“In case you’re still not drinking”

Hi, lovelies. I’m here on day 172 sober, and day 7 of going low-carb. Christmas was less difficult than I would’ve previously expected it to be as a sugar-free sober person, but still, it was a little harder than what I wanted. Of course, don’t we all want a holiday season to pass effortlessly, without those persistent urges of lust for booze, sugary treats, and a quick way to escape from any family- or holiday-related drama. If only things could be so simple, so easy. But again, of course, they’re not. We should know and expect that by now, hm?

Anyway, the weekend was good. The only thing that really got under my skin was my step mom. Full disclosure: I love my step mom, and generally think she’s a wonderful lady, but she and I are at complete opposites when it comes to our eating habits and our attitudes toward booze. She’s a low-fat, high-carb, meat-free wine lover, and I am a low-carb, high-fat, meat-eating teetotaler. It’s interesting to me how political our food and our boozing habits have become. Though not quite as controversial as Pro-Trump and Anti-Trump folks gathering ‘round the same table for dinner, there’s a real and palpable tension between the vegans and the meat eaters, the winos and the straight-edge. At least, there is when it comes to me and step mom.

A few days before Christmas, my step mom got home from grocery shopping and walked in the door with a case of wine, as well as a 24-pack of beer. From one of the other grocery bags, she pulled out a bottle of sparkling grape juice. The good intentions were there. But as she set it down, she mentioned that she got it in case I was “still not drinking.”

During Christmas Eve dinner, step mom set out a wine glass for each person at the table, me included, and placed two freshly opened bottle of wine on the table. For a brief moment, I felt the temptation to have “just one drink” because, well, it’s Christmas Eve. But I shook that off and quickly poured my can of sparkling water into the glass at my seat. I recalled Christmases past where I spent the majority of the evening sloshed or trying to get sloshed, accepting wine pours while still working on my third or fourth beer. The sparkling water satiated any thirst I might’ve had quickly and sufficiently. The look on step mom’s face as I filled the wine glass with water was a mix of distant annoyance and disappointment.

As we sat down to unwrap our presents on Christmas eve, my step mom excitedly handed out packages to my boyfriend, my brother, and my brother’s fiancée. They simultaneously revealed their presents: insulated beer bottle holders, conveniently designed to look like water bottles – you know, for when you just need that beer on the go. “Sorry, Em,” said step mom, “you don’t get one because you’re not drinking.”

Which, like, yeah, I get it. We all get it. I’m not drinking, so getting me an insulated beer bottle holder wouldn’t make much sense. For some reason, though, me not drinking is a big enough Elephant in the Room for step mom to call it out repetitively. Even though she drank, on her own, roughly 1 – 1.5 bottles of wine by herself, plus some beer. By the end of the night, her eyelids were droopy, veiled by that familiar wine haze, and she kept reaching for glasses long after everyone else had stopped. Yet, had I called her excessive drinking out on the spot, I’d probably be labeled as rude, inconsiderate, insensitive, or a holiday killjoy.

This summer, step mom read the very same book that completely changed my outlook on drinking and sobriety (This Naked Mind), and while I’ve chosen to forego alcohol completely, she has chosen not to. So in a way, we’ve both accepted and acknowledged our own paths, with the understanding that the other has gone in a different direction. Yet consistently, societal rules say that she can repeatedly call me out as a non-drinker, while I can’t do the same to her as a heavy drinker without feeling like an asshole. It’s a little frustrating, to say the least.

Regardless, it was a good night. Despite step mom being “mostly vegan-ish,” she gave in and made a lamb leg roast for Christmas eve dinner, complete with bacon-wrapped asparagus, sautéed brussels sprouts, english pop-overs, and roasted potatoes. The six of us played Cards Against Humanity and talked about the state of the world. Opening presents was fun – though I will mention (and perhaps this is me just being sensitive anyway) that I got far fewer presents than my dad, brother, brother’s fiancée, or step mom did, and brother/fiancée got a few sentimental and meaningful items from the estate of my recently deceased grandmother, while I didn’t get a thing. I felt like asking about it, but decided once again to keep my mouth shut, for the sake of maintaining the holiday spirit, and so I wouldn’t seem too materially-concerned.

