Wow. I feel almost guilty for the title of this post, but I’m not going to sugar-coat my feelings so as to not upset my introjected parental figures, that would be insane ! 🙂 (I don’t think my real parents will ever read this blog)
I made it ! My first family event since I went AF.
I was the only sober person at a big round table of 7 [one of those tables with the turny-plate thingy in the middle… I hope someone knows what I’m talking about! We had dinner at a fancy Asian restaurant, the “best Beijing Duck in Paris” (We lived in Vietnam for 7 years so celebrating around Asian food is part of our family identity)]. [((((Nadine these parentheses are for you)))))]
In case this might be helpful to anyone reading: what helped me survive this new “first” on my sobriety journey?
I knew what to expect, and arrived at the event fully prepared/pumped. That makes a huge difference in sticking to your goal I suppose: anticipate difficulties and have a plan. I knew I would order a soft drink as an aperitif, and then turn down any other drinks throughout the meal. My preparations included verbalizing my fears (see previous post), reconnecting with my “whys” (why did I want to go AF in the first place? Oh yeah, to avoid ending up like this people!), setting a strong intention before the event, reading recovery-related literature during the day, and most of all: having received such warm encouragement from all of you guys the day before !!!
All in all, it went well.
I was seated next to my mother, around whom we grew up walking on eggshells, worried she might get upset or embarrass us in public at any moment. When we sat down, the first thing she asked was “so, are you still on the wagon?” I guess she remembered. I smiled and said I was, and she said “oh ok” and my father smiled and that was that. No announcement to make. No need to discuss it. Then they all ordered drinks and I had a pineapple juice. LOL. That felt weird. I could see everyone staring at me but I tried to act normal. No one said anything. We all said cheers to my little brother’s 25th birthday, and had a lovely meal.
This restaurant had 3 stiff, penguin-like waiters in bow-ties constantly hovering around us and watching our every move. It felt like eating in front of the Gestapo. But this is also in part what saved the evening: they were the ones filling everyone’s glasses, which ironically considerably slowed down my mother’s pace compared to what she would have been drinking if no one was monitoring her intake. By the end of the evening, she was therefore relatively sober-ish (i.e. slurring her words, but neither making a scene nor doing some crazy uncontrollable shit). There was no major disaster. Oh, except when my siblings all went out to smoke (so French!), she took a birthday card out of her handbag, and asked the waiter for an envelope, because the one she had was completely stained and all brown and crinkled. (I’ll spare you the details of when he brought one which was “the wrong size” and she sent him to get another one. Sigh) When I asked what happened she didn’t respond, and smiled mysteriously. At a loss, I looked at my dad, who said “there was a little accident in your mother’s handbag involving…erm… a little bottle, that was, erm… in there, and spilled”. They both smiled sheepishly as if this was a funny anecdote and completely normal. I said “Oh ok”, and let the subject drop, but inside I felt a twinge of shame and sadness at the idea that my mother is now walking around with booze in her handbag and spilling it on her son’s birthday card. Sigh. I spent most of the meal cringing and breathing and practicing mindfulness every time she spoke loudly (in a very quiet room), almost tipped her glass over, fished around inside her bowl with her fingers (I couldn’t help it… her bowl contained Chinese noodles, which she was picking up with her fingers… so I just whispered “Mummy!!” and she stopped), when wanted to pass her leftovers or empty plate full of gravy to everyone (“Anyone want some SAUUUUUCE??? – awkwardly balances plate full of meat juice that no one wants, almost spilling it on the white table cloth and tries to turn the turny-thing as the astonished waiters watch)”, etc. I just breathed and tried to ignore the three bow-tied waiters and my self-consciousness and noted “this is discomfort, it will pass”, and tried to remember that this is her behavior, not mine. I am neither responsible for it, not supposed to carry the “burden” of shame that I have for all these years in reaction to it. [Now I know why I am so self-conscious and worried about other people’s opinions. I’m working on letting go of all this].
When we left the restaurant, I sat in a cab in between my parents. The sour, hospital (I almost want to say hospice)-like smell of ethanol filled the whole car and swept over me in waves with every word that came out of their mouth. Even my father –who in the family system represents the “innocent victim” figure– was slurring his words. Their smell made me feel kind of sick. I thought to myself: “wow, all these years I thought that only smokers could stink up a place without noticing their own smell, but turns out drinkers do it too. So I’ve/d been doing it too, for all those years. Without noticing”.
So yeah, for me, “I survived” means that
1. I did not drink, and
2. The evening went on more or less peacefully (even if it’s just surface-level peace).
This is in great part due to the fact that we were in public, celebrating the youngest in the family. We’ll see how it goes at X-mas, when we are left to our own devices, sheltered from the gaze of others. Gulp.
But that’s future-Anne’s problem. For now, I will enjoy the present moment and take a second to be proud of myself for sitting through the discomfort, for trying to sort out what I can and cannot control, and still having a “nice” time.
Hang in there!!