Win times two

I had an incredible experience last night, and since it also relates to (not) drinking, I thought I might share it with y’all.

As I mentioned here before, I wrote a screenplay. This was a project I set for myself last year, because while I’ve always loved to write I had never finished a long work.

I honestly didn’t really know what I was going to do with it, beyond that. Of course I would love to see my work produced, but what are the chances of that? That is still true, but through a friend of a friend, last night I was able to hear a read-through of my entire screenplay, with real actors. The friend of a friend, D, is an actress is involved with a theater workshop company, and, she told me, loves to help writers. So she read the script, invited some actor friends, cast the parts, and hosted the read-through at her house. Wow!

I’m still on cloud nine. Of course none of this would have happened when I was drinking. I would never have written the screenplay, never would have had the energy or mental space. I would still be locked in my prison of surviving from day to day – and thinking I couldn’t do even that without my liquid friend.

The other, smaller win, was that everyone at the read-through last night was drinking, and I didn’t feel one pang. I even brought beer, because I asked D what I could bring and that’s what she said. Later, D made a joke about me drinking soda, saying if she were hearing her own work she’d have been hitting the wine bottle, and I didn’t feel self-conscious. I joked back that I didn’t want to forget a single moment of this. Also, there is a scene in my screenplay where some characters are drinking wine, and one of the actors got up and said (to much laughter) that was his cue to bring out another bottle. I am just amazed that I was able to laugh along with these jokes and not be bothered.

Now THIS is a high!


Work trip

Last week I went on a business trip, a national meeting for the company I work for.  These are people who drink, either a little or a lot — but mostly a lot.

Three years ago, at a similar meeting, I finished off a boozy evening doing shots of scotch with the president of the company, the vice president of the company, and one of the other local directors (like me).

The next day the other three seemed just fine.   I was so hung over and sleep deprived, shaking and queasy, and of course I had to give a presentation.

I swore then that I would never drink again …

… that is, not that much.

… not that much with the people I work with.

…  not that much with the people I work with, at a national meeting.

… well, at least not when I have a presentation the next day.


Actually, I did learn my lesson about trading shots with my co-workers, so that was something.

The meeting last week was the first meeting since I gave up drinking, and I was really nervous about it.  There is a lot of evening socializing at these meetings, and lots of good-natured pressure to drink more.  (“Let me buy you a drink!”  “Shots all around!” “Let’s get bottles of wine/pitchers of beer for the table!”)  So I decided a white lie was in order.  I said I was taking medication that didn’t mix with alcohol.

The last night of the meeting, there were plans to meet at the bar across the street from the hotel.  I begged off because I had to call my daughters to say goodnight, but then I got three different texts from three different people asking me to come.  So after my good night call, I went.

I got there about 10:30, and everyone was jolly and loquacious.  I was greeted with enthusiasm.  I ordered a Diet Coke, and watched with a fair degree of awe how much alcohol was consumed over the next hour.  The president of the company (the one I had done shots with three years before) was frankly hammered.   I could not have asked for a better deterrent to ordering a drink myself.  When the bill came, it was $250!  For less than ten people!

It was the first bar I’ve been to since I quit.  I did have fun.  But I did feel like I was missing something, and, at times, I actually felt bored.



Addiction circle

I was at a Passover Seder last night, and as part of the ritual, we had to go around the table and talk about a change we’ve made in the last year.  When it was my turn, I said that I stopped drinking alcohol this year.  Smiles and nods all around.

My husband was next.  He said, “I stopped drinking coffee this year.”

Audible gasps — I kid you not.  Someone murmured, “Oh, that’s tough.”  They started peppering my husband with questions:  what made him decide to do it?  Did he have withdrawal symptoms?  Did he drink tea instead?  What kind of tea?

Addiction:  it comes in many forms. 🙂

Wine, wine everywhere, and nary a drop to drink

I had an awkward non-drinking moment last weekend.  We had another family over for dinner on Saturday, one of those last minute “Let’s get the kids together and order pizza” occasions.

The wife in this family, J, was one of the few people outside my closest circle that I told about The Incident when it happened.  This isn’t because I wanted to, though she is a very nice person — it was because her daughter and mine are best friends, and my daughter had talked about it with hers.  This was something like, “My mommy got stabbed with a fork and had to go the hospital!”, no mention of drinking, but I figured her daughter might pass it on to J so I sent her an email.  I kept it as simple as possible and also said I wasn’t going to drink anymore “for the forseeable future.”  She sent me a nice reply, saying she was glad I was okay and that things like his can be a wake-up call before something really bad happens.  She at the time wasn’t drinking either, for weight loss, and we had a couple of conversations about it over the next few weeks.

