Life in 3 acts

Acting “as if”

Recently, Jack decided to list the ways that he and I alike. This surprised me because, more often than not now, he’s rolling his eyes at me, so the fact that he wanted to, not only acknowledge the ways that we’re similar, but list them, made me swell with pride. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. We’re both left-handed
  2. We both have light-colored eyes
  3. We both choose Sour Patch Kids over M&M’s at the movies
  4. We both are early birds
  5. Neither one of us really enjoys rollercoasters

And then, I added, “and we’re both shy.” As soon as I said that, Jack looked at me like I had garlic growing out of my ear.

I think it’s well-documented that both Jack and I are introverts, but I don’t think that Jack has ever thought of me as an introvert. In fact, the day that we were coming up with this list, was the same day that we had more parties to attend than I care to discuss right now (introvert hangover still in progress) and he’d seen me (seemingly) effortlessly glide around all of the parties, talking with people, laughing–appearing, by all accounts the well-adjusted, party-loving extrovert.

When he looked at me funny when I told him that I am shy, I quickly added, “But I’m really good at pretending NOT to be shy.” At that moment, he got really still and quiet and I saw the proverbial “lightbulb” go off above his head.

I don’t think that it had ever occurred to him that he could act “as if” he wasn’t shy.

Acting “as if” is a fancy cognitive psychology idea that really just translates as “fake it ’til you make it.” In other words, what I explained to Jack that day was that yes, I am very shy, but that I can also pretend that i’m not shy when I need to–like at parties. Honestly, that’s probably what often causes this “introvert hangover” that I feel after being social, but it also gets me through a situation and, more often than not, I end up enjoying myself.

The thing that’s really cool about acting ‘as if” is that it applies in most areas of life: I think at every job I’ve ever started, I’ve acted “as if” for the first few weeks. Every time I’ve joined a new gym, I’ve tried my best to act “as if” and walk around like I know where I’m going, know how the machines work know what the classes are all about.

It also works in sobriety. Those first couple of years, I did a lot of acting “as if”–acting as if I WASN’T miserable and searching for a way to figure out who I was. I did my best to act like a secure and sober person and guess what? I turned into that person. How cool is that?

2+
Life in 3 acts

3 things I’m doing differently as a mother

Below is a picture of the moment that I became a mother.

This photo was taken about 12 hours after Anna was born…about 12 hours after I technically and biologically became a mother.  However, the first 12 hours of Anna’s life remain a blur to me. Her delivery was tough and I lost a lot of blood. So, instead of spending the first few hours of her life bonding with her, I was in and out of consciousness while she was cared for in the hospital nursery.

This photo was snapped by Kevin the following morning, once I was out of recovery and Anna was brought to me for the first time. I remember being shocked at how beautiful she was. When I saw her the first time, immediately after being born, she was a typical newborn–purple, coated in schmutz and, adding insult to injury was her conehead and wonky eyes–a direct result of the beating she took during delivery (let us not even speak of the beating I took during delivery).

In the moment that you’re seeing above, overcome with the fact that I’d made this perfect, whole and beautiful creature so full of potential, I made a vow to Anna to be the best mother I knew how to be. I knew that there were injustices from my childhood that I wanted to correct and, in that very moment, I knew that I had the opportunity to break a cycle.

I wish that one of the promises that I’d made to her that day was to stop drinking, but that wasn’t one of them–at least not yet.  At that time in my life, I knew that I’d need to stop drinking at some point in the future, but I also knew that motherhood would be hard and that I’d need to rely on “mommy’s little helper” a little too. Thankfully, I did quit drinking in the coming years but here is a list of the other cycles that I vowed to break on that day:

