Ode to not standing in gasoline

The thing about regrets is you can only really have them once you already know how things turn out. You can decide to do something or not do something, but you don’t know yet if something terrible or wonderful will happen. Or, more likely, nothing drastic will happen, but other things will happen later that make you view your decision differently. It’s not really fair to connect a series of events that span across years, but who said regret was fair.

When I was about 6 months sober, college friends arranged to go to Atlantic City for the weekend. It started out including spouses but wound up just being three of my dearest friends. They all drink, none problematically to my knowledge, and I was worried I was going to feel tempted and/or awkward and miserable. I decided not to join them.

But what I didn’t know then is that one of those friends would lose a child tragically. She would recover as much as a mother can because she’s tough and probably the most well adjusted and grounded human being I know, and then she would move to a completely different part of the country. I found out the weekend she was planning to move and felt sad and wondered at that sadness. I will probably see her as often as I did before, which is to say not all that often. What I was feeling was regret that I didn’t make more time for her and for friendships in general. That’s a reasonable regret.

What is not reasonable is regretting that I didn’t go on that Atlantic City trip when I was newly sober and nervous about being around heavy drinking. This is what I wrote at the time.

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?


The first thing that strikes me is the drama of the gasoline analogy. There is nothing subtle about recovery meetings and the wisdom shared within. But it’s easy enough not to stand in gasoline, right? One day, well into the future, there will be other puddles of gasoline we can stand in without worry. Well, you know what I mean.

I wouldn’t worry about such a trip now. This fall I’m planning to go with the same friend who experienced tragedy and moved far away, and we’re going to visit another dear friend. We’d planned to go last spring, but the pandemic put our destination state in lockdown. I can’t make up the Atlantic City weekend and we won’t be able to recreate whatever last year’s trip would have been like, but the decision and wait were the right ones to make at the time. Another opportunity will almost always come along, and we can be stronger and wiser for it.

6 thoughts on “Ode to not standing in gasoline

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  1. Regrets and second-guessing yourself are hard habits to break, they usually go on guilt trips together. That’s great that you’re shaking off that stuff and getting together a visit, the planning stage and looking forward to trips and seeing people is part of the fun. Of course, if you’re on the nerd end of the spectrum like me, you even enjoy looking at maps. That’s a great photo of the boardwalk, somewhere in my folks’ house there’s a Fralinger’s taffy box with old snapshots in it (come to think of it, why isn’t the box sticky inside?) that was one of my grandmother’s, she used to take a shuttle bus from Philly to Atlantic City, and then skipped the casinos and spent all her quarters on the boardwalk.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I liked that photo and the reflection. Can relate to both. Oddly had just counted on my hands and fingers my months sober (8) and imagined what it would feel like to drink, akin to poison. But hard being around old friends in that kind of setting. For me the pandemic was a kind of odd grace period to that end. RP comments are the best of the best.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, they are. RP’s a keeper. Pretty sure I “found” him through your blog…so thank you. Interesting that the pandemic felt like a grace period. I can see that. I heard about people who struggled being stuck at home and not able to go to meetings, so it’s heartening to hear it worked the other way for you. Eight months is really something. Poison free.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh to be able to go back in time and visit Fralinger’s. Maybe it wasn’t sticky because someone licked it clean. Gross, sorry. And I used to love my map books. Before Mapquest, it was how we got around. Either that or we had to ask other nerds or elders for directions, and then there was a lot of “go a mile or so and turn left at the stump and then make your fourth right at the green house with the white dog tied up out front”. I didn’t throw those map books out until a few years ago when I was sure the Internet was sticking around.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yuk, but you’re probably right, everybody on that side of the family has a wicked sweet tooth. I’m never good with directions, and sometimes feel kind of paranoid that someone at the GPS company is just messing with me. Seems likely the hackers are going to have a field day with self-driving cars.

        Liked by 1 person

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