Reason NOT to Drink #2 – kids’ birthday parties

19May09

horizontal cupcakes

Back in the day, I could always muster up a reason to drink:

Because something bad happened at work.

Because something good happened at work.

Because it was a beautiful spring/summer/fall/winter evening.

Because the kids were acting up and I needed to take the edge off.

Because I was at a party with strangers.

Because I was at a party with good friends.

Because it was Friday. Yay!

Because it was Monday. Ugh.

Just because.

Although happy things were certainly triggers to my drinking, more often than not the phrase “I need a drink” came in response to something negative. I frequently used it as a punchline:

Colleague: “How’d the client meeting go?”

Me: “I need a drink. Or five.”

I know plenty of people do this. I wrote about observing this phenomenon recently in friends’ Facebook status updates. For all I know, my friends could be drinking themselves silly after (or during?) the posting of their alcohol-related status, but I somehow doubt it. For me, though, when I said “I need a drink,” you could bet that I was gonna have a drink. Or five.

After writing recently about my younger daughter’s health condition, and how I realized that I wouldn’t use that as a reason to drink anymore, I decided to start chronicling all those things that in the past would have been perfect justification to pop the cork on the Pinot Noir. (In no particular order.)

If my daughter’s health was Reason #1 NOT to Drink, I now present Reason #2 NOT to Drink: kids’ birthday parties.

For those of you who’ve ever attended a kid’s party at a Chuck E. Cheese, you know why I might consider it a fitting model for an additional 10th circle in Dante’s Inferno, had these establishments existed circa 1300. For those of you who’ve never attended such a party or even stepped foot in one of these hellholes, consider yourselves extremely blessed.

(Unless, of course, you consider a cramped, badly lit, overpriced, stinky, incredibly noisy “restaurant” full of the devil’s spawn running around unchecked to be Good Times.)

My first exposure to Hell On Earth came on the occasion of the 4th or 5th birthday of S., the daughter of a close friend. I didn’t have kids at the time, and had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I cheerily agreed to go.

Although Chuck E.’s no longer serves beer, thank goodness they did back then.

I would have preferred wine or mixed drinks, but watery beer was all they had, and I drank it. Heartily. And while I wasn’t drunk when I left, I was tipsy, and recall walking out into the blinding sunlight searching for my car. When I got home, I of course had a few more drinks. You know, to recover.

On the occasion of my own daughter K.’s first birthday party at our house, most of our friends at the time didn’t have kids. After K. was put to sleep, we grown-ups partied into the wee hours. I think I had been asleep for maybe two hours when K. awoke, ready to start her first day as a full-fledged one-year-old.  Ouch.

And so it continued through the years. Most of my friends with kids thankfully served beer and wine at their offspring’s galas, and we returned the favor. Most recently, I hosted little girls at sleepovers with my glass of wine on hand to soothe me amidst the shrieks and Hillary Duff karaoke.

When a good girlfriend of mine invited me and my daughters to her 3-year-old’s party a few weekends ago, I admit I felt a twinge of trepidation. I assumed my girls would be the oldest kids there, and would be eager to leave after five minutes. My plan was to go and stay just long enough to avoid a headache from what I anticipated would be afternoon of whining and crying, stinky diapers, and conversations about weaning and potty training. Yeah, I had a bad attitude. And how was I going to endure without an Adult Beverage?

Well, wouldn’t you know it, I did. And…I had fun.

The hosts had hired a clown who kept the kids entranced with his wacky balloon-creature making. My 9- and 11-year-old even enjoyed it, I was pleasantly surprised to note.

Then I saw they had a face painting kit, which I promptly took in hand and then volunteered my services. After I executed my first butterfly fairly well, I had a line of kids clamoring for frogs, flowers and rocket ships. And I wholeheartedly enjoyed the company of all those little tykes. Relished it, even. They were truly adorable.

Reviewing my behavior and thoughts during and after the party, I came to realize how silly and self-centered I’d been on all those other occasions in the past. These events hadn’t been about me, yet for the most part, that’s the only person I had considered.

So now I’m happy to report that not only have I conquered another previously dreaded event without the aid of alcohol, but I’ve also developed (in a single afternoon, no less) a new appreciation for the parties of the potty set. Once again, I attribute this slightly miraculous metamorphosis to my AA program. It’s helped me be more present, to be cognizant of the here and now and of such wonderful things I missed in the past – like the giggle of a toddler when the face-painting brush tickles her cheek, or the lovely blue stain of food coloring on my 9-year-old’s cupcake-sated tongue…

Oh, and S., if you’re reading this, thanks for inviting us.

*ADDENDUM:

…there was always the curious mental phenomenon that parallel with our sound reasoning there inevitably ran some insanely trivial excuse for taking the first drink. Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.      —p. 37, The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous

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7 Responses to “Reason NOT to Drink #2 – kids’ birthday parties”

  1. 1 Chaz

    C… I can relate.

    I spent many an event secretly buzzed on Vodka… just to make it through.

    Part of the progression of recovery I experienced comes to mind in reading the part of your post to do with your face-painting revelation.