  1. Marry money, honey” : Beginning as a very small child, I can remember first commenting to my mother about a nice house or a nice car…or even a nice purse, my mother’s standard response was always a dismissive, “Well, marry money, honey.” It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I really stopped to consider what that meant. What my mother was effectively saying to me–even if it was just in jest, was this, “you’ll only be able to have nice things if you find a man to take care of you.” Funny thing is, that I didn’t marry a man with money. Instead, I married a man with big dreams and tons of confidence who taught me how to set goals and encouraged me to go after what I wanted in life. And that’s the message that we’re giving our kids too. When Anna remarks on a nice item, my standard response is, “Work hard. Do the right thing. Study. Make good choices and earn it yourself.” I can’t even conceive of ever making Anna feel like she wasn’t capable of earning something on her own the, hard way.
  2. Talking about other people (gossip): When I was a young girl, I knew all of the community gossip. I know now that probably my mother just lacked friends to talk to, but often times, I was the one that she gossiped to. I was included in adult conversations that I had no business being a part of. Even at an early age, I knew who in our community was in an unhappy marriage, who was still pining for their high school sweetheart, whose children might not be biologically related to the man who raised them…basically, I knew way more than any child should know (or any other person NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE RELATIONSHIP should know.). I remember learning early on, that rush of knowing something about someone and how that garnered me the attention of others when I spilled the beans.  I cringe when I think of the things that I knew at such a young age and it shaped who I am and how I’ve handled the responsibility of harboring gossip as an adult. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve made a conscious plan not to ever talk about anyone in front of my kids–that includes my kids peers as well as the adults in our life. Now, all bets are off about what’s said among me and my mom friends at the bus stop before the kids get home, but when my kids are around, I don’t talk about people unless it’s kind words or giving the benefit of the doubt. Little pitchers have big ears…
  3. Talking badly about myself: I grew up with a mother who hated her body. I have vivid memories of her calling herself a “fat pig” and other horrible things. Perhaps she was fishing for compliments, but as a child, all I knew was that my mother said terrible things about herself all the time. So, I grew up silently critiquing my own body. I didn’t want this for my children, so I’ve made a pointed effort never to say anything but empowering things about my body when I do talk about my body (which is seldom) in front of my kids. Our society talks about our bodies too much as it is. I don’t want my kids even thinking about their bodies as anything other than running, jumping, ball-throwing, jump-roping, dancing-machines.

As an adult, I am (mostly) forgiving and (reasonably) accepting of my body. When it comes up in conversation with my kids, I commend my body on its feats of strength and endurance and I very much just portray my body as a vehicle for my soul to travel around in. I try to preach kindness to all–ourselves included–to my kids and we talk about respect and acceptance more than is probably necessary, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

When I made these promises to baby Anna, 10 years ago, honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to hold up my end of the bargain. I knew that I desperately wanted to break the cycle that I grew up with, but I also wasn’t sure if it was possible.

As the years have gone on, not only do I feel like I’ve broken the cycle, but the dialog that I was raised with is a whole way of thinking that I can’t even wrap my brain around anymore. I’m a happier, healthier person than I ever thought possible–and I’m not a half-bad parent either. Granted, my kids will likely have a whole new set of cycles that they will vow to break with her own children, and honestly, I think that’s rad. I think that we should get better with each generation. It’s evolution at its finest.

 

2+
Life in 3 acts

A letter

(Alternate title: May the 4th be with me)

I’m not going to lie: April was a doozy for me.

My creativity was nonexistent. My attitude was piss-poor and my self-doubt and lack of confidence ruled my every move. It was a strange month.

I found out, at the end of April, that Mercury had been in retrograde, so that’s what I’m attributing all of this to. Obviously. Duh.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I also had a few intensely-social weekends in April. There were a couple of themes that presented themselves those weekends and I’m planning to write at length about them in the coming weeks. Basically, you take introvertedness + socializing + lack of motivation x self doubt (cubed)=ick.

(I’m bad at math, so if that equation doesn’t add up, figure it out yourself)

Then, I attended a Women’s Leadership Conference last week that turned it all around.

That’s me in the top with lemons on it. Because, of course lemons…that’s how my brain works.

 

I begrudgingly went–thinking of 75 other things that I needed or wanted to do that day–but instead, I came home a new person. I wrote one of the organizers a letter, because I wanted to let someone know how much I was moved by it. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

Initially, I was interested in attending the summit only because one of my favorite authors, Katherine Center would be speaking. When I saw that the summit was a “leadership” summit, my gut reaction was, “Leadership? I’m not a leader…I’m JUST a mom.” But, I decided to sign up anyway–even thinking that I might just go hear Center speak and then duck out early to get back home to my responsibilities.

