Awkward Moments in Sobriety: The Gifts, Part III

Moving away from the gifts of health (read Part I and Part II to catch up), but continuing with the birthday celebration, on the actual day of my husband’s birthday I held a small, informal, mid-week get together to honor the date of his birth.  He did not want a party, but all of our friends and family wanted to wish him well, so I thought this would be a nice compromise.  I made some of his favorite foods, went into the city and picked up some trendy take-out, and had our friends and their kids run around the house for a few hours.

I put this informal gathering together pretty last-minute, and so of course several people on the list could not make it for one reason or another.  As I reviewed the group that had rsvp’d affirmatively, I breathed a sigh of relief, because all of them know that I am in recovery, and that my husband and I choose not to drink.  There were a few on the invite list that did not know, because I see them infrequently, but they were either unable to make it, or did not respond to the invite.

As the party got underway, one of my friends mentioned that she had spoken to another friend who planned on stopping by, but had never told me she was coming.  At this point I am knee-deep in hostessing mode, and so it briefly crossed my mind that this was a friend who did not know I am sober, but it flew in and out of my head pretty quickly.  It being a work night for adults, and a school night for children, I was not anticipating a late night, and if the friends are coming “later,” how big of an issue could it be?

As it turns out, it could be a pretty big issue.  The friends did show up, and as fate would have it I was the one nearest the food and drinks as they arrived.  With 20/20 hindsight, I would have kissed them hello, and then flown off in another direction and let someone else serve them!  Anyway, on with the story, we make a few seconds of polite chit-chat, and I say, “what can I get you to drink?”  Before I can gesture to my immediate right and show them the clearly alcohol-free selections, my girl friend says, “I’d love some wine!”

Important disclaimer:  this is absolutely no one’s fault but my own.  I have been friends with this woman for decades, and I have served wine at every single party I’ve ever hosted.  I could kick myself, even this minute, for not anticipating this situation.

Back to the story:  I can’t say for certain what my facial expression was, but I’m pretty sure it fell somewhere between embarrassment and horror.  I say to her (and her husband, who is also waiting to make his drink selection): “I’m so sorry, we are not serving alcohol at this party.  Can I get you something else?”

Now, at this point, the conversation, I kid you not, starts to take on the tone and tenor of a badly written sitcom plot.  She starts stammering, “Oh… Oh… Oh…”

And I try to rush this along, so I’m now listing out every beverage that I can think of that we have available to us (and yes, I’m listing things like orange juice and milk, I’m not kidding when I say SITCOM).

She continues to say “oh” about every 4-5 seconds, until her husband says, “It’s not that big of a decision, just pick something!”

So she picks, and selects something I did not list, and do not have.  Now twice I have to deny a beverage request.  My face, undoubtedly, is the color of a tomato at this point.

She selects again (she, by the way, is clearly flummoxed), and again picks something I did not offer and do not have on hand.  I finally decide enough is enough, ask her husband to help himself to a beverage, and I say to my friend, “let’s take a walk out to the garage and see what I’ve got in the fridge out there.”

So we go out to the privacy of the garage, and I briefly but quietly explain that I am in recovery and that my husband and I no longer drink.  I apologize (probably a little too much, but Monday morning quarterbacking isn’t getting me anywhere) for not taking the time to sit down with her before this, and I apologize for making her uncomfortable.

She continued to be flabbergasted, but before we left the garage she was at least able to verbalize a little better what she was feeling, which was astonishment, as she had no idea that alcohol was a problem for me.  I thanked her for the compliment, but assured her that indeed it was, but that the good news is that I have a few years of sobriety under my belt, and life is really, really good.  I assured her that I would be willing to sit down one-on-one and speak in more detail about this subject, if she so chose, and then I led her back into the party.

If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale for the newly sober:  if you’re going to host a party without alcohol, make sure people know before they arrive!  I still cringe as I think of the evening, but, really, what am I going to do?  At some point I am going to reach out and offer to sit down with her, and give her the option of talking about it.  Other than that, I guess I’ll just chalk it up as another painful life lesson.

I would very much love to hear if anyone out there has similar story, and how they handled it!

