Will You Hold My Beer?
I mentioned in my last post that I just returned from a family vacation. It is an annual trip, taken with my husband’s entire family, and has been going on for longer than I’ve appropriated their last name. This year there were almost 50 of us clogging up the beaches of Southern New Jersey, and the kids in particular have the vacation of a lifetime each and every August.
My husband’s side of the family is actually not challenging at all in terms of sobriety: absolutely none of them overindulge, and many of them choose not to drink at all. Truth be told, until the moment I am about to describe, alcohol consumption and my personal recovery were as much on the back burner as they ever have been while on vacation.
So here’s the set-up: a sun-drenched late afternoon on the beach, lifeguards are getting ready to pack it up for the day. All but a few of us have headed home to rinse the sand toys, and out feet, before the evening shift to sweatshirts and figuring out the best take-out to order for dinner. My husband and myself were giving our kids one last boogie board session of the day while we languished in our beach chairs, and my husband’s parents decided to stick it out with us. So there we were, sitting and chatting, and my father-in-law says, “Can you hold this for me?” while simultaneously thrusting his bottle towards me and rising from his beach chair. Reflexively, I take the bottle, and about a millisecond later I realized that the foil-covered bottle was, in fact, a beer.
It probably took twice as long to read that paragraph as the actual act of what I just described played out. On the other hand, the time I spent holding the beer was a great deal longer. Obviously I did not have a stopwatch going, but I’m telling you no one has ever taken so long to rearrange a beach chair as my father-in-law did on that afternoon. I know this for two reasons: first, once I realized it was beer, I, in what I now realize was melodramatic and probably comical, chose to hold the beer at arm’s length, and I’m telling you, my arm was getting tired before I was able to hand it back. Second, my husband agreed that it was quite a long time (more on his perspective in a bit).
Here’s how this event played out in my mind:
Holy shit, this is a beer, does he even realize who he just asked to hold his beer?
Wow, maybe that’s how far I’ve come in recovery, that I am to be trusted with a beer!
For God’s sake, don’t be an idiot, he’s not even thinking about the fact that it’s a beer, or that he asked you to hold it, get a grip on your ego.
….feeling palpable tension from the chair next to me, which happens to be occupied by my husband…
Alright, Dad, please get yourself situated, so your son does not flip his lid!
What seems to be the hold-up in getting the chair situated, anyway?
Jeez Louise, my arm is getting tired, can I just casually put it down in the space between his chair and mine? No, don’t draw any more attention to this.
…glancing over at the beer…
How insane is it that I am holding something that I can never let cross my lips again?
Alright, that thought process is going nowhere good, think of something else. Hope the angry person in the chair next to me is settling down, but something tells me he’s not.
For God’s sake, sit down and take this beer!
There were probably many more random thoughts going on in the monkey mind, but I think I hit the highlights (lowlights?).
To be clear, this non-event that I’m describing took place entirely between my ears. If passers-by on the beach witnessed this scene, they would have seen a man hand a bottle to a woman to hold while he slowly rearranged his chair. The man then sat down, reclaimed his beverage, and the group continued to talk for another decent length of time before packing up and heading home. The incident was never discussed. Well, never discussed between me and my father-in-law, anyway.
Later that evening, I did get a chance to debrief with my husband, and I’m glad I did. Turns out he needed to process the incident a bit more to put it in a proper perspective. By the end of our discussion, though, he was feeling much better about it, and he was able to give me a perspective I would never have considered on my own: that it shows the progress of my relationships in recovery. Two and half years ago, I’m not sure anyone would have opted to even sit with me on the beach, much less feel comfortable doing so with a beer in their hands. Meanwhile on this trip, I can say that I was able to sit down, one-on-one, with every adult member of the family in the house I lived for the week, and I was able to have honest, real conversations, conversations where people discussed their issues with me, and seemed interested in my perspective. Two and half years ago? Not so much.
Finally, and perhaps most important, was the change in the relationship with my husband. First, that I have the sense about me to be attuned to his feelings at all, then to have the confidence and compassion to seek him out and talk to him about it. That he has the confidence in me to confess his feelings, and that I can hear them without judgment, without defensiveness and with the willingness to talk things out. That he can see progress in me that in a thousand years I would not see in myself, and his generosity in sharing it.
To answer the question: yes, I’ll hold it, but only if you hurry up with what you’re doing!