I thought I was so strong. Turns out, not so much.
This week, my colleagues and I went to New Orleans for a conference. I’d never been before, so I was eager to check out the sights and eat my way through the city. And, as someone who freely admits she has a bit of an addictive personality, imagine my delight when I discovered I was staying right across the street from a casino! Roulette tables, here I come!
But besides the gumbo and gambling, I was also looking forward to getting to know my colleagues better. I had the vague sense that one of them is in recovery (it turns out that he is), one of them I assumed to be a casual drinker (that appears to be the case), and the other one I’ve had drinks with before. Considering that I’ve grabbed some beers with her before, I had no idea how she would react upon learning that I’m in the middle of a self-imposed dry month.
Turns out she didn’t care at all — but I did. I was so jealous of the fact that she and my other colleague had drinks with dinner. I envied the fact that she had a beer at the jazz club. And I was downright irritated by the fact that she could freely enjoy all of the free cocktails she desired at the casino.
I wanted a drink. so. goddamn. badly.
But I abstained.
Up to this point, avoiding alcohol had been relatively easy. After the first couple of days, after I grew accustomed to having sparkling water instead of sparkling wine, I thought that remaining sober for the rest of this month would be a breeze. But last night, I realized how much I have used alcohol over the years to help forge and fortify new relationships. I like to joke that people become friends after getting drunk together once and best friends after getting drunk together twice.
I’ve now gone out with my colleagues in New Orleans twice, and I haven’t gotten drunk with them once. It may have required more of a conscious effort and voluntary vulnerability on my part, and things may not have gotten as silly as they otherwise would have, had I been drinking, but the outcome remains the same: We’re all friends. And although it wasn’t easy to hand the drink list back to the waiter or to avoid walking up to the bar at any given venue that we ventured into, I pulled it off. I’m not proud, per se—I think I would have been proud if it had been easy for me to say no. But I kept my commitment nevertheless, and I may have even learned a little bit about myself in the process, however humbling those realizations may have been.