Today’s Miracle:

As I reflect on the story I just told, it was a miracle that I did not offer her the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in my pantry as drink selections!

Posted on May 7, 2014, in Recovery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. You are such a joyful person and I smile as I think about how you handled what must have been a very awkward situation.
    Admittedly, I have no experience with sober vs. non-sober and often feel inauthentic to comment on things I know nothing of.
    But, let me tell you what I do know. You are fantastic, funny and resilient. I picked up your positive spirit the moment our paths crossed and I continue to let some of that positive energy rub off on me.
    Just so you know, your words can be applied to any awkward social situation and the only thing your friend will remember is the gracious and empathic way you handled it. xo

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    • MMT, just seeing your beautiful gravatar fills me with joy! I am so excited every time I get a comment from you. And your words to God’s ears, because in that moment all I could feel is that I was making her uncomfortable, which is possibly the last thing you want your guests to feel in your home.

      Thanks for the validation, and I can’t imagine you being inauthentic for a half a second! Thanks for making me smile today!

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      • You just made MY day! I feel the same way when I see your smiling face come across the Reader.
        As far as being inauthentic…well, you should see the smile I paint on my face when my son asks me to play one of his video games with him 🙂 The smile for him is real, love for the game we usually play is not 🙂

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  2. Actually the balsamic vinaigrette probably would have made her decision easier. Please get this out of your head and stop beating yourself up! I’m sure it’s already gone for the woman in the story.

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  3. My husband and I were just discussing this topic, of what to serve when we have guests over. He still drinks but not in our home and I’ve been sober a little over 9 months. I have found in the last few months that I have begun to feel “neutral” towards alcohol. I don’t want to drink it when I’m around it. So with that in mind, we have hosted two get-togethers recently where we served beer and wine. We bought just enough for the party and sent the leftover home with guests. One bottle of wine was half gone so we dumped it. It really didn’t bother me but I totally understand why others in recovery choose not to have it in their house. I think you handled it just as well as you could in the situation. I love you sense of humor with the situation. Keep on, keepin’ on!

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    • Thanks for the comment SMS! It is definitely a topic of conversation, and I will honestly say I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, neither my husband nor I drink, so why would anyone expect us to have it at our house? On the other hand, I don’t eat onions, either, but that wouldn’t stop me from serving them to others, right? Of course that is a blithe comparison, but I’m sure you understand where I’m going with it. I really like the plan you just described, and I’m glad to hear it worked out for you.

      Thanks for the feedback, it really gave me some food for thought! Oh, and, most important… congrats on 9 months of sobriety, that is AWESOME!

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  4. You seriously make me laugh with your stories! I’m so sorry you had that interaction, but she’ll get over it and so will you. The past is in the past. I’m sure I would’ve reacted the same as you! I’m smiling just picturing her face!

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    • Glad to oblige, Chenoa, and please note, with these stories I am understating the details! Don’t just picture her face, but hear her stammering Oh! over and over again. Sometimes all you can do is laugh at these situations, and you are right, I am definitely over it… I just hope she is too!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. I think it’s not as big a thing as it would seem, Josie. You did what you could, took her out privately to do the deal, and I think that was fabulous. She may have been very embarrassed, and like many who are confronted with a sober alcoholic (especially one they knew as a drinking partner), it can be discombobulating. But it is what it is, I suppose. You are not serving booze, so that is something she had to deal with. You can apologize for not letting her know sooner, but her reaction is hers. Not even the reaction you think is going on in her mind is yours…ha ha.

    Anyway, congrats on the no smoking! I can’t speak to that, as I never smoked a single cigarette in my life (which still shocks me to this day), so I get what you say when you pray nightly as if it were alcohol. I know many of the boys and girls smoke like fiends at meetings – that is probably the last of their mechanisms (oh, and caffeine and sugar…lol). I knew a guy who actually picked up smoking again while at treatment. I was the only non-smoker there! What you’re doing is so great for your health and for the stripping away of layers and actions that keep us out of self. I need that lesson from you. About time I started to see the little things that I know I still do. Ugh.

    Great series, Josie…so much of you at once! Loved it!

    Hugs,
    Paul

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