I had another drunk dream last night.

This is hardly concerning because I still have waitressing dreams and haven’t waitressed in 18 years. In those dreams, my old boss Shannon calls to tell me I’m on the schedule and asks where the hell I am and I try explaining “but Shannon, I moved. I have a job. I have kids. I’m old.” Instead I find myself moving in slow motion across the dining room of the upscale retirement community where I used to work. I’m slinging glasses of tomato juice and bowls of beef consommé to old folks who couldn’t possibly still be alive. I’m checking Shannon’s impeccably neat schedule on the wall for the rest of the week.

So no, I’m not surprised or alarmed that I still have drinking dreams.

I think what alarms me is why I never turn a drink down in my dreams. In last night’s dream, this guy who doesn’t exist in real life told me we’d gone out on the icy roof the night before and, when I didn’t remember doing this, asked me “wait, are you still drunk?”

“But I don’t drink anymore,” I answered and only then realized what I’d done and thrown away.

In my dreams, I only realize I’ve relapsed after the fact. I think this is because I can’t imagine giving sobriety away so easily.  I haven’t been challenged with tragedy or true hardship. Yet. It’s the only way I can imagine feeling tempted to drink again. These dreams are probably anxiety about how I will handle that thing which I fear I will not be able to handle. Maybe I just ate too many onions too close to bedtime.

A close family member who had more than 6 months sober recently told me he’d had drinks while out with coworkers one night. He said he quickly remembered why he stopped drinking in the first place. He doesn’t understand why he can’t just have a glass of beer or wine with dinner, but he can’t and that has to be enough to go on for now. He has a lot on his plate and it gives me great hope that he brushed himself off and climbed back on the wagon. I hope he stays on.

At the end of my drunk dream last night, I was trying to get ready for a 5K I had signed up to run. I was woefully hungover and couldn’t focus long enough to use the bathroom or get dressed or eat a bowl of cheerios. I thought to myself, “I have to run this race, but I feel like I’m going to die.”

How to explain the relief upon waking that it was just a dream! I got dressed for a 5 mile run and fended off a playful kitten while tying shoe laces and then headed out the door to struggle up the big hills and in the light rain, beyond grateful it had just been a dream.

Exceptions

Smoking is fairly taboo these days, but I remember being able to smoke in the mall. This was the pre-foodcourt mall, before those oversized, low-to-the-ground soft play structures for toddlers to climb over without getting hurt cropped up next to Sears. Where’s the fun in that? The mall used to be a dangerous, badass place.

Older people tell me they remember being able to smoke at work and even school, but this makes me dizzy as if from second-hand smoke. I don’t smoke anymore, so I’m glad it was banished. This will sound hypocritical and dismissive to smokers and even a little bit to me.

In the early days of sobriety, I wished for the same ban on drunkenness. I wished that I wasn’t the only sober person in the room and wanted everyone else to see how much fun I was having, damnit. I thought this often and hard, with determined frown lines burrowed deep.  I bristled when my husband said “I don’t even think about you not-drinking anymore. It’s a non-issue.” I thought about it all the time.

Yesterday I was thumbing through an issue of Food and Wine, which probably seems an odd thing for a sober person to read except that wine never was my bag. And I love food. I saw this line from a vegetarian cookbook author who visits Hungary every year for two weeks.

That everyone in this country is a carnivore is no deterrent to our mostly vegetarian lifestyle. 

Yes. This is lately how I feel about not drinking while the rest of the world does. I feel set apart but enjoying all the fruits of sober life. I am thinking of others, but not worrying what they think of me not drinking. Probably because I learned how little they are thinking of that at all.

Vegetarians sacrifice ease and convenience for a larger goal. They deal with the same dense but well-meaning dinner party hosts. (“I know you don’t eat meat so I hope it’s okay that I cooked everything in chicken broth.”) Often they do it for health reasons and they don’t expect everyone to jump on their bandwagon, though maybe they feel a bit lonely riding for long stretches all alone.

I’m not comparing alcoholism to vegetarianism. Both are hard to spell, but obviously an alcoholic on a binge is more dangerous than a relapsed vegetarian. I’ll end the comparison there, it just struck me that sometimes it’s really hard to do the right thing when it’s not the right thing for everyone else.

We should not be deterred by popular opinion on alcohol but instead find the things we love about sobriety and make new, delicious things out of them.

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