Well, friends, it happened. That cringe-worthy, uncomfortable scenario you imagine and try to plan for, but never really expect to encounter in real life.
Someone offered me a drink.
Maybe I would’ve handled it differently, had it been in an actual social setting — I don’t really do social settings, precisely so I can avoid this type of hellaciously awkward interaction — but it was at work. So I was caught completely off guard.
It’s hard to just brush it off when you’re cornered in an office and there are two hours left before you can leave.
You might remember me telling you about the Friday Happy Hour they have at my new place of employment. It wasn’t an issue at all in the first 40 days — and honestly, it still isn’t an “issue,” because deep inside, where it counts, I’m just fine! — but I suppose it was only a matter of time until I was forced to “out” myself as a non-partaker and deal with whatever discomfort sprung from the other person’s reaction. I imagine this is a rite of passage for every recovering alcoholic.
Boom! Friday around 3PM, a superior walked into my office and said, “What’s your beverage of choice?”
“Uhhhh,” I replied, stalling. I realized immediately what they meant. “Water?”
“No,” they laughed. “Alcoholic beverage.”
(That’s me freezing. What was my problem? Just say you don’t drink and leave it at that, Jen! Nothing else is any of their business! You don’t have to explain yourself! Who cares if they feel uncomfortable; that’s about them, not about you! Haven’t you been paying attention at meetings over the past 23 months?!?)
“Well, it used to be silver tequila, but I…how do I say this?…used up my drinking privileges,” I stammered. “This one time, in Florida, I had like five margaritas at Chili’s and crashed my car into a median on the highway on-ramp…”
All aboard the Anxious Oversharing Express! The runaway train is right on schedule!
Yep. I said too much. Again. 🤦🏼♀️ I threw all my “training” out the window. Of course, underneath my nervous chatter, there was fear. What would this person I’ve been trying to impress for the past month think of me now that they knew…I’m not “cool”?
Would they treat me differently, or hold it against me?
(Side note: I’m purposely omitting the play-by-play details of the rest of this conversation, which took a few strange turns before it mercifully ended, because my point in writing this is to examine my reaction and suss out how I can handle myself better in the future.)
Truth is, in that moment, I felt like a little kid, trying to win the approval of a parent or teacher. Or trying to fit in with a group of peers (something I’ve never, ever been good at.) Why is that, when in reality, I am a strong sober woman with no intention of succumbing to peer pressure or going along with the crowd, under any circumstances?
What’s with the split personality?
Of course, in my defense, it’s not easy to be a new person in an office setting. It takes time, and a lot of fumbling around and learning things the hard way, before you develop any kind of confidence in anything you’re doing. Navigating all the different human dynamics is maybe the hardest part of the transition.
Who am I kidding? It’s the hardest part of being human!
As a human who happens to be an alcoholic, I’m guaranteed to encounter a few awkward moments here and there along my journey through life. I can’t control when/where/if they happen, but I can control my reaction. No one can “make” me feel any type of way; I’m the ultimate arbiter of my emotions.
How I reacted to my first “confrontation” was just fine. It was a learning experience. Do I wish things like that wouldn’t happen at work? Sure! But I’m strong enough to handle it. And for my own sake, I would like to handle it better. I would like to be the same person on the outside as I am on the inside.
I’m deeply proud to be an addict in recovery, and seriously, who cares what anyone else thinks?
Now, that doesn’t mean thumping my chest and making a big show out of my sobriety in a workplace setting…but it also doesn’t mean over-explaining, or apologizing, in order to placate the other person.
Next time — and let’s not kid ourselves, there will be a next time — I’m going to follow the script, throw up a boundary, and leave the ball in their court.
“Oh, thanks so much, but I’m not feeling the alcohol. Can you seriously get me a water? Sparkling, preferably. La Croix, or San Pellegrino. The blood orange flavor. Or maybe black cherry pomegranate? With a slice of lemon…”
Just to be safe, I think I’ll run my script by my therapist at our appointment later today. At almost two years sober, I’m doing OK, deep down where it counts. But when it comes to dealing with other people, there’s no point in denying: I need professional help.