When kids do something wrong, often you have to handle them or the situation gingerly and delicately. As an adult, I expect someone to call me out if I do something wrong. But not with kids. They don’t process like adults. Drawing a picture of the house and the family on the living room wall with markers is technically wrong, but the child did it with the best of intentions. They love their family and want to create, sometimes for posterity thanks to the Sharpie company, a visual representation of that love. There is a subtle art to balancing discipline with toleration. Consequently, my former alcoholic brain didn’t process things like an adult either. The problem encountered by our peers is that most of the time, kid gloves nor iron gauntlets can show us the error of our ways.
I know that all recovering alcoholics and addicts have experience that awkward situation where a friend or family member tries to protect you from yourself. Recently, I went to spend time with a friend of mine that I had just told that I was sober. In all honesty, he is the one guy that I could backslide with because we always had fun drinking together. We talked and I relayed my conviction to my decision of sobriety and he seemed to be totally understanding. Being a fellow musician, my purpose in dropping by his house was to listen to a song that he had written and recorded, providing some feedback he had requested. He had already made plans to go out that night, making it my visit brief. As we were preparing to part ways, he opened his fridge and got out a beer. As he cracked it, a sheer look of terror came over his face, as if the hiss of an open can would send me into a fury, a red cape to a bull. After a string of apologies and practically hiding it behind his back, I just had to smile and tell him its fine.
This scene plays out in many ways. Friends hiding the beer in their fridge. Choosing not to drink around me. Fellow musicians awkwardly asking if I felt comfortable playing a gig at a brewery. A friend told me that once, at a restaurant, his mother tried to hide the drink menus.
This experience has happened to me over and over. I find myself getting frustrated, too. I am not a leper! I’m not going to tackle you and steal your beer. It’s ok for the wait staff at a restaurant to ask if I want a drink. Just because I have made the decision to stop drinking doesn’t mean all alcohol on the planet is going to disappear. Now, I know, over time, this experience will happen less and less. My friends and family are just showing that they care about my feelings and holistic health. They have become used to the old me, that no matter the occasion, I was going to drink. I believe they are honestly afraid that any little mention of alcohol sends me into an existential crisis, that I lose all my willpower and inhibitions. At this point in the game, it simply won’t happen. I am a sober man.
Know and realize the fact that people care. They are just trying to help you along in your journey, regardless of how awkward or embarrassing their tactics can be. Kid gloves have been used for so long to deal with our alcoholism that they are difficult to take off. I have to take a step back and forget the frustration. It is empowering to know that I have a team of people that care enough about me to protect me from the substance I am avoiding. I don’t really consciously avoid alcohol. In 99% of all situations, it doesn’t cross my mind. The moment that I decided I was serious, the amount of delicacy or force from an outside source was moot. But, I have to get used to my peers getting used to me again, the real me, the sober me.
To my friends and family, thank you for your continued support. Please stop hiding the drink menus at restaurants. Mostly because they often contain the dessert options.