 

Well, I had hardly gotten in the front door at Trinity University Friday morning, before I was greeted warmly by Karen Love and Leisa Holland-Nelson. Their genuine interest in who I was and what had brought me to the summit stopped me in my tracks. Next, Katherine Center approached me and introduced herself. To say that I was gobsmacked by the welcome that I received would be an understatement.

 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I stayed for the entire day and from the first presentation until the last, I felt engaged, inspired and challenged to think outside of the “box” that I’ve been operating within. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I fought back tears several times during the day as I realized that I was witnessing women empowering one another, valuing each other’s opinions and NOT ONCE was I asked about my children (which is expected and par for the course when you’re a mom). Instead, I was asked about who I was and what I was passionate about. It was a thrilling, restorative experience for me and I immediately wished that I’d recruited more friends and neighbors to join me.

 

I know you’re busy and I’m sorry if this is simply one more email in your inbox that you have to contend with, but I felt like you should know how much the summit meant to me and how much it has inspired me to do better in my daily life and pursue some of the ideas that I’ve been “marinating on” for awhile. I hope to attend again in the future and would also be honored if I could play a role in any future leadership summits that you are a part of.

 

Please let me know if there are any opportunities for “just moms,” such as myself to participate. I’m a freelance writer who is working to spearhead a growing “sober mom” movement, offering support for women who are finding themselves self-medicating through the perils of parenthood and looking for healthier ways to cope with the feelings of isolation and self-doubt that are so prevalent in motherhood.

I received a lovely response back from the organizer, who sounded as if she had been disappointed in the poor turn-out for the summit. I hope that my letter lifted her up and changed her perception of how the summit was received.

All of this to say: Going forward, you’ll notice a shift in this blog. I won’t be posting as often, but when I do, I want it to only be heart-felt and authentic. I won’t be doing Friday Favorites every week, but instead, holding off and doing a Favorites post when I have something special to tell you about. (Do you know how hard it is to come up with things that are my “favorites” on a weekly basis? Especially in that God-awful month of April when, really and truly, NOTHING felt like my favorite, as I wallowed in self-pity and doubt?) 

Also, I’d really appreciate hearing from you about what you’d like to see more of on the blog. I have oodles of more alcohol/sobriety posts in my head, as well as an endless supply of posts about being an introvert (naval-gazing at its best). Let me hear from you in the comments, via email (jenny@introvertsguidetosobriety.com) or find me on social media and let’s visit about things.

Thanks for hanging in there during my April of doom…I missed you!

1+
Life in 3 acts

Being married to a drinker (when you’ve stopped drinking)

(Perhaps you’ve heard this story…) I woke up one day in 2010 and decided that I wasn’t going to drink alcohol anymore.

When I told this to my husband I conveyed it with the same sense of urgency that I did the time that I declared that I wasn’t going to eat meat anymore.

Or when I told him that I wasn’t going to eat dairy anymore.

Or when I told him that I was going to take up running and train for a race.

He was moderately supportive but continued to do his thing.

The thing is though, when I dismissively announced to him that I wasn’t going to drink anymore that day in 2010, I desperately wanted him to stop drinking too. Not because he necessarily needed to–just because I needed his support and I wasn’t sure how I was going to go about giving up alcohol while living with a partner who still drank.

Did I tell him this? Hell no. I didn’t even convey the seriousness in my decision. If I remember correctly, I think I probably said it like this: “Hey. Just so you’ll know, I’m not going to drink for awhile and see how I feel.” Just the same way that I announced it when I was becoming vegetarian–which lasted several years–then I was back to meat-eating.

I think he probably felt like I was doing it to maybe lose some weight. Or that I’d read an article in Woman’s Day about how alcohol messes with your sleep cycles or something. I don’t think that he 1. knew the seriousness that I felt, 2. thought that I’d make it a permanent life change or 3. knew how much I wanted him to take me seriously and support me.

Did this piss me off? Yeah, it did. Was it really even his fault? Nope.

I should’ve told him these things. I should’ve let him see the vulnerable side of me–the side that really struggled in social situations without alcohol. The side that struggled trying to figure out who I was anymore. But, I kept it all under wraps and waved it all off dismissively.

