I went to church this morning with my friend Caroline. Though it’s the first time I’ve been to church in several months, the real story is what happened afterward. Now, Caroline and I are work friends. She’s in a different department than I am, so I don’t get to see her all that often. We used to get together pretty often, and no matter what we did it always started or ended with drinks (and sometimes both).
After church today Caroline and I went to brunch. I’ve always LOVED brunch–a great way to start a Sunday, a built-in excuse to have a couple mimosas and no one bats an eye. Today I obviously didn’t partake, and to my surprise neither did Caroline. The brunch went along swimmingly, lots of laughs, lots of avoiding talking about work. And then she asked how I’m doing.
D: “I’m doing really well, actually.”
C: “Oh, really well?”
D: “Well, yeah, I guess so to be honest. I’ve been feeling great lately. I’m thinking about maybe doing a retreat towards the end of November. You know, get off the grid, enjoy some solitude. Do you have any suggestions for a place I can go?”
C: “A retreat, eh? What’s going on?”
At this point I was tempted to act nonchalant and just say something about needing a break from work or something equally innocuous. Instead…
D: “Well, I recently stopped drinking.”
I gushed, much to my surprise. I told her about the reasons I stopped drinking. I told her about the last work gathering that I went to where I drank so much wine that I struggled to get home, and that when I finally did get home I drank so much whiskey that I blacked out. My dad called me that night, and I was too drunk to answer the phone. I told her how embarrassing it was to wake up with vomit on my front porch, in my bathroom, and in my bedroom and not remember how it got there. I told her how awful I felt that I couldn’t be present when my dad called. I told her that I’ve been to a couple AA meetings, and I told her about the great community I’ve found in the blog world.
C: “You know, you could have died. Either driving home or choking in bed or something.”
D: “I know. The sad thing is that this was becoming normal for me. Maybe not the blacking out part, but the uncontrolled drinking part for sure. I just realized that my drinking was getting worse and that it was time to stop while I still had the chance.”
And then the greatest (and most unexpected) thing happened.
C: “Well, I haven’t told anyone this, but I stopped drinking too. I’ve been sober for several weeks now.”
She then went on to tell me her story, and how hard it’s been, and how great it’s been not to drink. She told me that she’s been hesitant to hang out with me recently because her own journey to sobriety has been tenuous, and she was concerned that getting together with me would trigger her to drink.
We had a real conversation about our individual struggles, each of our families’ issues around drinking, and how hard it can be to work in a place where seemingly every social event involves booze. As we walked out of brunch we made a vow to be there for each other–even through relapse, God forbid–and to change our friendship from merely “drinking buddies” to just plain ol’ buddies.
I don’t know why I told her about my sobriety, but I’m so glad I did. Today I feel such gratitude for having a flesh-and-bone compatriot on this journey. And I feel such gratitude to be able to have all of you folks to share it with as well. People make the journey not only doable, but worthwhile as well.
Art: Sunrise, Roy Lichtenstein
- Coaching at 8 days sober. (soberidentity.com)