People. This word meant a lot to me the first time it was discussed in a meeting. It seemed to encompass all the reasons I started my “alcoholic habit” when I was 18 years old in the back room of a popular crowded and typically dirty college bar—lots of hilarity and pushing and shoving at the bar itself. “Hey, Mable, “Black label,” please, 3.2—hurry—need to get back on time.” I wanted to be one of “the in-crowd”.
Move many years forward. After my dark days and lost weekends, and after I had surrendered, I knew that if I hung around my friends—the ones that spent much too much time, money and energy drinking—I’d fail once again. If I was going to have any chance with the Program, I’d have to fire my old friends and find new ones. Not an easy choice. I’d known them for years. Together, we’d moved into our 30s and 40s and shared experiences with life’s bumps and grinds. Took vacations with several.
Places. Early on in my sobriety, I recognized that the bars themselves presented a challenge to my sobriety. Again, in college, the “Bigs” touted certain places. “Antlers” when doing laundry next door, “Dugway” for that case of Black Label to take back to our abodes, the hotel on the square if you wished a “high-end” saloon. Later, usually we had a regular spot—one for those “on the way home from work” places, or when out and about with Saturday’s errand-runs, and usually a fancy-dancy place we found for those special times.
But, we alcoholics have to remember that not every one of our friends and families are allergic to alcohol as are we. So, occasionally we have to provide alcohol to guests. I can’t hang around liquor stores—or wineries—it all looks too good, so why spend any more time than absolutely necessary to accommodate our families and friends.
“The “places” issue represented another adjustment for this new-comer. Bar food, “best burgers” in town, or “best pizza,” the quietest and darkest for seemingly our “serious” maybe secret rendezvous.
So, bars, liquor stores and wineries also became off-limits. No more church wine tasting gatherings with everyone in their Harris Tweed jackets and standing around muttering: “Its bite is too harsh, too sweet, dry, sharp, dull, smooth.” Gone, off-limits. The bars were particularly obviously so—the smells, well-aged boiled eggs in some sort of green water, a friendly bar-keep, lots of atmosphere i.e., peanut shells, popcorn, other unidentified scum on the floor and in the “johns.” I just don’t go into them, and if asked, I usually say, “Isn’t there a better place or are we simply pretending to be back in college?”
Things. You know—like holidays, family July 4th keg parties, country clubs, the 19th hole, hunting, fishing, New Year’s Eve parties, college reunions—just the whole social scene we had carefully constructed to make the best convenient use of alcohol. And no more expensive and “rare” scotch, bourbon, wine, sherry, expensive vodka in the ice box, bar accessories, cute bottle openers, imported gin...
Part # 2 to follow soon
Jim A. Covington, Kentucky