Who knows. Maybe I also didn’t want him to know the seriousness so that when I failed at sobriety, he wouldn’t see me as a washout.

So, I stopped drinking but he did not.

He continued to drink at home after work and on weekends. He continued to order a glass of nice red wine with his steak over dinner at a restaurant. He continued to meet up with friends for happy hour after work, coming home smelling of bourbon and cigar smoke.

Did it hurt? Big time. Did I tell him this? No.

Instead, I quietly seethed when he’d crack open a beer at home, in what felt like a taunt to my sobriety. I’d feel like crying when he carefully perused the wine list over dinner, trying to choose just the perfect crisp white to compliment his meal. I raged when he added beer to my Costco list and left me to heave a giant 24-bottle box of Shiner into our already overflowing cart while I fought to ply my (then) toddlers with more fruit snacks in order to make it through the checkout tantrum-free.

I know, in my heart of hearts, that if I’d simply told him how difficult it was for me that he continued to drink when I had quit, he would’ve stopped for me. He might not have stopped entirely, but he might have tried to survey the scene through my eyes and refrained from drinking in my presence.  As a result, I seethed in silence for a few years early in my sobriety. It wasn’t fair to me, and it really wasn’t fair to my husband.

All that it would’ve taken was 4 simple words from me:

I need your help.

Vulnerability though, man. That’s probably why I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to appear as vulnerable as I felt. Also, the seriousness of the situation scared the living shit out of me. I didn’t want him to suddenly see his wife–the mother of his two children–as an addict. I didn’t want him to think, “Holy hell. I’ve been leaving my children in the care of an alcoholic all of this time?”

Almost 7 years have passed since I quit drinking. I’ve survived all major social occasions, vacations, weddings and funerals without alcohol now. My husband doesn’t drink  nearly as much as he did when I was a drinker, but he does have a fridge in the garage that’s typically full of beer and a liquor cabinet in the kitchen that’s full of all of the “important” ingredients for just about any cocktail you might require.

To be honest: yes, I do sometimes still slam the liquor cabinet shut a little harder than I should when I’m in there, trying to find a place for the salad spinner and there are too many bottles of liquor in the way. I also have been known to shove the beer aside with more force than necessary (oops, sorry about that foam, bro) when making space for our salad greens and leftover casserole in the garage fridge.

All of this to say that, if you need your spouse to quit drinking in order to feel supported in your sobriety, please DON’T BE LIKE ME! Ask for help. Tell him or her. Demand it of them. And, if they can’t fathom giving up something like that for you, then rethink that relationship or suggest that they reassess their own relationship with alcohol.

Don’t be scared to be vulnerable in front of your partner. I can’t turn back time and go back and do it all differently–I wish that I could. I know that the way that I handled the situation was really dangerous–my constant anger could have really done permanent damage to our marriage. How it didn’t, I’m not sure. And all it would’ve taken is for me to say, “I need your help.”

1+
Life in 3 acts

3 simple ways to support a newly sober friend

When I decided to stop drinking, I was lucky that i had a great group of friends who supported my decision, but I know  that’s not always the case. So many people decide to go it alone when it comes to sobriety. I get it: you don’t want to be a “buzz kill” (literally) for your friends and you don’t want to make people uncomfortable. But I think that having a strong support system is the difference between successful sobriety and unsuccessful sobriety.

So, here’s how you can be a good source of support for a friend who’s decided to stop drinking–either for good or for awhile.

Continue reading “3 simple ways to support a newly sober friend”

2+
Life in 3 acts

Reunion Weekend

I spent the weekend with a group of friends that I haven’t seen in years–some of them as long as 17 years, some of them only a few years–but all of them important to me.

These were people that were my “drinking buddies,” so it was a bit odd to be the sober one. Even odder (more odd?) to see them through sober eyes.

The beauty in this weekend is that we all just picked up right where we left off. Everyone looks the same and acts the same (not sure why that part surprises me) and there were times during the weekend that I had to remind myself that I hadn’t teleported back to 2000.

We all left each other today, with teary promises not to let time get the best of us again–not to let 17 more years come and go before we saw one another again. Hard to say if we’ll be true to all of our words, but I know that I have a renewed sense of love and friendship after this weekend. It was balm for my soul.