I don’t know if any of you do this, but I have a catalog in my head of all my friends and acquaintances, sorted into different categories: who knows I quit drinking, who doesn’t; and then the shorter list of who knows why I quit drinking, who doesn’t.  It helps me to know what to expect on social occasions.  Since I had put J in the category of knowing I quit drinking AND why, I wasn’t expecting to deal with the “alcohol offer” and what to say.

Since we were ordering the pizza, J offered to bring dessert, and she did — along with a bottle of wine.  My husband has never been a wine drinker — he feels he has a mild allergic reaction to it.  Her husband hadn’t arrived yet (he was coming separately).  I, of course, am not drinking.  So I had an awkward hostess-moment of figuring out whether to open the wine and pour a glass only for her, or not open the wine at all, or what.  This awkwardness wasn’t helped by wolfie in my brain saying, c’mon, there’s got to be a way to drink some of that without your husband noticing!  Don’t you see it’s WINE! WINE!!  You love wine!

It’s always a shock to us humans when we realize that what is BIG and IMPORTANT to us registers as a mere blip in the lives of others, isn’t it?  There was no reason for her to remember an incident from my life that happened nearly a year ago, or even if she did remember it, to know that my comment about not drinking “for the forseeable future” was still in effect.  Even then, there was no reason for her to have ever noticed that my husband never drinks wine.

Oh, so what did I do?  I said thank you.  I set the bottle aside and said unless she wanted some now, I’d open it later, when we ate dinner.  Then, I delegated all drinks to my husband. 🙂


I think it’s a good sign that I’m starting to lose track of what day I’m on.

Today is day 21.  Three weeks.

I had the day off from work on Friday, and a friend came over and we watched the first three episodes of Pride & Prejudice — the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth version.  I had seen it before, but he hadn’t, and he had just read the novel last year and then watched the Kiera Knightly adaptation.  I like that one too, but I think the BBC/A&E version is more true to the spirit of Jane Austen — it’s more satirical, sharper in its depiction of the “comic relief” characters like Mr. Collins and Mrs. Bennett.  The Keira Knightly version humanized these characters, made them more sympathetic and likable.  This is normally a good thing, but it served to reduce the feeling of isolation for Jane and Elizabeth, the loneliness of being the only “normal” people in their sphere.  I think this is important, because that loneliness serves as a proxy for the true desperation of their situation — the fact that they are two “gentlewomen” with no dowries and low connections and almost zero prospect of marrying well.  And it makes their determination not to marry for material considerations truly honorable and admirable.

Can you tell I was an English major? 🙂

Anyway, this friend, J, was also my only drinking buddy.  Not that I never drank with any other friends, but with him I was able to reveal how much I drank and how I used alcohol to cope — and this is because he was doing the same thing.  A few years ago he and his boyfriend of ten years broke up, and in the wake of that his drinking picked up considerably.   Recently, in our once-monthly happy hour get togethers we were splitting a bottle of wine and talking about how we wanted to cut down on our drinking.

J is glad for me that I quit drinking — in fact he’s excited because now when he and I hang out it will automatically make that a “non drinking” day for him.  Yes, he’s still trying to “cut down,” and it’s not for me to say whether that will succeed or not.  I just know that for me, that’s not an option.  I tried that too many times, and succeeded for awhile each time, until I got complacent and my drinking crept up again.

So, J was really good to talk to.  Because he knew about my drinking before (and because of his own experiences), he totally “got it” why I want to stop.  I was able to tell him about the day without feeling ashamed, and we were even able to laugh about it together.  And we’ll still meet for happy hour once a month — for coffee.

This blog post is brought to you by Cascade Ice

We had a BBQ on Saturday (day 13).  In preparation, besides the usual mad dash to clean up the house, we stocked up on non-alcoholic beverages.  I may have gone a little overboard.  This is what we had in our fridge:

1.  Perrier, plain

2.  Perrier, grapefruit flavor

3.  Pellegrino, blood orange flavor

4.  Diet Coke

5.  Cascade Ice

Cascade Ice is something we’ve always had plenty of in our fridge.  My husband drinks it like it’s going out of style.  My daughters like it because it comes in 80 bajillion flavors which they love sampling like a wine tasting.  They drink about a quarter of the bottle and then hubby or I will finish it off.  I am not quite as enthusiastic as the rest of my family because I find the flavors too sweet, but for a party it seemed appropriate.  So when I was buying my Perrier and Pellegrino, a few days before the party, I also bought some Cascade Ice.  My husband, running last minute errands with my daughter, found that the Cascade Ice makers have added another bajillion flavors to the 80 bajillion they already have.  Peach Nectarine … Crisp Apple … who could resist?

