2.5 years sober. Wow, heading into three years without a drop of alcohol. What an incredible achievement, if I do say so myself.
It’s fascinating to consider myself in retrospect and to observe the immense and positive changes that have taken place in my life since giving up drinking, on many levels. On a physical level I’ve lost 13 kilos and now walk 5kms a day. I get up at 5.50am without fail. I start work early. I haven’t had a sick day off work in all that time. (In my drinking years I had rarely been off work for legitimately being ill but I certainly took days off because I was too hungover to drag myself out of bed). Emotionally I hardly ever lose my cool. My emotions are level and rational. My relationships are the best they’ve ever been (after all, people know exactly where they stand, I’m happy and I can feel love). Mentally I’m clear. My memory has improved. I am more mentally agile and astute and spiritually I’m aligned. My integrity is intact. My intuition is heightened. My dreams are predictive. My psychic abilities have returned to what they were as a child before I spent years drinking. Literally there is not a reason in the world why I would want to take up drinking again.
So why do I feel like I’ve won the battle, but not won the war?
Because I realised the war I’m waging is against people’s perceptions of being a non drinker! Two and a half years after giving up, I rarely, ever think about alcohol. I thoroughly enjoy socialising without it. In fact, I enjoy it much more because I don’t have to worry about planning not to take my car, affording taxis, worrying about getting drunk and undermining my feelings of self worth, having regrets, feeling sick the next day but pretending I’m fine. Knowing I’ve been an arse but not remembering why…
Interestingly, the discrimination I’ve experienced as a non drinker has mostly come from employers. Fancy that! I really didn’t see that one coming! Especially considering how productive my work days are.
The first time I really felt it, was after a work team I was with, had an achievement and we were all sitting around afterwards congratulating ourselves. My boss started talking about going out to the pub to celebrate and then turned to me and said, “You’ll have to start drinking again, so that you can come with us to the pub.”
Fortunately I responded calmly (as I do, now that I don’t drink anymore) and said (with a smile) “I’ll come to the pub anyway and just drink my regular drink”. No-one else seemed to notice but I felt quite affronted. Her comments had instantly made me feel excluded, even though I suspect she felt she was trying to do the opposite.
I went home that night and thought seriously about pulling her up on it the next day. But by the time the next day arrived, I quite simply couldn’t be bothered. Her opinion actually mattered so very little to me (and I knew I was leaving the role soon), that it wasn’t worth the effort of making an issue over.
The next time it happened in the workplace was more confronting. I had been through a rigorous interview process for, and had finally scored, my “dream job”. The man I was to work for, as his personal assistant, was an extremely smart entrepreneur and I’d been highly impressed by his perceptiveness and emotional intelligence during my interviews. And yet, after commencing in the role and when I realised it was time to tell him I no longer drank alcohol, he said abruptly, “Well you’re not going to fit in here.” I laughed in astonishment (thinking he was joking) but I quickly realised he wasn’t joking. A few days later someone at “after work drinks” went to pour me a champagne and after I declined my boss said loudly, “She doesn’t drink… but don’t worry… we’ll soon change that.”
I realised I had entered into very unfamiliar territory for me – feeling socially excluded in the workplace because I didn’t drink. This was despite still enjoying to hang out with the others and play 8-ball, talk and joke around.
I had an opportunity to raise the subject a few days later when he showed the whole staff an Anthony Robbins video to motivate them. Anthony Robbins talked about the choices we make in every day life which transform our lives in positive ways. After the presentation he asked me what I’d thought of it and I said, “Well it makes perfect sense. In fact, my decision to give up drinking was that choice I made in my every day life, to transform my life in a positive way.” He looked at me directly and in that moment, I knew that I’d made my point; that a very positive decision I’d made was being undermined by his comments.
My work colleagues seem to enjoy my company when I’m out with them but my boss, who is quite a big drinker himself, has put up several walls towards me in a social context. When I first started as his personal assistant he often talked about me travelling with him and going out networking with him but he quickly changed that when he discovered that I’m a non-drinker. Even though I love to network, to talk and to socialise.
I am hoping that over time and as he gets to know me as a sociable person, that he’ll allow his guard to drop again but it has certainly struck me, just how difficult it can be, to be alienated in the workplace for being the non drinker in the room.