1+
Life in 3 acts

Am I judging moms who drink?

Recently, one of my more popular blog posts was featured on Red Tricycle. When I wrote it, it came from a place of anger. I was sick and tired of seeing drinking normalized among the mom-crowd.

When I posted “Mommy Juice” here on the blog, it was warmly received, because in a way, I’m “preaching to the choir” here. Then, when it went out on Red Tricycle’s page, it was met with resistance–a lot of it. Many women said that I was “judging” them for drinking and that, “just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean that everyone should abstain.

Honestly, I was a bit gobsmacked by the resistance. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be such a divisive topic and it forced me to explore the question: “Am I judging moms who drink too harshly?”

I’ve thought a lot about it in the past couple of weeks and, honestly I think my answer is that I’m not judging other moms–I’m judging our society–and when I wrote “Mommy Juice” I wasn’t able to properly articulate that.

You see, when I was a new mom, I fell for that same schtick. You know, the “have a bottle of wine–you deserve it after the day you’ve had!”-schtick. Now that I’ve seen that that way of thinking can be really destructive, I have strong feelings about it. What I wanted to say in “Mommy Juice” was–“don’t be like me!”

But here’s the thing: I’m not talking about the moms who have the occasional glass of wine. Hell, I’m not even talking about the moms who have a glass of wine every day to unwind once the kids go to bed nor am I talking about the moms who go out and get wasted on girls’ night or in Vegas with their partners.

I’m talking about the moms who are lonely and feeling “off,” who are self medicating with alcohol and are slowly losing control of things.

According to WebMD, it’s estimated that anywhere from 10-20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Of those cases, only half of them seek treatment. This means that half of those ladies aren’t getting the help that they need from a doctor and are potentially self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

Even though doctors have come a long way in terms of asking the right questions and opening up the dialogue with new moms about feelings of postpartum depression, there’s still a stigma attached to that diagnosis. Motherhood is funny like that. You spend so much of your time second-guessing yourself and wondering if you’re qualified to be the caretaker of a baby. Then, if you’re having even mild feelings of sadness, you’re not bonding with the baby; you’re wondering if you should even be doing this at all…well, it’s embarrassing to tell someone that–even your trusted doctor.

So, yeah. I’m not judging moms. I’m judging our culture that demands that new mothers do it all perfectly and love every minute of it and then leave them woefully ill-equipped with support when it’s needed. When that happens, “Mommy’s Little Friend” becomes wine and it’s encouraged and heralded as a cure-all for moms at the end of their rope.

I think what I meant to convey is  this: I’d for like our culture to take us more seriously. To give us more credit for who we are and what we do for our families. Offering us yet another glass of cheap wine after a hard day feels like a patronizing pat on the head. I think what I’m really angry about is that mothers have become caricatures. Easily plied with wine and simple in our needs, when that’s not the case at all and this attitude is harmful for many.

There. I feel better now.

I’d love to hear your take on this. Do you think that I judged moms who drink too harshly? 

1+
Life in 3 acts

8 date night ideas that don’t revolve around alcohol

Before I quit drinking alcohol, back in 2010, a typical date night for my husband and I meant dinner (plus drinks) and drinks. Oh, and then drinks after dinner. Then, if we still had anything left in us after the date, more drinks at home after the kids were in bed.

Especially after we had our first baby, when we got a rare date night, we didn’t want to waste our time doing anything but drinking our new-parent frustrations away and trying to find the “old” us that was hidden under layer upon layer of sleep deprivation and Elmo-induced brain atrophy. In fact, back in those days, a date night activity that didn’t involve alcohol felt like punishment. Why even bother?

A rare date night out, sans babies, circa 2009. Lots of drinking going on here.

 

Then, I quit drinking, and I remember feeling very lost when we got our first, long-overdue date night. What the hell were we supposed to do on a date night now if I couldn’t drink? I’d be lying if I said that I remember what we did on those first few sober date nights, but now that I’ve been doing sober date nights for awhile, I feel like I have a better-stocked arsenal of date night ideas that don’t involve drinking.

