A friend recently asked, in a comment to a post, how to treat her niece who had been dis-invited from a family party because there would be drinking. She was invited one minute, and not the next. Now, that may seem a little harsh, but when the full context of why this happens is considered, it may not be all that terrible. It happened to me, as many as fifteen-ish years into sobriety and I managed to live through it, barely. My tongue is firmly in cheek…
My friends, this gets a little tricky, dealing with your recovering alcoholic or addict. First, you’re so used to living in fear your loved one will relapse, because they’ve done that so many times, and blamed you/others for it, that your initial reaction is to treat them with kid gloves. I’m not a particular fan of that approach, but I absolutely understand it. I can only imagine the heartache one must go through just to get to that point, then to be afraid that any little thing can send the person they care about so much out the door to the nearest liquor store…
We can’t hide from alcohol, though. Because it’s everywhere. At best, we can avoid the liquor aisle at the grocery store, but it’s so pervasive, it’s simply inescapable. And because it is inescapable, we have to be prepared to live in that world. Does that mean we go to a family party, even a holiday party, if there’s going to be drinking?
Yes. And No.
Recovery is “a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our [program]”. What that means for me is I have to honestly assess where I’m at on a daily basis when it comes to whether or not I should go to a particular event when I know there will be drinking. Some days I can handle it, others I can’t – and when I can’t, I don’t.
There’s more, though. How about those instances where we feel we’re on solid ground, but we find out while we’re there, the ground looked good but it was really quicksand? What then? Well, if we have a desire to stay sober, we have a reliable way out of the situation ready at a moment’s notice. For instance, we park the car where it can’t be parked in, even if it means having to walk a distance to the party. Nothing can be in the way of making a hasty retreat should the need arise. Finally, find a meeting nearby (before you even go to the event) and/or have your sponsor’s number at the ready should you need to be brought back from temptation.
As for relatives, we don’t treat our recovering folk as though they’re damaged goods, even though they often are. Once alcoholics have found the path and have a firm desire to stay on it, they can usually handle a holiday party with the family. If you’re concerned, ask them about their program/spiritual condition. Are they on solid ground? How about their way out? Do they have an escape plan if they feel squirrely? How about someone to talk to? Did they look up a local meeting just in case? If you’re not going to be drinking – and only if you’re not going to be drinking anything, let your loved one know you’re there if they need someone to talk to during the party. If you’re going to have a beer or ten, don’t offer.
One final note to the recovering person; often, when we aren’t invited to these functions, it’s not because people are really nervous about whether we’ll drink or not. That’s just a clever, easy excuse. A manipulation. Often, the real reason we aren’t invited along is because we’re a buzzkill. We are shining examples of what happens when shit goes sideways due to a career of drinking too much. Most people don’t want a constant reminder of how f***ed life can get staring them right in the face while they’re in the process of drinking too much.
I’ve been an un-invited co-conspirator more than once, and for exactly that reason. It bummed my wife out, but I looked at it as a badge of honor; I am a buzzkill, because I am what happens when shit goes sideways.
I’m also a buzzkill because I am a constant reminder that complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol works. I am a reminder for heavy drinkers that their days are numbered… and who would want to drink around that?!
I wouldn’t have.