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.

30 thoughts on “Exceptions

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  1. Surprisingly, I have a much higher tolerance for vegetarians than I used to.
    I never really had a problem with people not drinking, whatever my intake levels were at the same time.


    1. Ha, I kind of know what you mean about vegetarians. I guess there are more options now. Interesting and reassuring to hear your take as a normal drinker. Thanks for weighing in.


  2. Amen to that! I actually do have a problem looking through cooking magazine during the holidays when every other ad is for alcohol. The rest of the year isn’t so bad. I used to make a tequila chicken that was fabulous and there’s simply no replacement for tequila. While your post isn’t really about cooking, it makes me think of the big and little adjustments I make to be healthy and sober. They’re worth it.


    1. Articles and ads about booze can definitely be triggers. I haven’t made beer can chicken since I stopped drinking, but that never turned out as good as I’d hoped anyway.


      1. I’m pretty sure this was auto-correct, Sherry, but OMG if I didn’t just start laughing wildly at the thought of beer butt chicken. It made me think of beer belly (or in my case, wine belly)–that has been the most stubborn weight I’ve ever tried to lose. Come to think of it, my beer butt has been challenging to lose too. I’m sure it has something to do with cookies, but hey, it’s all about priorites, right?


      2. Running On Sober … No, beer butt chicken is a real THING believe it or not. You stick a can of beer up the chicken’s butt while it’s cooking and it tenderises and flavours the inside. It’s delicious. But, um, maybe that’s not the best tangent here.

        I am still in the stage of wishing the rest of the world would suddenly stop drinking. So this is helpful for me to read. I know I need to get the fuck over it because it ain’t ever gonna happen. Plus, as you say, people don’t really care if we’re drinking or not so it’s more about how we can learn to live amongst the drinkers at ease.


      3. Lol, that’s funny. Had no idea. I like the idea of chickens with big butts though. Maybe that’s why they’re always running around so much.

        Sent from my iPhone


      4. The liquid in the can only serves to steam the inside of the chicken as it roasts on the outside. While it may not have the “cachet” of beer, you can use ginger ale or coke instead of the beer. Or water…lol. Turns out exactly the same, but maybe not as fun to say when mentioning it to others.


      5. I’m intrigued by the idea of trying it with ginger ale or coke. My guess is whoever first had the idea to shove a full beer inside a chicken’s cavity may have been a little drunk.


  3. I am currently picturing a lapsed vegetarian on a bender… HILARIOUS! Watch out, Brazilian steak houses everywhere!

    Interestingly, I have used the vegetarian analogy in my own head, but with a slightly different twist. I am not a vegetarian, but I can truly take meat or leave it (carbs, on the other hand, are a completely different story).

    My husband gave up drinking completely when I spiraled out of control, first, I guess, to serve as a role model, now, out of solidarity. When I realized he was not drinking at all (not on golf trips, work functions, anywhere), I felt incredible guilt, then anger, then guilt at my anger. I finally turned it around in my own head with the vegetarian analogy… if he had some health reason that required him to give up meat, would I support that decision? Absolutely. I would never cook another animal again,and I would never touch it again to support his health. And I would’t have a qualm about it, and my husband has reassured me he has no qualms either.

    Probably not the most relevant comment to post, but there you have it!


    1. My husband did the same thing out of solidarity, Josie; you and I are both very lucky. My husband has been sober longer than I have, LOL, because I slipped a couple times. We joke about that sometimes now. 🙂


  4. How would you like to be the person who doesn’t eat chocolate? That’s got to be a tough life.
    “No, sorry, I don’t like chocolate.”
    “Huh? You’re joking right?! Here have some.”
    “No, no really, I’m good.”


    I sub to Food & Wine too, mainly for the food porn, though sometimes I just scan the recipe list and toss if if nothing interests me. So many recipes look delish, only to get to like the 3rd ingredient and it calls for half a bottle of white wine. I believe people who say it cooks out, but I wouldn’t trust myself with an open half bottle in the fridge. And I’m sorry, but you’ll NEVER find me pouring perfectly good alcohol down the drain. Ain’t happening.

    As usual, awesome post!


    1. If I cook with alcohol – especially wine or something one might drink straight from the glass and not from a brown bag – I usually have my husband measure it out at least. But I don’t normally cook with it, which makes it even easier. I’ve read conflicting things about alcohol cooking off, but I won’t make myself crazy about it. I figure bananas foster and tiramisu are out. At least I still have chocolate! During the brief ’13 “FUCK SUGAR” campaign, I did avoid it. That didn’t take, thank god. There was no real reward in giving it up.


  5. Love the post and all the comments, thanks for the giggles! I remember having a conversation with a friend once about why restaurant staff doesn’t seem to take us not drinking seriously! I mean if I said I had a peanut allergy, everyone would do their up most, best to ensure that I don’t get anything with peanuts, but alcohol, sheesh, how many times have I been offered some red wine infused something and told oh yeah, I think it cooks out, no biggie! Sheesh! I tell ya! ok, well, that was my rant, thanks for letting me blow off some steam! Lol! – great post, I have definitely had the same thoughts trough out the years! – Maggie.