So, here are 8 date night ideas that don’t completely revolve around alcohol, in case you’re a teetotaler (like me), maybe you’re pregnant and miss being able to drink on date night or maybe you’re just looking for ways to have fun without the hooch every now and then.

1: Go to the movies: There’s a new wave of movie theater “experiences” that incorporate drinking into enjoying a movie. We have Alamo Drafthouse where we live and fancier-versions in the larger cities nearby, but I enjoy a good movie on a date night. I think it’s a real treat to go and watch a movie that I choose, that doesn’t involve a Pixar character, nor an animated version of Justin Timberlake singing top-40 hits. Plus, I’m all about getting candy or another sweet treat that I don’t have to share.

2: Play mini-golf: Going to play mini-golf WITHOUT your kids might seem cruel, but nobody said that you have to tell your kids where you went on date night, right? I think that mini-golf is all kinds of fun. You want to know what makes it even more fun? When you can get fiercely competitive with your partner and play your heart out without having to give up a shot for your kid or wait, as your 1st grader takes 52 shots on a par 4.

3: Costco run: Lame, right? But, imagine this: Costco After Dark. Way less crowded than your usual Saturday, at 11am Costco run. Plus, you and your partner can carefully critique the differences between the latest and greatest televisions that Costco has to offer. You can wander around, gathering samples without having to bite your Kirkland-brand peanut butter cup into 4 equal portions so that your toddler and 4 year old don’t lose their minds in the middle of the store. Better yet? Pick up the toilet paper and kitty litter that you’ve been putting off purchasing and have your spouse load it in the back of your minivan for you. Now, that’s what I call foreplay! Meeeeow!

4: Go to the museum: Many museums offer an after-hours happy hour every month or so. Yes, booze is the primary focus of these events (because, of course it is) but you can take the opportunity to see the museum without the large crowds who are usually there during normal business hours. Typically a museum membership is required to attend these events, but museum memberships are awesome for families to take advantage of anyway. They always pay for themselves in just a couple of visits and they afford you the luxury of going to the museum on a rainy day to see the one thing that you kid cares about seeing and then leaving directly after. No need to try and get your money’s worth out of a single day ticket.

5: Linger at a coffee shop: Since I quit drinking, coffee shops have become a favorite place of mine. I never cared to have coffee after the hours of about 10am before, but now, an after dinner coffee is a pretty great special treat. Coffee shops are also good places to go and have a nice, uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. I love to people watch there also. All good things…

6: Take in some community theater: Most communities–no matter how small or large–have community theater. Some of the productions are really, really good and some of them….well, aren’t. But, on date night, it doesn’t matter. You’re out of the house, sans kids. There’s often beer and wine available in the lobby of these productions, but it’s not pushed on you like it is in, say, comedy clubs. Go check out a local production and remark at how talented (or not!) your neighbors are.

7: Church activities: I know, I know. Now that we’ve found a church that we like, we’re becoming “those people.” But, most churches have opportunities to be social with other couples every now and then (if not more often). I’ve heard great things about “small groups,” that give you the opportunity to meet other people from the church outside of services. Our church has classes and seminars as well that would be good to do on a date night.

8: Shopping: There’s something rather appealing about going shopping with your spouse without the kids in tow. To leisurely browse on your own time and look at what YOU want to look at, without having to divide your time watching the kids play in the indoor mall playscape while the other runs quickly into Sears to grab a refrigerator filter and a new shirt. Use date night shopping as an opportunity to pick out new dress clothes or new granny panties–whatever makes you feel good. Or, shop at a furniture store for your (perhaps fictitious) dream house. No purchase necessary.

I used to see date night as more of a “treat yo self” night. A night that I could escape my day job and drink to alleviate the stress of parenthood. Every time though, I’d end up feeling like a worse parent–especially when I was hungover the next morning and unable to properly perform even the simplest of parenting duties for my kids. Now that I’m sober, date night is truly a recharge night for me. I get to enjoy my husband’s company and then wake up refreshed the next morning, ready to do this crazy job called “parenting” to the best of my abilities.

What about you? Any sober date night ideas to share?

1+
Life in 3 acts

Feeling excluded

Feeling excluded was a common emotion that I experienced when I first stopped drinking.