    In early sobriety, I began asking myself the question when faced with a looming task that I didnt really want to do… or thought maybe I should do this drunk… “What if I just did it sober and quit thinking about it”.

    Then I would treat it like an adventure into the unknown. I would face whatever situation it was that I was anxious about with as much genuine zeal and directed interest as possible.

    I was blown away at how many times I had a genuinely happy and successful time of it…. whether it was a social event, business, event, or whatever.

    I was prepared to face the demon of boredom or square-dom and “do it sober”. Never, and I repeat NEVER, did I suffer pain for having gone through whatever event it was. And virutally aways it was an eye-opening experience that taught me something new in my lifestyle of recovery that I could use in other areas of my life.

    Life is amazing today. Not perfect, but amazing.

    I no longer DREAD things. I have a huge event on Thursday of which I have primary responsibility for, and I am genuinely excited. In years past, I would be anxious and dreading its arrival.

    Yet I know full well that if it fucks up (oops), that the impacts will be big. But that is nothing compared to the devastations I created in my drinking and more importantly, I exercised a half dozen principles of recovery in organizing this event and those principles have never let me down…. so I have no reason to fret…. and I am not. I am freakin’ dread-free today!

    Anyway…. glad to hear of your insights and growth. I too attribute my similar growth to my AA program and in particular, how God as I undstand him works in my life in ways I never imagined he could.

    Ciao….

    Chaz

  2. 2 Man Alive

    Hey Passion for JWalking,

    No kids here, but plenty of misery at plenty of parties. Why did I even go to some of them I will never know; maybe it was a nice change from being irritated and drunk around other people rather than irritated and drunk alone.

    But I do have the same list of reasons to drink. It is nice to know that all those reasons to drink are now reasons to stay sober. Bad day? Drinking will surely make it worse. Good day? Drinking will numb you into not experienceing it. Etc etc. So we stay away from the booze around kids, adults, on Mondays and Fridays, in sickness and in health, painting faces (like you) or doing origami (like me), and work at helping one another to live as best we can one day at a time.

    Thanks for another entertaining post.

    Man Alive

  3. 3 C

    Thanks, Chaz & Man Alive, for reading and for your comments.

    I have to admit that I was hesitant to post about this, because when I thought about it, it really did strike me as such an incredibly selfish attitude that I had, epecially given that we’re talking about KIDS here, and I really didn’t want to cop to it. But I guess the fact that I’ve righted my thinking gives me a bit of relief. It’s true, MA, that I’ve gone 180 degrees in the other direction – actually wanting to be sober so I don’t make things worse or miss out on the good stuff.

    I love your attitude, too, Chaz, about treating these events like “an adventure into the unknown.” I have a friend who hates parties and he says that he goes into them with the goal of finding the most interesting person there, or learning one interesting thing he didn’t know before the party. Again, having an open mind, being ready to explore, is so helpful. Good luck with your upcoming event. I bet it’s a hit.

  4. I love your ending about how in the past it was all about you. I have found in recovery that my biggest growth is not in how many days I stay sober, but in how much more self-LESS I have become. It was wonderful to see that you could experience the joys of such a simple ocassion. And to do it sober. Your daughters will remember your joy in that day. And you will forever be known as the Face Painting Lady. Good times 🙂

  5. Aaaawwww. I’m so dingy, I’m reading most of this going “who is S? who is S?”

    Helllooo? It’s me!

    Great post my friend. I also like your list of reasons to drink, because they’re the same reasons I do. More like excuses I guess. And even though I have them every year, I secretly loathe the birthday parties. But it makes them all worthwhile when I see everyone actually having a good time, and having self-reflective epiphanies to boot!

    And we’re always glad you come, even though your kids are older and might not have fun. So glad to hear they actually do. Well…at least until the teen years set in.

    S

  6. 6 Chaz

    C… I also wanted to comment that the first time I heard someone else in an AA meeting share about regrets they had about how they behaved with alcohol in the presence of their kids, such a heavy burden was lifted from me.

    I recognized that many, if not most alcholics did dumb stuff that they regret… including being under the influence at kids events. One guy even shared about stealing from his kids piggy banks. Another about scoring drugs while his kids were in the back seat of his car.

    When I heard these things, I felt my burden lift. I had not done stuff like this….but I had my own mistakes.

    It is common to us all. Sure you will feel bad. It is bad stuff which is why you stopped, made amends, then commited to recovery. So did I.

    Many do not. They go on doing dumb and hurtful stuff. The suffering continues. For us it didnt. We are privileged and so are our kids. They got their mommies and daddies back. Many, perhaps most, don’t.

    So you have done a great thing by getting sober and recovering. Dont let you memories beat you up.

    You are not alone in the mistakes you shared.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

  7. 7 Sharon

    I chuckled all the way through your reasons to drink.

    Mine…

    To relax after work

    To fit in at parties

    To escape at parties

    To enjoy activities

    To chill

    To relieve anger or frustration

    To reward myself

    To prove I am fine… two won’t hurt (one is never enough)

    Pleasure…pleasure…pleasure…

    How something that kept me trapped and depressed be pleasure, took years to develop 😉

    Keep sharing… I love your blog!


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