I had a weird interaction with a friend at happy hour last night—and this is a not-so-great-picture of my yummy elderflower and blackberry lime soda. I’m still thinking about it—the interaction, not the soda—so, naturally, I’m going to write about it.
I hadn’t seen Friend in over two months and was excited to catch up. We got to talking about my upcoming birthday—hello, 40!—and Friend suggested that, because I won’t be drinking, everyone else should abstain from drinking too.
“No, no, that’s okay. I don’t mind if other people drink,” I said politely, thinking I might actually feel uncomfortable if my drinking friends didn’t drink (because of me).
She made a second attempt at getting me to see things her way, “But it’s YOUR birthday, you can do what YOU want.”
“Exactly right. I can do what I want, and my friends can do what they want. I’m not going to tell anyone what they can and can’t do.”
She looked at me like I’d kicked a puppy. The tension was immediate and it surprised me. Somehow, stating my opinion—an amenable one, if you ask me—as freely as she’d declared hers had upset her.
How was granting my friends the freedom of choice a bad thing? I’d be more upset if I were my friend and was told I couldn’t party like I wasn’t 40 at my friend’s 40th birthday getaway. But here we were.
Hating the awkwardness of the moment, and trying to ignore my inner introverted voice that was saying, “See, I told you you should have stayed home,” I made light of the situation and kept the conversation going. More words meant less room for tense silences. I think I did a damn good job, too. Had I been drinking, I can guarantee my story would have a different ending.
I don’t expect everyone I talk to about my sobriety to understand my sobriety. Just like anything, until you’ve tried it, you don’t really know what it’s like. And even if you have tried it, or are still trying it (yay for you!), our paths and stories are going to be different.
I also don’t expect everyone I talk to about my sobriety to jump on the wagon with me (but it’s pretty freaking cool when it happens). Expecting abstinence from other people would be like eliminating chocolate cake from my diet and expecting everyone else to put their forks down too.
I’m a strong believer in freedom of choice, obviously. I talk about it in this post, and how alcohol can take that freedom away. Alcohol can take it away. But not my sobriety. I’m not here to impose my personal choices upon others, as we are all free to live our lives the way we wish. I’m here to share, and to listen, so that anyone going through something similar might feel less alone.