It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Right? “Eat, drink and be merry” may be a popular theme for the holiday season, but not so much if you are a recovering alcoholic—at least not the drink part. There seems to be a new invitation to a holiday cocktail party every time I sign onto Facebook or log in to my email. It’s an established fact that people drink more this time of year. The opportunity is there and let’s face it: the holidays are stressful and the invites make drinking look so damn sexy: pictures of martini glasses rimmed with red and green sugar crystals and women in fancy dresses sipping on a candy cane cocktail with blurbs like “Drink Responsibly” tagged at the end of the commercials. Please join us for Very Merry Cocktails, Sips & Dips, Cocktails & Coworkers, Martinis & Merriment, Martinis & Mistletoe, Cookies & Cocktails! And the list goes on.
I used to love this time of year, when there was a cocktail party every night of the week that I could totally justify drinking at because it was the holidays. I could dress up in my favorite party dress, look like a lady and sip on a glass of expensive champagne. Well, that would last all of a couple drinks until I was chugging Perrier-Jouet from the bottle before being asked to leave the restaurant, where I would make my way to some bar called the Thirsty Beaver, lose my shoes in the process, find some guy’s cowboy hat to don and wake up in some unfamiliar place wondering where I left my car.
That night really happened. No, seriously. Actually, that night seemed to happen often. Some details are missing, along with some dignity and self-respect, but you get the point. I will never be that girl. You know the one: the one in the designer red dress with all the right accessories, makeup and hair perfect with everything in place. She is manicured from head to toe and probably has on matching bra and panties. You know her, right? She sips on one glass of champagne or festive cocktail the entire evening and exits the party before last call. Man, I so desperately wanted to be her. I tried. I tried at every cocktail party from Thanksgiving to New Year’s year after year and it was always an epic fail. Every single party, I set out to drink responsibly like the commercials asked of me. Turns out that’s not an option for me because I’m an alcoholic. But I didn’t know that at the time, so I tried like hell to control my drinking and to be responsible.
I had such good intentions for the night I described above. I always had good intentions. You see, some friends and I were going to have a nice holiday get together at Del Frisco’s. I had on a red party dress and everything was manicured and matching. I had gotten a DUI the week before, so I had sworn off alcohol forever. But I thought, “I’ll just make a toast with my friends and stop there. It’s the holidays…a glass of champagne won’t hurt anyone.” Plus, it was like a $200 bottle. “There’s no way I could get drunk off something that expensive,” I thought, as if the alcohol content was any less. Not to mention my brain doesn’t know the difference between Two-Buck Chuck and Perrier-Jouet. And, well, I should have known better. It’s never been just a glass of anything for me. And that night was no exception.
It didn’t matter that we were at an upscale restaurant. It didn’t matter that I had a designer dress on. It didn’t matter that we were drinking $200 bottles of champagne. It didn’t matter that I had limited myself to just one drink. None of that mattered because my addiction is stronger than all of that.
Last weekend was my first holiday party of the season and it was great! I didn’t make out with anyone’s boyfriend or husband. I didn’t wake up in a car, or jail for that matter. I didn’t put anyone’s life in danger by driving drunk. I didn’t verbally assault any random strangers. I didn’t do one single thing that, when I woke up the next morning, I either couldn’t remember or had regrets about.
Instead, I showed up, sipped on sparkling water, mingled a bit, totally indulged in the tater tot and candy bar and left the party looking like I had when I arrived. I had my purse, my phone, my wallet, my bra, my shoes and my dignity intact (one, if not all, were usually missing by the end of any given night back in drinking days). I got home, let my dog out, washed my face, brushed my teeth, probably watched a little Dateline and woke up on Sunday morning feeling fresh and ready for yoga. I didn’t have to look through my phone and text messages to recall the events from the night before. I didn’t have to run outside to check to see if my car was in the driveway. I didn’t have to immediately start drinking to stop the shakes. I simply woke up with another 24 hours ahead of me to do with as I please.
And what I realized was the only thing standing between me and being that girl I tried so hard to be for so long was the cocktail(s). In fact, I can be anyone I want to be as long as I’m sober, but I don’t have to try and pretend to be anyone. I’m just the girl with the sparkling water who smiles and laughs and really loves knowing how her night is going to end: happily.