This weekend my husband and I went out to dinner and the first menu they shoved in our faces was for cocktails centered around chocolate and coconut and other things drunks don’t waste calories on. They weren’t quite girly drinks, but when I looked around and saw a middle-aged woman sipping one, I wasn’t surprised. She had a glass of red wine with dinner and my immediate thought was that her husband was probably getting lucky that night, but I’m stereotyping that his wife was a lightweight and frigid and now I’m a more than a little ashamed of myself.
I tell you what, though, I pay a heluva lot of attention to who’s drinking what these days. I can tell you exactly what my husband drank that night, right down to the brands. I can tell you that most everyone in the restaurant had at least a glass of wine, though some were sticking to water or club soda, like me. It’s not that I feel conspicuous in skipping booze, it’s just that I’m at the phase in my sobriety where it’s dawning on me that I’m never going to drink again. I feel special, but not in a good way.
I just finished reading Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Scoblic, so some of this self-pity comes from reading her wistful relapse fantasies about drinking with Hunter S. Thompson or just enjoying a glass of wine with dinner. While I found many parts of her memoir honest and funny, I hated the relapse fantasies. They felt contrived and not particularly helpful to someone in early recovery. It’s not Sacha’s fault I’m uber-impressionable, though. I swear all I’ve been thinking about lately is how I miss being able to order a girly drink at dinner or maybe sipping a cold beer in the backyard on a hot day.
Except, ha, when is the last time I sipped a beer?? Never? And if I had a girly drink at dinner, it would be more like a swarm of girly drinks…and frankly my glucose levels are already pushed to the limits by an ice cream addiction.
I don’t mean this post to be self-pitying. I don’t feel deprived so much as a little lost right now. For years, my husband and I went out to celebrate our escape from the drudgery of parenthood and a return to our old free selves. We bellied up to bars that were so low-rent they hadn’t banished smoking. We felt edgy and cool and maybe rekindled some excitement and passion we’d let slip in the months since our last date.
Now my husband still drinks but I don’t. Fortunately I still love to eat, but I’ll be honest in that I couldn’t wait to get home at the end of our night out. I couldn’t wait to pick our kids up from babysitting and put them to bed. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy my time out with just my husband, it’s just that some part of me wishes the whole world was on the wagon with me.
What would that look like, I wonder? Would restaurants be as filled with laughter and romance or even people? Bars wouldn’t exist, obviously, so would libraries and malls swell with displaced crowds of the lonely? I’m generalizing, obviously, but one of the reasons I used to drink was to relax and have fun and feel part of life. Now I feel a little like life’s third wheel. I don’t feel as fun as I once did, even in early sobriety when I was trying extra hard to prove I was still fun, dammit.
And since I’m being honest, I guess my real issue is that my husband still gets to drink like he always has. I’m the one who changed, but somehow I feel left behind. He drinks a lot, but he doesn’t drink like me. He can cut himself off at any point in the evening, something I was never able to do.
I find myself wondering how other couples work it out. It’s something I don’t hear much about at meetings. When spouses do come up, it’s usually to describe a teetotaler who nagged the drunk into sobriety. Heh, like you can make a drunk do anything they don’t want to do.
I’m sure I’m at a very specific point in the recovery process. I’m hardly the first wife to get sober. Maybe it’s been studied and outlined in a textbook somewhere and has a fancy name like Sobriety-Induced Marital Identity Displacement. The next phase depends on whether you and your spouse have anything in common beyond a shared address and love of booze. I like to think my husband and I would still be BFFs even if we hadn’t gotten drunk together on our very first date eight million years ago. We fit together that way.
It boils down to me being scared. The unknown is scary enough through a comforting haze of booze. Now I need to call on faith and hope, but I’m not quite there yet either. Oh dear, do you know I just realized I have 8 months sober today? There’s a little hope right there and it came from me being a self-pitying idiot, but also a sober self-pitying idiot.