“Oh come on! Just ONE. It’s a WEDDING,” the woman screeches at me. I consider looking around vacantly and exclaiming, “Oh! This is a WEDDING? I just wanted takeout!” but I figured the lame joke would be lost. I am backed up against a wall. Champagne Lady is leaning and pushing a tall flute of bubbly at me. She is very concerned about my happiness and is also about half-an-hour shy of a hot mess. One strap of her red dress is slipping off her shoulder and she has all the askew and tilted angles of a woman who has had at least three solid drinks. Maybe four.
It is a wedding, after all.
Dinner has been served, along with an excellent cake (I have happily scarfed two pieces). I am not the slightest bit askew, unless you count some unbalance due to my tippy heels. Also, I am having a great time; dancing to Frank Sinatra with my husband and catching up with old friends. But for some reason, Champagne Lady does not accept this. She thinks I should be drinking tonight, and has just lobbed a “But what about the toast?” argument my way. I look for my exit and spot it in the form of my frosting-coated son. This is wonderful. I smile and nod goodbye to Champagne lady, exclaiming with relief “Henry! Such a mess! Let’s go get you cleaned up.”
I could have just said, “No.” It is a complete sentence, after all. And I have a whole slew of reasons why I should not be drinking tonight. Mainly, because I am an alcoholic. But for some reason, I allowed her to continue her line of reasoning longer than necessary. I think it was simply out of disbelief that anyone could be so caught up in someone else’s business.
I had heard about these folks before, but had thought perhaps they were a sort of an alcoholic’s urban legend. Up to this moment, I didn’t understand that sabotage was actually a “thing” in recovery. My husband abstains with me (total normie). I have a family that doesn’t drink because they are all either in recovery or damaged enough to know better. My friends have been supportive and my partying buddies seem weirdly content with just getting coffee with me. So my recovery had not come banging up against the creature called The Saboteur until tonight: I had been lucky.
The Saboteur has many faces, but here are the top five I have since experienced or have heard about from my fellows in recovery:
1. The Narcissist
This person deserves his own reality television show. Somehow, he manages to make your recovery about his life. It has left him bereft and lonely, mourning a drinking buddy and what he knew to be normal. This is one of the toughest types to avoid because whatever your relationship with The Narcissist is, there is likely some element of “we’re in this together.” So it’s painful for them when you stop playing your role. The Narcissist doesn’t really mean to be so self-absorbed and he likely doesn’t realize that drinking is a death sentence for you. He just wants to keep things fun! Incidentally, he has totally forgotten that lately, nothing has really been all that fun.
2. The Forgetful Family
My friend has one of these. They ask things like, “I am so thrilled you are not drinking. But, are you really, really not drinking?” Then at the next get together they ask something like, “How about now? Are you not drinking now?” And so on. Also, they have just informed you that they have a bottle of something “Very Special and Expensive that they saved just for you—can’t you just have a sip? A sip isn’t really drinking, is it?” They forget and forget and forget again until you feel like sending them one of those yearly Christmas letters outlining your new walk into sobriety in the hopes that by the “It’s Arbor Day! And Yes, I’m Still Not Drinking!” missive they get it. The tricky part here is that you love them. But, also, they are driving you—as my dad says—bat shit crazy.
3. Your Very Own Ryan Gosling
Before I met my lovely, normie husband, I dated many of these. He makes you a little weak in the knees. He’s all deep eyes and sensitive questions. You don’t want him to go away and he had you at hello. You’ll do anything to have the World’s Greatest Love Affair with him, starting this very minute. But, he loves scotch. A lot. In fact, he might just love it a bit more than you. You might be willing to compete with the scotch. Bad idea.
4. The Party Animal
This was my friend from the wedding and we sober folks befuddle them. A wedding. Christmas. New Year’s Eve. A birthday. How can we not toast our friends? Why not just have a drink, just this one time? Without drinking, this isn’t a proper party. It’s not Big Fun without booze. They might try to stay off the sauce for a while, but they eventually relent and say, “Ok, just this one party. This one Christmas,” as if this special occasion is the one to end all special occasions. But holidays, parties and birthdays happen again and again, so the party never ends.
5. The Rogue Agent
This one is the most fearful. The Rogue Agent could show up anytime, anywhere. Maybe we meet for coffee, and the shop closed. He might sit next to me on the plane and commiserate with me about the fear of flying. Perhaps she works with me, or maybe I have been his friend for 20 years. The Rogue Agent is spontaneous and impulsive, and unwittingly sabotages my sobriety by casually asking “hey, I just opened some wine, would you like a glass?” Taken off guard, I might forget I’m sober and say yes. I am always keeping my eye out for her.
All things considered, my wedding Party Animal saboteur was fairly harmless. Like all saboteurs, she wasn’t consciously trying to ruin me. Her insistence and screeching only resulted in champagne spilling on my shoes. Later that night, I was tired from dancing but I was not sloppy, not wandering from room to room in a haze. I wasn’t fighting with my husband about how he parked the car. I went to bed and when I woke the next day, I remembered it all. Miraculous. The wedding had been sparkly and pretty even if it wasn’t the epic “night to remember” that I was endlessly seeking back when I was drinking. Maybe Champagne Lady was in search of that elusive event as well, and she sensed that I was a step ahead of her. But thankfully I’m not chasing that perfect party anymore, I’m not trapped in an endless slosh of addiction and pain. I’m not up against the wall anymore—I am free.