Today was a frustrating day in being sober. I was out with a very close friend for dinner, just to reconnect. She's been having a rough time of it. We met as co-workers, and we actually left our jobs within a month of each other, so the ups and downs we've had to face have sometimes mirrored each other. She's been crucial for me to talk about some of my work-related, job-hunting-related, and life-is-stressful related things, and I try to be there for her in the same way.
She'd had a terrible day at work, and so she ordered a drink to take the edge off. I happen to know that she isn't quite comfortable with my sobriety so I saw that there were "non-alcoholic slushies" and I ordered a peach one "in solidarity." A few sips in, though, and I felt like something wasn't right. What if the waitress had misheard me or the person who made the drink had misunderstood? Was there rum in my drink? I honestly couldn't tell. I started to feel a little light-headed and worried that it was the beginning of a buzz. I asked my friend to taste it, but she said she couldn't taste anything alcoholic. I ended up calling the waitress over and asked her, but she promised me that it was a non-alcoholic drink, as I'd ordered, and that she'd been there when it was made: just slush and syrup blended together, but she'd be happy to get me a new one if I wanted. I said that was fine. I could trust her, right?
I tentatively took another sip, and this time I couldn't taste any alcohol, just super-sweet peach syrup. My light-headedness was passing and it occured to me that it might have been a symptom of my panic*. Even so, I had to set the drink aside for a while because I just didn't trust it. Having it in my eye-line was kind of upsetting to me in a weird way.
After the waitress left, I apologized for my little ex-alcoholic freak out, and she said something like, "You aren't really an alcoholic, though, are you? I've only ever seen you drink beer."
Like I said, this friend is very close to me, and I love her always, but the only times I ever get frustrated with her is that she's made comments like this before, and I feel like I have to do "alcoholism 101" with her every 3 months or so.
So, I explained that it doesn't matter if it's beer or not, I'm addicted to the alcohol, not the delivery method. I explained how I would monitor what and where I drank, so that most people only ever saw me drink beer, but that I usually had a big ol' bottle of vodka or whisky somewhere at home. I explained that when I said a 12-pack of beer would last me to the weekend, the truth was that 10 of those beer would be gone the first night and I'd suppliment the 12-pack with a six pack the next day (or else the vodka). I told her about how I was stealing booze from my parents and getting a regular buzz on every weekend from about age 14 or 15, and how 3 to 5 nights out of the week I'd just stay home and get drunk, even if I'd told myself I wasn't going to do that. I explained that even if I had one drink by accident, as soon as that drink was done, I would be craving the next one until I was drinking all the time again.
All this explaining happened in a conversation, and it was nice to vocalize my reasons for being sober again. But still....it's frustrating. Frustrating because it's not fun to have a booze-related panic attack in public, frustrating because I didn't necessarily want to "out" myself to the waitress (she was totally cool), and frustrating because sometimes I wish this didn't set me apart so that I could be so casually reminded of how different I am, just from one careless phrase.
And most frustrating, is that even though I know I'm not drunk, even though I'm confident the drink was booze free, I had no lasting buzz other than that (possibly panic-induced) moment of light-headedness...even though there's no evidence at all that there was any alcohol in the beverage at all, there's still a part of my brain going "....but what if it was....what if you just drank alcohol...what if your sobreity is back to day one...."
That, my friends, is frustrating.
*I'm using the word "panic" but it occurs to me that this was more of an anxiety attack. People who've had both know that there's a BIG difference between the two, so just replace the word "panic" with anxiety if you're sensitive to that difference.