Now, let’s be clear: It certainly wasn’t anything anyone did on purpose. But it was the nature of the social scene. When people get together–specifically moms of young children–drinking is the main event. When I stopped drinking, I struggled to find things to do socially that wouldn’t make me feel uncomfortable. But it also made me very aware of how much alcohol plays into social events.

Continue reading “Feeling excluded”

1+
Life in 3 acts

Making friends when you’re a teetotaler

I’ve been asked many times how I make new friends as a woman (specifically a mother) who doesn’t drink.

On the surface, this might sound like a stupid question to someone who doesn’t think much about alcohol. But, in our culture of “Mommy Juice,” and PTA meetings that end with tequila shots at the taco joint next to the school, it’s a formidable question.

The shorts answer is that…well, it is difficult–I’m not going to sugar coat it.

Part of this is likely due to my introverted personality. I would much rather be a fly on the wall at a party than be actively moving about the room visiting and getting to know people.

Also, if someone is part of a recovery community, they’ve got a built-in safety net of people to socialize with.

I didn’t have this at my disposal.

When I was a drinker, meeting people was a bit easier because alcohol allowed me to be more open and friendly. I took more chances and I didn’t quietly observe the room quite as much as I do sober. I could also tolerate certain personality types when I was drinking that I typically couldn’t have tolerated sober.

When I stopped drinking, I had a wonderful home-base of lady friends. When I told them that I was going to stop drinking, they were supportive but also largely non pulsed, which is just what i needed at the time. It was no big deal and they loved me regardless of my drinking habits.

Then, we moved away from my friends and I was faced with making all new friends.

So, I started mixing and mingling with people in our new community. When my drinking status came up in conversation, I found that it was usually met with 3 possible reactions:

Oh, okay…that’s cool.

(Then I’d be watched closely to see if I exhibited any overtly religious behaviors, which might explain my teetotaling. Spoiler: If you’re around me for more than about 15 min and hear my potty mouth, you’ll quickly learn that I’m not fanatically religious)

Oh, wow! That’s so interesting! I want to hear more!

I love this response, because, it not only shows that the person cares about who I am and getting to know me better, but it also gives me an opportunity to share a bit of my story with others who might benefit from hearing it.

Oh. My. God. Are you kidding me? I could NEVER give up my wine! You’re crazy.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but this is my least-favorite response and generally lets me know pretty early on that: a. this person and I aren’t going to jive and b. this person might have a bit of an issue with alcohol herself.

I have an acquaintance who still–every time she introduces me to others–says this, “This is Jenny. She doesn’t drink!“. This can be at any setting at all, be it a place where that explanation is necessary (say, at a winery tour) or absolutely not necessary (at a funeral). She’s definitely one of those people who blurts things out all the time and her mouth often gets her into trouble, but I find it so telling that that’s the thing that she chooses to tell people about me. Not, “This is Jenny. She’s the mother of 2 kids.” Or even, “This is Jenny. She has 4 cats, a dog and a fish.” Nope. Every time, it’s, “This is Jenny. She doesn’t drink…not even wine! Can you believe that? I could NEVER give up my wine.”

There have been instances when I’ve met someone–a potential friend–and when they find out that I don’t drink, their face falls and I notice that resigned, “Oh, and I really LIKED her” look go across her face. It makes me sad but I also know that I USED TO BE that person too. In my drinking days, when I met someone who didn’t drink I’d often mentally cross them off of my list of potential friends. “Clearly, we have nothing in common.” I feared judgement from non-drinkers. I assumed that anyone who didn’t drink wasn’t my people. So, I totally understand how people feel when they meet me.

And, all is not lost when first meetings don’t go well. Often, once someone gets to know me and sees that, in addition to being sober, I’m also funny, self-deprecating  and wildly inappropriate, they forget that we differ in our drinking habits and they accept me anyway. That’s really all that I typically hope for.

I also work hard (perhaps harder than I should) so that my friends feel comfortable drinking around me. The thing is, just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean that they can’t. I’m not here to judge but I am here to be an example of what a sober woman looks like.

If you’re a teetotaler, have you found it difficult to make friends? 

3+