Tonight my partner and I are going to dinner with his parents and some family friends. I wasn't sure how (or even whether) to broach the subject of not drinking with them. Right off, I should say, I have no plans to drink. Absolutely none. So that's not a worry. But the parents and the hosts know me as a wine drinker, and are likely to have bought some nice wine especially to share with me and my partner, so just a simple "not for me" wouldn't pass as an answer. It would be like if you got hold of some great steak and made a lovely meal around it for the steak-loving friend you never get to see, and then she showed up and said she was just having a salad. There are other people involved, and they care. That's how people are. And though I know there are lots of different views on this, it's really important for me to not make other people uncomfortable when they're drinking just because I'm not. I read a lot of "it's no one else's business what you drink" kind of posts, but I think sometimes that might be a bit disingenuous. Culturally alcohol is a shared pleasure, and refusing to share in something is a social and cultural act, not just a personal one. Of course, that's not to say I'm OK with people winding someone up because they're not drinking. That's bad form. But I can see this one from both sides. We make up each other's worlds and other people make up ours, and I'm trying to find a graceful way to participate in this part of my social world now that I'm not drinking anymore.
I have schoolwork to do for the afternoon, but my partner has headed out to spend the day with the folks, and they'll come get me later. As he was leaving, we were making arrangements, when to pick me up, whether we need to bring wine or some other gift, can I really bring two bottles of sparkling water, because one always disappears when everyone sees what a great idea it might be to have some, and that's fantastic, but then I don't want to have tap water for the rest of the night. Just because I quit drinking, doesn't mean I've quit hyper-planning some details, and actually it does help me a lot to work my way through some obvious scenarios ahead of time. Anyway. While we were sorting out our arrangements, my partner asked, "Is it OK if I tell my parents that you're not drinking?" I wasn't sure. Should he tell them it's forever? What would he say if they asked questions? They would ask why, and he's deeply honest and incapable of being glib, a great quality but not one I could rely on if I wanted him to fudge the truth a bit. In my mind I was screaming "NOOOOOO!, because in my mind, he was saying, "Should I just tell everyone you're an ALCOHOLIC?" But he said, sensibly, that it might be easier for me if at least some people at dinner already knew I wouldn't be drinking. And whether they should pick up wine for dinner might come up while they were on the way to get me, so it wouldn't be awkward. We settled on yes. Tell them I'm not drinking. If they ask, explain that I was so busy with school, and I found it easier to be clear-headed and not anxious if I didn't drink, so I'd stopped, and I do feel better. That way if they've already bought special wine, they won't be surprised and disappointed when I'm not sharing it. And they will already be onside if the hosts are pushing wine on me at the dinner, as they may well do.
My god, it takes a lot of thinking things through sometimes. But it's good. It sounds like worrying, but it's more like setting things up ahead of time so when we go, I won't have to worry. Now I can look forward to socializing at dinner, and the drink conversation will mostly have been taken care of. I'm so grateful that my partner gets what I'm doing and can step in to help. It was harder for him last time around, as he really didn't understand how important it all was for me. How could he, when I didn't understand it myself! This time, I'm more aware all around. And I really really really don't want to drink, so that helps!
The other day, I had a long phone chat with my sister, who lives on the other side of the country, (though she would say I'm the one on the other side, as she's "home" and I'm "away"). We had a big talk about the drinking, and I was able to tell her that I'd quit for good. I think she got it! It was such a relief to be open about it, and to be heard. But then she told me what she thought was a funny story about someone making a joke about someone not having beer in the fridge for once, and I was able to say that the joke might actually be painful, not funny, if the someone was trying to quietly make some changes without being the butt of anyone's well meaning humour. It simply hadn't occurred to her that anyone might discreetly try to cut down or quit and might be sensitive about it, even after all we'd talked about me having done exactly that! And she's lovely, a truly kind and thoughtful person, but she just hadn't seen the possible hurt or shame in the situation. The conversation got me thinking about how much where you are has an effect on the drinking, and the quitting. Where I'm from, everybody drinks. A lot. No one is considered to have a problem unless they're pretty hard up, and laughing it off is the norm. I see how much easier it's been for me to quit here, "away," than it would ever have been if I still lived "home".
Last week again I told someone that I didn't drink anymore, and we had a very interesting conversation. We had been talking about the lives of some poets she was reading and the central role that fear of death played in their lives. Many of these writers drank a lot, which was how the drink thing came up in the conversation. I said I had long been afraid of life, and I guess maybe I drank to get out of life once in a while, but I was getting better at facing life, and facing it made me realize it's actually glorious, even though it's still a bit scary. So that's where I am these days--sometimes having existential chats about booze and poetry and death, sometimes working things out with the family, sometimes just concerned that my hosts enjoy their dinner. Sometimes signing off to go write that paper!
Peace and joy to you, and lively conversations and dinners or whatever else it is you like doing with the people you love.