For TueNight.com by Susan Linney
Recently, a friend of mine, who was a prominent figure during my drinking days (but not an alcoholic himself), asked me: "So, like, what are we gonna do when we go out now? Do we always have to go get coffee?"
But it's actually a very fair question, as I'm sure it's hard for my friends, who all know I'm now sober but who also know that my favorite pastime -- for many, many years -- was drinking.
Happy hour? Check. Karaoke 2-for-1 night? I'm there. Super Bowl party? You're goddamn right (even though I hate football). And so on and so forth.
When I first got out of my third rehab in April 2012, I stayed on the down low for quite a while. Because at that point, I couldn't be around alcohol at all. I literally did not trust my arms; I feared they might come to life on their own, grab the first open bottle they saw and slam it to my lips.
Then I got to the point where I knew I could control my arms, but was miserable around booze -- jealous, angry, and overcome with obsession anytime I smelled a glass of red wine or saw a beautiful martini with big fat olives floating around in the glass.
So I stayed on the DL. I was patient. That's what people told me to do, and to my utter amazement, it worked. Because eventually, my obsession was lifted, as they say in AA, and I began to be able to enjoy myself at dinners or parties despite the fact that alcohol was all around me.
I also started to notice how little drinking mattered to some people, which was mind-boggling to me. WTF? I never realized that some (actually MOST) people could take it or leave it, that it wasn't integral to having a good time. Because when I was active, nothing was fun unless drinking was included in the mix.
So it took me a while to come out of my safety shell and start to enjoy life as a sober person. To see people again, in the "going out" kind of way. No wonder my friends are confused. They probably have no clue what the hell to do with me. Or what's appropriate and/or safe to say around me. "Can I order a drink when Susan and I have dinner?" "Can Susan be in a bar?" "Should I clear out my liquor cabinet before Susan comes over?" "Am I allowed to ever ask her these things?"
Yes, you are absolutely, 100 percent allowed to ask, and I welcome it. Even my amazing co-workers struggled at first with how to act/what to say around me when it came to alcohol. I mean, I was writing a column about being an alcoholic, I don't blame them -- it's a tricky (and often uncomfortable) thing to bring up.
So, my friends, here are some answers for you, as of this date (because it truly is a one-day-at-a-time thing for me, so set in stone these are not). Plus, it's in a simple-to-follow, top-five format. Questions, comments and even snarky remarks (as long as they're funny) are wholly encouraged!
1. Yes, I can go to bars now. I quite like them, in fact, especially because I usually get free refills of Diet Coke. I don't make it a practice to go to a bar if the sole purpose for going is to drink, but if there's a birthday party or a going-away extravaganza, I'm there. I'm also there if you don't feel like getting a coffee and just want a place to sit and chill and talk. You enjoy your beer, I'll enjoy my soda. However, once the frat boys start to play beer pong, or the flaming tequila shots start coming out (all dependent upon venue, of course), I've gotta go. And all I need is for you to understand that this could happen at any time (though usually it's during the 11 p.m. - 12 a.m. timeframe, I've learned).
2. Yes, you can have a drink in my home. I want people to have fun and feel relaxed when they're invited over to my apartment. If you're a normal social drinker, alcohol is a fun and very pleasant thing to enjoy while playing Beatles Rock Band or watching the Academy Awards. So if we say BYOB on our invite, we mean it. If you want to drink (and you might -- for some people, playing the Wii guitar goes a lot smoother after a few cocktails), then BYOB! We only ask that you take any leftovers home with you. Who knows -- you may even end up going home with a lovely unopened bottle of wine. Because what I HAVE learned is that I can't have alcohol in my house under any other circumstance. I can't risk ever being alone with it.
3. No, I can't bring a bottle of wine or booze over to your party. I haven't been in a liquor store since Dec. 1, 2011. I know this is the exact date because when my husband informed me I was being sent off to rehab the next day, I didn't put up a fight, but I did buy the biggest bottle of Svedka on the shelves in order to obliterate the reality of what was happening to me.
But now, I can't imagine what it would be like to set foot in Montague Wine & Spirits. I mean, think about it -- it's a store FILLED the very thing that could and almost did kill me. But that thing is placed in such pretty bottles, put in such lovely arrangements, and advertised in the most cleverest of ways. Not to mention that there's always a free tasting, with small cups of my personal poison sitting out on a table, whispering at me to take a little sip. That's too big of a minefield for me to manage right now. So while I'm happy to bring a delicious dessert or a six-pack of Reed's Ginger Brew to your gathering, spirits I simply cannot.
4. Yes, you can drink your wine during our TueNight Google Hangout editorial meetings. (I'm looking at you, Adrianna and Margit!) No need to hide it behind a "prop." I can still see it. And I honestly don't care. It's 8:30 at night, and we've all had long days, and we're talking about the editorial calendar and content strategy -- you SHOULD be drinking! I beg of you to drink! I'm getting loopy on Diet Coke in my own way, believe me. Cheers, you guys! It's all good.
5. Yes, you can ask me anything about my alcoholism. I may not able to answer your question(s), but I'll try my best. Obviously, I'm very open about it, and I want people to understand what this God-awful illness is all about (from my perspective, anyway). I also believe that it's so terribly misunderstood, so I'm happy to share the experiences I've had, the things I can or cannot do, the information I've learned as a result of three rehabs that were filled with educational classes. That's what I love the most about writing this column. Addiction is such an insidious disease, and the more people know about it -- especially the fact that it plays tricks on your mind, that it's not just about what it does to your body -- the better, I believe. So ask away!
In the meantime, I'll keep on writing.
TueNight is a weekly online publication for women to share where they've been and explore where they want to go next. We are you, part two. www.tuenight.com
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.