Updated: Nov 19
Let's pretend for a moment I have not had an incredibly easy, peaceful, and fulfilling path through sobriety. Let's instead pretend my journey has been filled with struggle, second-guessing, endless day ones, and self-doubt. If we find ourselves in this lonely and isolated place of uncertainty, it is only natural to want to hide and avoid any unwanted or unwarranted rhetoric about our failures. We do not want to face why we continue to find ourselves trapped on the downward spiral of our lives. Why would we? I mean, our lives have been hard enough, right? Why subject ourselves to more torment, pain, and heartbreak? Unfortunately, the path through sobriety is not only filled with our own self-imposed obstacles. No, it is littered with obstacles thrown in our way by strangers, coworkers, friends, and even those who love us. They may not even know what they are doing, but they are doing it nonetheless.
Again, while my journey has not been difficult, many others have experienced great difficulties dealing with the "burden" of sobriety. We carry with us on our journey our own baggage full of history, experience, and beliefs. This baggage may help, or it may hinder our potential for success. It all depends on how we managed our failures, what we did with the knowledge gained from those lessons, and whether or not we allowed our character to grow as a result. If we are lucky, we gained some tools along the way to help us on our path of rediscovery. If we are not, then the road is simply that much longer. Either way, it is not only our own personal baggage we must contend with down this potentially long and lonely road. We must too deal with the baggage carried by everyone else around us. Whether they know it or not, many of the people we come into contact with every day are unconsciously and probably involuntarily perpetuating the lies of alcohol.
If we are not aware of the lies being thrown at us every day, the lies have the potential to slowly wear us down and destroy our resolve to fight for and obtain the goals we seek to achieve. One such lie came to my attention recently during a shopping trip to a major liquor store chain. It is no secret my partner and I enjoy non-alcoholic (NA) libations because we have both found comfort in the ability to enjoy them as we did their poisonous counterparts but without the obvious ramifications. Nevertheless, we were shopping for NA wine and beer when the store manager approached us and inquired if we needed any help. We said no thank you. He smiled and then gazed at the contents of our cart. With a slight hint of surprise he looked up at us and said "Oh, you are getting the stuff without the magic." We were both so taken aback neither of us responded. We just smiled and continued on our way.
Upon reflection of this encounter, I have had innumerable thoughts regarding the interaction between us and the manager of the liquor store. Granted, his job is to sell liquor, I get it. Regardless, his job also involves taking care of his customers, including those who are supporting his company by purchasing the NA versions of the product. His statement, "... without the magic" felt a little mocking to me. Why would you say such a thing to someone who is obviously choosing to make a healthier choice? Why not, in an effort to support your customers and your business say something like, "I see you have found our non-alcoholic section. Let me know if you have any questions." Doesn't that seem more supportive and inclusive?
The problem is not the store manager or his comment. The problem, as we know, is the pressure exerted on all of us by the society of alcohol. We are taught to believe this way. From as long as I can remember, alcohol has been touted as our savior, our escape, and as our friend. Unfortunately, it is none of those things and the longer we perpetuate this lie, the longer we, our friends, and our family will suffer as a consequence.
The Good Stuff
Here is another lie recently brought to my attention, this time by my partner. I was not present at the time. While on my last trip to California to visit my son (he is moving back home this week), my wife was home watching the election results and chatting with a friend. Her friend said he needed a drink. My partner responded she already had one, a non-alcoholic one. The friend responded, "Oh, go get the good stuff, I won't tell [your partner]." First of all, my partner quit drinking before I did. She is not sober because of or for me. Secondly, it is no secret we have quit drinking together and have consistently talked about the joys we have found in our decision. Why? Why would you encourage someone, who has consciously and happily made a choice not to drink, to go get a drink? If I sound angry, I promise you I am not. I understand too well the motivations behind such comments. I am, however, appalled.
The motivation behind such a misguided comment is similar to what I spoke of earlier. It is not her friend's fault to believe the way he does. Until we are privy to the truth, alcohol actually seems quite harmless. Why not tell your friend to go get a drink? It's only one drink, after all. What could it hurt? The reason we do not see the voracious harm in alcohol is that society does not warn people away from it like it does drugs or nicotine. Pay attention to the disclaimers at the beginning of the movies you watch. They warn us about smoking, sex, language, drugs, etc... They never warn us about alcohol use, ever. Why is that? It is a scientifically proven fact alcohol is one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs on the planet. How has it so effectively claimed asylum from the negative discourse it so justly deserves? While this is an entirely different blog or book, it is important to ask yourself the question. Why do we not warn people about the toxic and damaging effects of alcohol? The society of alcohol does not want us to quit drinking.
Stop Perpetuating the Lie
Regardless of where you fall on the alcohol vs no alcohol line, we are all intelligent enough and kind enough to know better than to perpetuate the lies of alcohol, especially to those who are attempting to find and see the truth. It's a choice. If you voluntarily choose to imbibe, that is your right and no one is trying to take that away from you. I am asking, however, that we all allow ourselves to be aware of those around us who may be attempting to choose differently. There is no magic in alcohol; there is, however, poison in it. The "good" stuff, by definition, is that which is morally right or sound. Alcohol does not fall in that realm on any level. It is not our savior, it does not help us escape, and it is not our friend. Stop pretending it is, and stop perpetuating the lie.
Don't be afraid to stand up for yourselves too. In hindsight, I wish I would have had the wherewithal to respond differently to the store manager. I would have like to have said, "Excuse me, sir. Is it not apparent to you that we have chosen to avoid the 'magic' as you say? If you would like our continued business, I would suggest learning more about the growing demographic of non-alcoholic drinkers to whom you might be able to cater." My partner is apparently much nicer than me as well. To her friend, I would have simply replied, "Did you just encourage someone who voluntarily quit drinking to have a drink? What is wrong with you?"
Support does not only come from those in our bubble. We all need to be more aware of those around us. We all need to reach out, whether we understand our brother's and sisters' decisions to grow and change or not, and offer support. We all need to be sensitive to the growing needs of a population of people who have been duped into believing one of the biggest and most outrageous lies of our time. The sober curious movement is growing. People are beginning to see the truth. It is all of our jobs to not only help but also to encourage each other to see the truth and find our way back to living well.