AA: Alcoholics Aloud

The ritzy city of Bellevue used to have a dingy old AA meeting site located on the shady side of 6th. The room was in a church(?) and reeked of cigarette smoke from addicts loosing one addiction only to take up another. I went once when I was 19 with a boyfriend – he was the one with the problem, trust me. Everyone sat in a circle, there was a piano off to the left and coffee to the right. The group went around and said their name with the anticipated, “… and I’m an alcoholic.” When it was my turn, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t drink, like I really DIDN’T drink. I was there because my stupid boyfriend had to go. He said his name “Bim Ellen and I’m an alcoholic”. Now I was next…. shit.

:a-hem!:

 Everyone stared at me and I didn’t say anything. Instead, I turned to my left and gave a your-turn look to my alcoholic seat mate. The group collectively lamented about hurting loved ones, getting in trouble with the law, and stealing the most obscene items during blackouts. I struggled listening to how alcohol had killed people, ruined lives and cost some of them everything. A few cried, others sipped coffee and the majority sucked their cigarettes down to butts in seconds. They were safe here, and I felt like a spy.

The other day, I offered a guy a delicious drink at a party. We were surrounded by other party attendees on a sunny day in Boston with adult beverages a plenty! Upon my offer, instead of pleasantly saying no like a couple of others had, he said,

“I’m an alcoholic.”

I’ve heard people refuse booze during Sunday brunch because they drank too much the previous night and their excuse is a flubbed, “I’m an alcoholic” as a joke. I assumed this guy was one of those folks.

“That’s cool, I don’t judge,” I said with a smile and tried once again to hand him a beverage.

“I don’t care if you do judge me.”

:creek, creek, creek: We stared at each other and my rusty wheels started turning. Oh! You are a real alcoholic! Shoot… why not just politely say no then? What’s with the confession? Then I remembered my old ex-boyfriend and few other AA people I’ve interacted with recently. It’s like a painful, unexpected break up: YOU CAN’T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. The issue becomes everyone else’s problem to such a level that things quickly get uncomfortable – like my experience. When information is offered that you weren’t asking for or even pertained to you in the first place, what’s the right response?

Wine Riot 2009

“Oh, good for you!”…. “Oh, I’m sorry.”….. “Oh, that’s nice.”…. “Oh YEAH you are!” What!? I wish I knew the politically correct way to respond since this is clearly a part of their healing process. However, if a perfect stranger offers you something you know you shouldn’t have – say, another piece of cake – why assume it’s in their best interest to hear that you must refuse because you’re a diabetic or that you have a thyroid issue? It’s TMI but in such a way that I no longer know how to interact with you. I’ll feel embarrassed and all I was trying to do was be hospitable.

I’m not the only one who feels this way either. While I was waiting to get my hair cut last Thursday, I read IN VOGUE!! about a woman who was married to a recovering alcoholic and how AA became his new addiction. She lamented about the “alien spaceship” AA room where people talked about ruining lives and killing loved ones accidentally. It’s a complete society but once among the land of the living, sometimes the whole AA thing become like religion:

Beaujolais Nouveau Party 2010

Uncomfortable and unmerited.

“Well, I used to drink but I just spent way too much money on booze and now I look at people drinking and I really feel sorry for them.”

That’s SO weird because I just asked you where you like to eat dinner and not how you felt about social consumption… sorry I even opened my mouth.

It’s like the people who tell you to stay outta the sun; you’re bound to regret ____ someday! No shit. I’m allergic to the sun (it’s true). But that doesn’t stop me or my bestie from trying EVERY YEAR to find the new Sephora product that will save the day and make my skin less splotchy.

“Stay away from alcohol, because the court system says I have to,” is what should be said. Don’t place guilt on me as I offer you a beer because you’re miserable. And yes, wear sunscreen.

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