I got the message the day after Christmas: Hey friends, how about atlantic city weekend of January 7th?

It came from my best friend in college, the girl I met through my best friend in elementary school. We had both needed roommates as I’d already played russian roulette with my first roommate (and lost) and she was just transferring from community college. We shared a slice of lava cake at Fridays and decided that, yes, we would move in together and share a hot plate and not turn out to be creepy psychopaths.

In truth, it turned out even better than that. She became my very best friend for years and has more dirt on me than anyone else. I’ve told her things I haven’t even told my therapist. We live hours apart, so don’t see each other often, but it doesn’t matter. When we do meet, we pick up right where we left off.

The last weekend we spent together, we climbed into a big empty hot tub at the quaint bed and breakfast where we were staying and smoked a joint she had brought along. I don’t remember why we smoked in the hot tub. Maybe because we were high? But I don’t want you to get the wrong impression of her. She had never gotten high before she met me. Once I remember smoking with a group of friends in college and she got paranoid and stuffed wet towels at the base of the door and ranted about sirens no one else heard. She had been such a novice then, a real innocent.

But now? I’m not drinking and I’m not smoking and she still can. So can the other two college friends who were included on the invite. One is married and one is divorced and dating. All are bringing significant others and none are bringing kids.There’s talk of massages and dinner at the Borgata and someone used the phrase “adult beverages”. My excitement soured pretty quickly. I decided not to go.

My husband and I don’t have easy access to a babysitter. I probably could have found one, but we’re not the type to drop $200 a night on a hotel room at short notice anyway. Plus there’d be dinner. One of my friends has exquisite taste, so we wouldn’t have been dining in a diner, unfortunately. Plus there’s gambling! What if I turned out to be like Julie Hagerty in Lost in America and was never allowed to utter the words “nest” and “egg” in the same sentence again? The only other time I gambled was playing $5 in slots on a riverboat in New Orleans, and I didn’t win anything. What if I won and the pleasure part of my brain lit up like the Rockefeller Christmas Tree? It could turn into my most dangerous addiction yet.

Part of me still wanted to go, just on my own and only for the day. I could have left my husband at home with the kids. He would have gone along with this, though wasn’t happy when I mentioned it. I decided it wasn’t worth the strain, plus who wants to be a seventh wheel?

Still I pictured myself sitting alone on the beach, which I assume you can do without getting knifed or stuck by a needle. I picture strolling along the boardwalk and ducking into a tacky shop to buy a tacky “My mom went to Atlantic City and all I lost was my college fund” shirt for my youngest. I pictured the trip as a getaway, a change of scenery, a chance to get out of myself and watch old people squeeze every last drop out of bus trip tokens and buffets.

Probably the number one reason I didn’t go, though, was because I don’t drink anymore. My friends still drink because they can. They know I don’t drink, so I don’t worry about that, but I did think of what my sponsor shared at a meeting the other night. At six months sober, she had met old friends at a bar and nursed cups of coffee all night long and proudly told her sponsor about it afterwards. Her sponsor said “You’re proud of yourself, huh? For standing in the gasoline all night?”

Lately I’ve felt a bit shaky in my sobriety. The other night I kind of lost it when I realized how badly I wanted beer and how angry I was at not being able to have one. I didn’t drink, but the memory feels so strange and even felt that way while it was happening. It shook me up. I don’t think this is a good time for me to sit around a table with friends I love dearly and laugh while they enjoy drinks the way I once did, never knowing it would end. Who wants to stand in gasoline?

I would like to take my family to Atlantic City though. Maybe in spring we’ll go and all four of us can walk along the beach and eat lunch in a diner with a shady, unshaven character slumped in a corner booth. We can take turns discreetly making up stories about him while we wait for sandwiches to arrive and, with my husband close by, our nest egg will remain safe and sound.

This feels like a new kind of adventure. I like that sobriety has surprises like that.

8 thoughts on “Gasoline

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  1. For what it is worth reading through this it sounds to me like you made the right decision.

    In meetings I go to I used to here “If you go to the barbers enough times your get your hair cut sooner or later”… many newcomers look at that phrase and say “That is stupid”… But why would you be in a barbers except to get a hair cut! That is the point, yes there are always good reasons to be somewhere, I now can go to old colleague reunions etc. without concern but they are generally a curry and a drink so I can have the curry if it was a “meet in the pub for a few drinks” I’d probably pass. I ducked on the Christmas do at work this year, I just thought “I won’t be missed and I don’t need to go”


    1. I’m glad I didn’t go. They all spoke of crippling hangovers the next morning and I don’t think it would have been good for me to have been around the night before the hangovers. Part of me is sad, but most of me knows it was best to sit this one out. That honestly feels good.


  2. You want to know what’s great about being 60? Not much, but the insight is pretty cool. It took almost 60 years to realize that people aren’t as concerned with my whereabouts as I used to think they were. So now, if I don’t want to go to Atlantic City or any of an infinite list of other possible destinations, I don’t go. AND I don’t worry about it. I’m glad you didn’t stand in the gasoline. The price is getting higher every day, so to speak.


  3. Hey, Girl. I know this is an old post but I thought I’d comment on it. The one thing I have learned over the years about being the only sober one in a group of drunks is that it sucks. Big time. There is a shift that occurs when the individual begins to drink, alcoholic or not. We are no longer on the same page as them and we spend the rest of the evening being onlookers to a gathering that we really don’t belong at. Had you gone, that would have been 48-72 hours of your life you would not get back and would probably have few good memories of it anyway. I’m glad you didn’t go.


    1. Yeah, I’m glad you posted this because sometimes I feel like a spoilsport, but it’s never really going to be fun like it once was. Watching people get drunk makes me realize that’s a good thing. Thanks for your sweet comment.


  4. Hi there.

    First time visiting your site… found you from a comment you left on the recent post at Trudging Through the Fire. Read some several of your recent posts, and [as I do when I find a new blogger that interests me] started going through your archives. Great writing style, and another open and honest look at the inner workings of a recovering alcoholic’s brain. Well done.

    What prompted me to post, though, was the bit about the sponsor saying, “You’re proud of yourself? For standing in the gasoline all night?” To me, it sounded like the sponsor was being a smug, unsupportive bastard, and it kinda pissed me off. My immediate response upon reading that was something along the lines of, “Hell YES I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself for standing in gasoline all night, but having the self-control to NOT LIGHT THE FUCKING MATCH. Go eat an entire bag of dicks.”

    That said, I see the point that was being made, and you made the right decision FOR YOU at the time, and for the right reasons [some of which the other commenters have pointed out].

    Anyway, take care, and keep fighting the good fight.

    P.S., my abstract-random personality wants me to add this. Love this band, and this is the song that will be playing when I get my next speeding ticket: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62_0ZHhOo58


    1. Yeah, that’s not a sponsor I would have worked well with either. A year-and-a-half later, I would probably still not do the AC trip because of the cost and because it just doesn’t appeal. I would not worry about relapsing, which is good. Thanks for the awesome comment!


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