Incredibly aware that our days outside are limited by the ups and downs of prairie weather, Kevin and I always choose outside. This particular warm and windy day we ended up at Rosie’s on River, a new destination for us. I had a cider and he had a couple of craft beers.
I offered to drive if he wanted another. He accepted, and when the server came by I ordered another craft beer and I asked for something that looks like a cocktail but has no alcohol.
“I can definitely do that.” She gave a smile. At least I think it was a smile—her eyes crinkled—is this another new normal? We won’t refer to a smile with a curl of her lip but a crinkled of her eyes because the service industry is now masked? That’s another story and I said I would only do one Covid post. Rant. Over.
She returned with the beer and a pretty stem-less glass filled with ice and liquid the color of unpasteurized honey. It was garnished and looked just like a cocktail—and it tasted so good. Not too sweet. Refreshing.
“I order this for myself or take something similar to socials or parties and no one even questions me.” I was curious. Why would she worry about being questioned? Why not just take a drink to a party? Two sips later she returned. “How do you like it?” She asked me. “Delicious. Thank you.”
Curiosity got the better of me
“May I ask a question?”
“You don’t drink?”
“Is there a reason?”
At this point she pulled down her mask. She was so pretty. Young, fair, with baby fat full lips and very blue eyes. “It’s funny. Alcohol is the only addiction you have to justify not doing.” It was a simple statement.
The metaphorical microphone hits the floor. She’s right.
Person A: Do you smoke. Person B: Gross, no.
Person A: Hey do you gamble. Person B: What a waste of time and money.
Person A: Porn? Person B: Eww.
Person A: Drugs? Person B: Ah, hell no.
Person A: Drink? Person B: No thanks. Person A: Oh? Why not? Pregnant? Recovered alcoholic? Driving? Don’t like the taste? Daddy issues? Training for Ironman? What’s wrong with you?
Although the above is a bit of an exaggeration she’s 100% right. Alcohol is the one addiction that we need to justify to others when we choose NOT to partake. I never really thought of that until she pointed it out. And there I was asking her why she didn’t drink. Guilty.
“I’m not too busy if you want to hear why?”
“I’m from small town Saskatchewan. Generally there’s nothing to do there. Partying is a thing and well almost everyone in my age group started drinking at thirteen years old. (THIRTEEN). And it went on from there. It became the way I was social—and probably everyone else. I knew I wanted more from life as I got older. I knew that I was always making really bad decisions while I was drinking and well it wasted a lot of my life. I would start a week with all these hopes to get things done but then the weekend would come. I would drink Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday. I would spend Monday and Tuesday hung over, tired, generally miserable. I’d have a day or two to do something. And then the weekend would come again. This happened week after week. I finally saw it. I saw how much of my life I was wasting. I’m 28 now. I realized I don’t want to waste my whole life getting drunk and then sobering up. So, I have chosen not to drink anymore—at all. It’s been four months. It’s not a long time but it was easier than I thought and I don’t want to drink at all. I can have these drinks and I’m just fine.”
“Good for you. It’s an excellent choice.” I sang her praises and told her to keep on.
She thanked me. Kevin pointed out that there was an irony that she was working in a bar. I agreed however if she’s really got control of it, it shouldn’t matter where she works.
A brief history of drinking
If you’re the sober one you’re considered a buzz kill.
I’ve been with my share of addicts. They can be incredibly charming people. With their drinking came my sobriety. There was so little control in those situations and I couldn’t give in to the sloppiness and the way it changed who they were. I got tired of driving people around at 3:00 am after the bar closed. People would argue that they were being responsible by having a sober ride home but I would say that the responsible thing to do would be to stay sober and drive yourself home. Out of goodness I would drag my tired self around town at 4:00 am cruising the city dropping one drunk ding dong after another where they needed to go. I don’t do that anymore. I attended six Al-anon meetings to confirm that I wasn’t co-dependent just not great at boundaries. I’m really good now though.
Do I drink? Yes. I do. Have I been drunk? Yes, I have. Have I wasted some time recovering? Yeah, sadly. However I am also incredibly lucky in that alcohol is irrelevant to how I interact with people. I do not medicate my social angst when I’m out. I just tackle that or step back if it’s not the day to be super social.
Teaching the lessons
I tell students the only way to know for sure if you’re predisposed to addiction is to try it. But, this is a terrible idea. It’s like the Russian Roulette of substance abuse. You try it. It makes no difference. Cool. You try it and you suddenly feel like you can fly. You’re confident. You’re funny. You’re the life of the party and then you want to do it again and again.
I have been to parties—with ADULTS—where they sat awkwardly with a case of beer between their legs, quietly chatting with each other, shy, obviously uncomfortable. Then the shots come out and all of a sudden people are yelling, hooting, hollering, laughing and someone runs by the living room mooning the rest of us. Two idiots start wrestling like toddlers. The shift was understatedly weird—and not cool.
I challenged a group of kids in my early years (when I was a bolder teacher than I am now) to not drink one of the two nights of the weekend and report back. Of a class of 25 students all but four students took part in the experiment. They came back with opinions that the party was lame, the people were annoying, and they felt a desire to play catch up.
I also had three very pretty graduates come back and tell me about how fun Calgary is and that they’d go out drink and meet boys every weekend. I challenged them similarly. “Go out. Don’t drink. When you come back to Regina, let me know how that went.”
Sure enough a few weeks later they came back and it was hilarious.
“Ms. C, it was so boring and lame! And guess what? There wasn’t one good looking guy in the bar.” We laughed knowing the old saying drink ‘til he’s cute.
“Seriously, it’s the devil’s drink” said one sweet girl.
Socializing and parties
When you start stretching your social muscle if you tie it to drinking you are pretty much screwing yourself in the future because you are creating a situation where you are unable to socialize in an authentic way. You find that the party is no fun if you don’t have a drink or two. So my question is why are you going to the party? Who’s at the party? Why is everyone wrought with insecurity that they cannot have fun without some liquor? Aren’t they friends?
When we were little
Remember when we were little kids and we went to a birthday party? Kids were bouncing off the walls—having fun, and the shy kids, well, they eventually stepped into the party to their level of comfort. However, they were the minority. My recollection of children’s parties is general crazy colorful mayhem. No booze. Just fun.
We lose that wild abandon as we get older. I believe we risk a lot for the sake of fear— that standing present as our true selves, we may be judged.
I judged this server. My judgment on her was one of courage and fortitude of spirit to have enough self-reflection to improve her life and stop wasting moments of it. I wish her the best and hope she keeps walking the walk, alcohol free—because ultimately it’s the better choice.
Life in general
Do I drink? Yes. Is it tasty? Yes. Is it irrelevant? Yes. All the incredible things I have done have not included alcohol. That’s the end of that statement.