Holidays can be hard. Holidays while sober can be much harder. Whether family time is cherished or dreaded, the holiday’s ability to completely drain you of your emotional, mental and physical energy is very real. For me, the holidays lay bare the otherwise hidden boundaries of my family system that have influenced how I operate in this world. Learning how to interact with each set of parents and step parents – as well as with my brother and his fiancée, who I haven’t had the closest relationship with – all while completely sober and still new to the non-drinking game, has left me feeling a littler raw. And as much as I love all of them, it’s becoming more and more clear to me how this fractured family of mine, pieced back together over the years with new people and my own emotional maturity, really makes me feel a little twinge of lonely no matter where I spend the holidays. Without alcohol to mask that disconnect, I’ve really got nowhere else to hide from the reality of my situation.

In a way, that’s refreshing. Still a bit lonely and frustrating, but refreshing nonetheless. I’m just hopeful that come next Christmas, step mom might consider gifting me a fancy coffee mug as she hands out the booze-drinking paraphernalia to the rest of the crowd, not because I’m “still not drinking,“ but because, “Em loves a good cup o’joe.”

Day 172

10 thoughts on ““In case you’re still not drinking”

  1. I Quit Wineing says:

    As a former vegan I can relate It is almost like a religion. Vegans can be very judgemental about meat eaters. But on the other side of the coin so can low carb be very judgemental about high carb. I try to stay out of it now. I used to get on youtube and get very involved in all the drama (as a vegan) but it was a total waste of time. People eat what they want to eat.
    I am sure that as time goes on and especially in 2017 when you celebrate 12 months of sobriety your step mom will start to change the way she behaves towards you. I think she is secretly watching, hoping that one day she can achieve the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • okayishness blog says:

      Yeah, I used to be a fairly judgmental low-carb person, back when I first started eating this way. People have some pretty strong opinions. But I’m like you – these days, I mostly prefer to just do what I do without justifying myself, or trying to convert others onto my side. Too much work 😛

      I think you may be right about my step mom, which I’ve thought too; it makes me a little sad to know that she may feel stuck in some small way, but again, I’m just gonna do what I’m gonna do. Even if she never decides to stop drinking, I do hope it becomes less of an uncomfortable thing for her to be around me when I’m sober.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. damien says:

    It’s been my experience that the only people who are concerned with my not drinking are the people who secretly are concerned with their own drinking. They are usually the folks who should probably stop drinking themselves. It makes them uncomfortable that I have stopped. But the thing is, no one can make another person stop — I can’t tell them to stop. It’s best to detach from the situation as best we can, and recognize that they may be in the same pain we were in during our drinking.

    Liked by 3 people

    • okayishness blog says:

      Yes, this is very true. I know that when I was drinking, I was always confused and annoyed by the non-drinkers, mostly because deep down, it felt like someone was holding a mirror up to my drinking habits and showing me how far down I had slid. I have no idea how my step mom feels about her own drinking, but her focus on my sobriety makes me think she’s at least a little uncomfortable with her own relationship to the bottle.

      That being said, I’ve always tried to be non-confrontational or preachy about being sober; I just try to be a living example of the type of sober person I want to be. It takes too much precious time and energy trying to tell others how to to live their lives, anyway 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • gagalgoingdry says:

      Sounds like @damien hit the nail on the head. I’ve been on both sides and it’s hard when you are still struggling with someone else getting sober or losing weight etc when you are still trying to figure it out. It’s sort of like a VERY LARGE ELEPHANT that no one addresses. Good for you for getting through it!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. shehidbehindtheglass says:

    Hey Em, good for you making it through without having “just one drink on Christmas Eve”. So proud of you! Your stepmom reminds me of a friend of mine who makes a big deal about my age (I’m one year older than her) she’s always making weird or pointed comments about how old I am or the year I was born when we’re with a group of people. It’s really bizarre and I’m so confused about it – it’s like “why is this such a big deal to you? Lol” I think people like that are socially awkward or need to deflect attention from themselves, or maybe they’re a little bit bully-ish and used to pick on someone else before us but we never noticed because we were blissfully unaware.
    Sorry to hear about you not getting anything from your grans estate.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. onebottleoneglass says:

    Definitely sounds like she’s putting a judgemental demeanor on you, even if you’re not behaving that way. I know it automatically changed me when my sister stopped drinking, and I definitely got instantly defensive about my drinking around her. Not that it stopped me from being a nice sister, but I was very aware of her being sober. So good on you for maintaining sobriety, resisting “one” Christmas drink, and being kind and judgement free to people’s faces!!

    Liked by 1 person

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