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!
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!