I don’t think I’ve ever really grasped just how good I’ve had it when it comes to other people’s reactions to my decision to stop drinking. I’ve had it soooo, so good, but if the last fortnight is anything to go by, my luck has run out.
When I first quit I was constantly on the defensive, always prepared for hostile reactions when I turned down offers of drinks. Boozing culture is so well ingrained in our society that I expected it to ruffle a few feathers when I decided to go against the grain. Plus, I had been living in a world that revolved around alcohol and I couldn’t believe that people wouldn’t care about my decision not to partake in a bit of gasoline guzzling.
On the whole though I was pleasantly surprised by other people’s reactions. Close friends and family knew that I’d been worrying about my drinking for a long time before I actually stopped, so they had a bit of background and didn’t hassle me one bit. In fact their reactions have ranged from being curious about it all, to hugely supportive, to awestruck. And the majority of workmates, strangers and acquaintances have been mildly surprised, yet completely un-phased by news that I no longer drink. Overall, people just do not give a monkey’s what I decide to put into my body. It’s fab, it’s how things should be.
And so (with my surprise at everyone else’s lack of surprise), alcohol free me has slowly come out of hiding and I’ve gained confidence in this new aspect of my identity. I’ve become better at picking my timing and dropping it casually into conversation. Things seemed to be on the up and up. But, as this image so wonderfully summarises, up and up is never the reality:
The reality is that there are, in fact, an abundance of dickheads around. Absolutely loooooads of them. Ignorant, insensitive, ill-informed, blithering idiots, who feel it is their place to make you feel like a less of a human for becoming addicted to an addictive substance, and feel that it is their right to be offended by your decision to do something about that pesky little addiction.
I guess I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by all the wonderful mature reactions I’d had the good fortune to experience for the majority of my time spent sober, so I was a bit miffed at my work-party last week to be met with judgmental comment after judgmental comment all night long. There was pity “Oh you don’t drink? What… ever? That must be so booooring!”, and shock “You don’t drink? You?”, and attempts to coax me out of the ridiculous proposal that I stop drinking “It’s not forever, right?”, but what I found most unsettling was the disgust I encountered. My standard explanation when people ask why I don’t drink is to tell them that I wasn’t comfortable with the amount I was drinking so I decided to cut it out completely, but watching strangers’ faces balk in disgust at this fact has been making me second guess whether being honest all of the time is best for me.
To be fair to this particular bunch of dickheads, I think it was the age group of a lot of the people there that night – we’d recently hired a whole lot of junior staff straight out of uni and they probably haven’t learnt that there’s a big old diverse world out there and that they’ll need to learn to tolerate differences.
What’s rattled my cage a lot more recently is the judgement and disgust I’ve copped from an old friend. I can cope with a lack of understanding from people that don’t know me, young people that live in a booze soaked world, who are conditioned daily to believe that alcohol is the only way to have fun, but it’s a lot more confronting when it comes from a good friend. This friend has tiptoed around the edges of disdain. She hasn’t outright said that she doesn’t agree with my decision, but it’s quite clear that she’s not in support. The problem is, her comments are so minor that I feel like I’m being petty by bringing them up with her. The other day she messaged me delighted to see that I’d started drinking again. When I explained that the big glass of wine in the photo was AF wine, she replied simply “ew yuck”. This friend is one seriously intelligent girl, who’s normally really open minded and considerate, which is why I find her reaction all the more frustrating.
I guess the silver lining here is that her display of shitty friendship qualities just makes my supportive friends shine all the more brighter in comparison. Plus, she has really ugly eyebrows, so that makes me feel better too 😉