We also had beer, which was the only alcohol my husband didn’t dump out on the day.  I hate beer, and once we decided to have this BBQ, we decided it would be a good chance to get rid of it.  My husband promised we would send any leftovers home with our guests.   At the last minute (along with all the Cascade Ice), my husband also bought a bottle of wine because … well, because he always has a last minute panic when we host a party or dinner about not having “enough” — enough food, enough beverages.  Which he blames on the “Jewish mother” in him (yes, hubby is Jewish).  He bought a cabernet because, he said, he noticed I never drank cabernet.  What a sweetie, I didn’t tell him if I was going to have a drink that cabernet would have gone down just fine.

Our first guests arrived, a family with kids about our age.  They brought some veggie appetizers, a six-pack of beer, and some Cascade Ice.  We laughed and stuffed it in the fridge, which was starting to look like a beverage display case at the supermarket.  My brother and his wife arrived.  Then another family, who we haven’t seen for awhile, who brought coleslaw (flavored with ginger, yum!) and cornbread (double yum), a six pack of beer, and … yup, more Cascade Ice.  It seems the wife has been doing a weight loss program and had severely cut back on her drinking because of it.  She brought the Cascade Ice because she wanted to be sure to have something to drink.

Well, need I say that I felt completely comfortable not drinking at the party?  About half the people at the party knew about “the incident” and the fact that I have given up drinking.  And the other half … well, I’m starting to get comfortable with not keeping this as some big secret.   The people who do know aren’t blabbermouth types (my brother is so discreet he hadn’t even told his wife), but I no longer feel quite so paranoid about the story coming out.  I don’t need to swear people to secrecy.  Over the past two weeks, I’ve been able to come up with a shorthand version of events, essentially that yes, I drank a little too much and fell on a fork and had to go to the hospital for a tetanus shot.  The implication is that it was the wound, and the tetanus shot, that necessitated the hospital visit.  No need to mention throwing up, passing out, and blood alcohol levels of .275.  It’s only out of an abundance of caution and responsibility (ha!) that I’ve given up drinking.  But, this didn’t come up at all at our party.  I drank my Pellegrino, my Perrier, and tried the new Crisp Apple flavor of Cascade Ice.  It tastes just like Sparkling Cider, and what could be more festive than that?

So cheers.  Happy Memorial Day.  Cascade Ices all around!

Dinner Party

Yesterday was day 7 for me being sober.

I encountered — and cleared — a hurdle:  my first dinner party.

My heart was actually pounding on the way over.  I wasn’t worried as much about being tempted (though I was worried about that too), as in how to navigate the social waters.  Which is stupid.  Was I expecting our hosts to say “Not drinking?  Get out of my house!”  Of course they wouldn’t, and they didn’t.

But, but, but …

My seven year old daughter watched the American Girl: Felicity movie this weekend.  This is by the makers of the American Girl dolls, and is set in 1775.  One scene involves Felicity being taught to be a proper lady and how to take tea.  When she refuses a biscuit, her chaperone lectures her that taking the biscuit is not about the biscuit, but about accepting your hostess’s hospitality.  In other words, you need to take it whether you want it or not.

What is offering alcohol but the grown-up version of this?  When we have a dinner party, what to do we do when our guests arrive?  We take their coats, ask how they are, and then offer alcoholic drinks.  When we offer beer and wine to our guests, we are saying, “I am welcoming you to my home.  I want to you to feel comfortable and have a good time.” And when our guests accept, they are saying, “We accept your hospitality.  We are here to have a good time in your home.”  Isn’t there always a slight  — very, very slight — chill when people say “Oh, I’ll just have water”?

One tip I read this week on a sobriety blog was always to bring a non-alcoholic drink with you to a dinner party.  Not just one, but a six pack of something fancy, like Pellegrino, or a bottle of sparkling cider.  This is a sober person’s equivalent of the six pack of beer or the bottle of wine that guests often bring as a hostess gift.  It’s win/win/win because a) it’s a gift, always a nice gesture, b) it gives you something non-alcoholic to drink, and c) it’s special, so it signals “I’m here to have a good time.”

So that’s what I did.  We brought a six pack of orange Pellegrino.  When my hostess offered me wine, I pretended to hesitate and then said “Oh, maybe I’ll just have one of these Pellegrinos for now.”  My husband hemmed and hawed before settling on water, and told me afterwards that he almost felt like he should drink because I wasn’t!

Then later, before dinner, my hostess was getting out the wine glasses and asked me again if I wanted wine.  I said, “Maybe just some water.”  My husband was out the room so she asked me I thought he would want some.  Again I said, “Oh, probably just water for him too.”  Then I laughed a little and said, “We’re so boring.”  Maybe it’s silly that I felt the need to be self-deprecating, but I felt better for saying it.

Anyway, I had a wonderful time.  I drank my Pellegrino while my hosts had beer and wine. We ate and talked and laughed, and when my hostess offered tea or coffee after dinner, I was able to happily accept.