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Time for a Story about Alcohol (It’s Been Awhile)

First, my apologies.  I promised in my last post that I would write a follow-up and include all the wisdom I failed to include from last Monday’s meeting.  There was so much great stuff!  But, and anyone with kids will understand, it is the first week of summer vacation, and to say chaos reigned supreme in my household would be an understatement.  I’m feeling under the gun right now, waiting for someone to call needing a ride!

So, instead of resuming the recap, I am going to share a story that was a prologue to last week’s adventure.  Rather than link back to my last post, here’s the set-up:  last weekend we travelled to a beach town for the weekend so that our daughter could participate in a basketball tournament.  We had been looking forward to it, because usually tournaments are not in fun places like resort-y beach towns.  The coach of the team made the lodging arrangements, so there was a bit of excitement at the mystery of it all.  Unfamiliar beach town, lack of knowledge regarding accommodations, it was a true adventure!

The night before we were to leave for the weekend my daughter had a basketball game in town.  Most of the parents were there.  One particularly organized mom, the mom I actually know the best, started speaking to me about logistical details:  who is bringing what snacks, how to select a restaurant for a team dinner, and so on.  Through the course of this conversation, she mentioned the fun it will be to drink several times.  None of these references bothered me, truly I couldn’t even be very specific about what she said.  As the conversation progressed, however, the references became more pointed, “it will be awesome when we get sit by the pool and drink,” “Us moms are going to have a blast drinking.” My recovery sensors started humming, though nowhere near high alert.  At this point there have been 3-4 different references to drinking to which I simply did not respond.

In retrospect, I wonder if my lack of response may have prompted the continued talk, or maybe I’m unnecessarily Monday morning quarterbacking.  In any event, she continues on the path of how much fun carousing will be, and indicated her daughter felt that Organized Mom would be the embarrassment of the group, I suppose because of her drinking antics in the past?  I have no clue, since I could count on one hand the number of times where we have been in a situation with alcohol together (and I would have fingers to spare).  I laughed politely, because, I’m not even sure what else would be an appropriate response to this silly conversation.  Then Organized Mom says, as she continued to recount her conversation with her daughter:

“So I told her, ‘Oh, you don’t know Josie, she’ll be right there with me!”

Does is go without saying that I am Josie?

I’m going to plow right ahead with the story so there’s no cliffhanger:  I say and do nothing in the moment.  I regretted it for a solid 24 hours, but it’s the choice I made.  My brain was, quite simply, frozen.  It seemed incapable of forming logical thoughts.  There are a few reasons why this is so:

  1. Environment:  we sitting on the bleachers of a basketball court, ostensibly there to watch our daughters play basketball, surrounded by parents and younger siblings.  It was surreal to me to be trying to figure out how to decline a drink.
  2. Out-of-shape mental muscles:  it has been a really, really long time since I’ve had to think about declining a drink.  As in, I can’t remember a situation where someone offered and I felt uncomfortable.
  3. Complete and utter bewilderment:  even as I type this I have no clue why this woman would think such a thing, or say it to her daughter.

It was number 3 that ultimately kept me from responding in the moment about my choice not to drink.  At the time, I assumed that we had somehow intersected during my active addiction, and I’m just not remembering.  Her daughter and mine have been in the same circle for the past 11 years, so who’s to say what I’m forgetting, especially in terms of the active addiction years?  In addition, my husband coached this team for many years, and in the early days, we did include alcohol during the season wrap-up party.  I was terrified to start a conversation about my not drinking and then have to respond to a “But what about that time…”

So I laughed again, and then I got away from her as soon as I politely could.

As I mentioned, I regretted this decision the moment I resumed my seat next to my husband on the bleachers.  Because now, not only did I have all sorts of awkward Mom/drinking events to anticipate, I have now tacitly agreed to participate!

When I shared this story with my husband, he was surprised by the decision I made to stay silent.  “What’s the big deal,” he says, “I tell people all the time, ‘No, I actually don’t drink’.”

This conversation did nothing to set my mind at ease.

I talked it over with some friends, received some great advice, weighed the pro’s and con’s of telling a half-truth (i.e. I don’t feel like drinking tonight, or that some medication prevents me from drinking).  At the end of it all I concluded that I will correct this feeling that I did wrong somehow by telling the simple truth when it comes up:

No, thanks, I don’t drink alcohol.

The first night we are there, we are on the boardwalk pretty late, and I’m thinking that I’m actually going to get away with not having this conversation at all.  Then one of the moms says, “I vote we leave the dads on the boardwalk with the kids so the moms can go back and drink!”  My husband and I look at each other, and his eyes convey what he is thinking:  say the words and I will go back with you.  And while I remain forever grateful for the support, I realized this issue dragged out way longer than it needed to already.  Time to put on the big girl panties and deal.

We head back, and drink mixing begins.

Organized Mom, immediately: “Josie, what can we make you?”

I say, “I’m going to run back to my room to grab a soda, because I actually don’t drink.”

Organized Mom (stops mixing and stares at me):  “Like, ever?”

Josie (in what I’m hoping is an even tone):  “Correct.”

Organized Mom:  (continues to stare as if she is processing a complex thought):   “But for how long?”

Josie:  “Umm, for a few years now.”

Organized Mom:  “Wow… just… wow.  I can’t even imagine!”

I leave to get my soda, but realize I did not pack plastic cups.  I walk back into their room to borrow one, and now they’re all looking at me like I’m an exotic creature.  I grab my cup, go back to my room and fill it with soda, and sit down with them.

All agree they can’t imagine not drinking.  All justify how much, how often, and the rules they have in place for their own alcoholic consumption.

I nod politely at each of these stories, in much the same way I nodded on the bleachers the night before.  After the subject seemed to exhaust itself, we moved on to other subjects.

And that was that.

I’d like to think that I’ve learned some lessons here.  And the primary one is that Benjamin Franklin had it right (or Thomas Jefferson, whoever said it first):

Today’s Miracle:

Today my daughter started her first day of work, ever.  I was as nervous as if I was working for the first time!

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