  6. “I’m not comparing alcoholism to vegetarianism. Both are hard to spell, ” I was laughing at this as I read it earlier today. I actually misspell “alcoholic” about 90% of the time. I just can’t spell it properly without having to go back and fix it.

    Anyway, great post. I do enjoy the idea that while we may feel alone out there on the wild boozy frontier, we certainly aren’t. And while I didn’t necessarily want to ban drunkenness, my judgement meter went into red often and I tsk tsk’d those who dared raise a drink to their lips. it’s like that person who upon wakening decides that everyone else should be awake in the house or resents that not everyone else is awake too. I had some of that in me, but now I just enjoy the fact that I get some time to myself in the morning (to drag that analogy further along) and not worry about what the others are doing.

    Groovy stuff 🙂



    1. You reminded me that I also hardly notice what and how much others drink around me. Progress! But I’ve always gotten up first and tiptoed around because it’s the only time the house is quiet. I like the way you see things.


  7. My dad used to say, “you can tell ’em. you just can’t tell ’em much.” His way of saying you can lead a horse to water…. So most “bad stuff” like smoking gets regulated or taxed out rather than individuals choosing en masse to abstain for personal reasons. Of course information and knowledge influence our decisions but we make our choices, good, bad, or ugly. Thinking back to earlier days and what was standard or accepted is interesting isn’t it? I grew up in a time one might consider more open or with more freedom of choice. We were for the most part self regulated rather than controlled. Not saying that was better or worse, just saying it was different. For example in my state when I was of age to legally drink I could drink a beer while driving myself to the mall. I could drink while driving, I could have lots of full or empty beer cans in the car, no problem. A cop could pull me over and ticket me only if I was drunk, and that was for the most part just a judgement call so you generally had to be staggering drunk to be in any sort of trouble. Even then most times you could call someone to come pick you up and leave your car for the next day. No jail, maybe a small ticket, nothing to deal with really but a hangover. ‘Course lots of drunken accidents, And lots of fatalities with loads of drunken drivers and no seat belts required. Now we not only have seat belts and shoulder harnesses mandatory for every seat and passenger but air bags and sensors for unseen threats. And today we have much more stringent laws and consequences for drunken and impaired drivers. Nevertheless, I recently heard from a local wrecker driver that our state highway patrol estimates a 50/50 chance of discovering a drunk or impaired driver behind the wheel of any car they pull over on a weekend night. I’d say that’s a conservative figure. Regretfully, I know I drove drunk thousands of times. So we choose, we make our choices. I chose to drink, now I choose not to drink. How will it end? It’s a given I won’t get out alive and I will pay taxes. But while I am sober you can bet my choices will have a better chance of success not only for me but for those closest to me and anyone I influence. I have to walk the walk, someone somewhere is paying attention to what I am doing. My life is my influence. I know I am preaching to the choir. Sorry to be so serious, your write up was funny and enjoyable. I promise to loosen up, soon.


    1. You’d better not! This is as close as we get to reading your blog, plus it’s always entertaining/amazing to hear how lax the rules used to be. It seems those of us who abuse freedom ruin it for everyone else, but then those precautions will save others. I very much like what you said about influencing someone (anyone) when we choose to do the right thing. Great thoughts you put out there.


  8. It gets slowly easier, well it did for me. I now really have no issue being in places where there is drink, as long as I’m there for the right reason and I can cope with it mostly. I don’t like being around very drunk people but really I don’t hang around with people like that, those of my family and friends who drink do so in moderation and so it isn’t a problem.

    Now I just laugh like the other day I bought some fruit flavoured cider for my wife, it was the wrong one, but she tasted it and liked it more than the one I’d failed to buy. She said how much she liked it. Then we come to leave – and she left about half an inch in the bottom of the glass…. now that I’ll never understand!!!


  9. I did, and still greatly do (I’m not completely sober) feel people will not accept me socially other than ‘the old me’ and I feel I can’t go out and be, any more. It’s difficult to explain… but I understand your post. To me, the only solution I have found so far is not going out at all. Great you’re at peace with it.


  10. I gave up drinking because of my husband’s alcoholism. I never really liked drinking anyway (and to say that I even drank is stretching it), but now I can’t bring myself to touch the stuff. I can’t walk into a pub without feeling queasy. Given that I live in the UK, this makes me immediately anti-social – a leper, even, in some quarters. Every social interaction here, or nearly every adult social interaction, is negotiated – even evaluated – through alcohol. Still, I don’t care. Even now, the smell of beer makes me nauseous and an invitation for a quick pint leaves me cold. It’s as if I’ve joined my own private Temperance movement. So, this antipathy for alcohol and caustic response to those who drink is a reality for carers as much as it is for the recovering alcoholic. My daughter, too, who is five and shouldn’t know about these things, also finds alcohol frightening. No wonder. (And yet another reason why I don’t drink).


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