand. But when someone’s birthday comes up, or my work buddies are meeting up after work on a Friday to toast the end of the week, whereas before I’d heed the advice that I should stay away, I’ll now take those opportunities to socialize.
I’ll be the sober ninja standing among the group, totally cool with everyone getting shitfaced. In some ways, they won’t even remember my being there. And that’s a great thing.
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