Normies…they don’t get it.

I’ve been  a part of the recovery community for over two years now (sober for eight months), and I have become so accustomed to interacting with others in the program that I often forget about the normies out there.  Most of the people who I have any kind of relationship with are people who are at least a little bit familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous.  Whether they are in the program or not, they can understand the language of recovery.  Every once in a while, I am reminded that there are people who have never had a problem with drugs or alcohol, so they don’t (can’t) understand what it is to be an addict.

It’s like when someone tells you to “just stop” drinking so much, or they ask “why can’t you just stop?”   How many times, as addicts, have we heard that one?  I can’t even begin to count the number of times my mother said that to me.  That statement, “just stop,”  has become a running joke in my house.  Whenever one of us complains about how we are feeling (physically or emotionally) we ask the other one, “Well, why don’t you just stop?”   It doesn’t matter what it is…could be a headache or stomach ache, a feeling of guilt or despair. Whatever the situation we ask the question and then we both laugh.  Ah, alcoholic humor.  Normies wouldn’t get it.

I am very open about my alcoholism at work.  My coworkers all know that I go to an AA meeting nearly every day, and that I take my recovery very seriously, even though I make  jokes about it sometimes.  I have a lot of love and support at my job, and I know I am very lucky to have it.  That said, this morning I was very surprised, and kind of amused, to be reminded that normies think differently than addicts do.  I talked to a coworker about exercise when I saw her leaving work in gym clothes yesterday.  She lauded the benefits of working out, and I told her that I knew that I needed to get my big, fat butt in gear and do some kind of exercise myself.  Then, this morning she came into my office to tell me about her Zumba class last night.  She talked about making a commitment to exercise, and I agreed that it takes commitment and likened it to me going to meetings. That’s when she so graciously explained to me that if I would get a fitness regimen and stick to it, I would no longer need AA meetings. She went on to say that I would feel so good about myself that I wouldn’t even have to think about drinking or not drinking. She was very adamant about it.  I thanked her for her advice, but told her that I will always need meetings because I don’t want to ever drink again.  She told me to just try working out everyday and cutting down on my meetings.  I smiled and nodded and she went on her way.  The whole thing was rather funny to me, and I thought to myself that normies just don’t get it.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of some things my mom said when I got out of rehab the first time.  For the first few weeks she was like the meeting police, asking me repeatedly if I had gone to meetings and when I was planning on going to another.  I struggled with going as a lot of newcomers do.  A few weeks later I had made some friends, shared at meetings a couple of times, and was beginning to really get something out of meetings.  One evening my mom wanted me to come over and I told her that I couldn’t because I was headed to a meeting.  I thought she would be happy about it, but she said “how much longer are you going to have to do those meetings?”  Like I would suddenly be cured within a few weeks!  My mom, although she has a lot of addictive behaviors, is a normie when it comes to booze.  She doesn’t get it.

One of the most blatant examples of normies not getting it happened to me not that long ago.  A friend of mine who knows I’m in recovery, knows about my visit to rehab last year, and has supported me through my struggles, and applauded my successes, did something that really opened my eyes to the differences between the way recovering alcoholics and normies view alcohol.  My friend often shops at specialty food stores and she likes to share fancy chocolate candy with everyone.  One day she offered me a piece of chocolate, and of course I accepted (please refer to the fat butt comment above).  I took a bite of the candy and it tasted like it had alcohol in it.  I asked my friend and she said yes, it was a rum filling.  She said it and then a look of realization spread across her face.  But in an instant it was gone and she said, “well it’s alright, isn’t it?  It’s only candy.”  In my mind, at that instant, I felt like I may as well have taken a shot of tequila.  I had all of these panicky thoughts about whether this meant I would have to reset my sobriety date (I didn’t), what if it triggered me to want to drink (it didn’t), what was my friend thinking giving an alcoholic a rum filled candy, why didn’t she think it was as big of a deal as it seemed to me?  I called my husband, and I called my sponsor and they calmed me down.  They both said that my friend just didn’t think about it before giving me that candy.  What the whole thing taught me is that booze is just not a big deal to normies.  They can take it or leave it, the thought of drinking it or of not drinking it doesn’t consume them, they haven’t had a love/hate relationship with booze.  It’s just a thing to them.  They don’t get what it is to be an alcoholic.

I hope I haven’t said anything out of line or offensive to any non-alcoholics out there, that is not my intention.  I have a number of normie friends that are super supportive, loving and they do understand where I’m coming from.  I am truly blessed to have them in my life.  But there are a lot too, that just don’t get it.

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7 thoughts on “Normies…they don’t get it.

  1. The chocolate story makes me laugh because I totally get your reaction. I bought some chocolate mints from Trader Joe’s and they had alcohol in them. I panicked! My husband had to convince me that it was more along the lines of using mouthwash than drinking a glass of wine. The exercise thing is interesting since for some people, exercise is an addiction too!

    • I think we’ve all probably had situations like the candy. It’s funny, the things that make us panic. It always seems like such a big deal at the time. 🙂

  2. Great post and SO true. When i fell off the wagon about a month ago, I had been drinking for a few days, and I was talking to my son about it. I was drinking a beer with him and he was like, “So why are you still drinking? It was only a few days ago, just stop.” Yeah, right! 🙂

  3. Yeah, the “just stop” thing. I actually didn’t even bother to explain alcoholism to anyone back then and I don’t really now. If someone is interested, I will, but for the most part I let it be. Perhaps I should be a bit more committed to defining it and giving more insight, but in the end unless you’ve been through it, it’s very, very difficult to understand. I had a chiropractor ask me what we do in AA – “mental exercises” and I said “Yes, mental exercises”. No point in getting into the spiritual program, etc. Most “normal” people really don’t care what alcoholism is, as long as you’re not drinking, they are genuinely happy for us. I don’t think my wife even understands it. I was going through a small stressful period lately, and I was pulling back a bit, a bit more down, a bit more introverted and she asked me if I was going to drink over it! Hell no, that didn’t even come to mind, but thanks for asking! To many, stress = drinky drink. Not really. I would need a monumental spiritual and mental breakdown to pick up again.

    Anyway, I am rambling. Wonderful post…loved it. Bring up some good insights here.

    Thanks for this 🙂

    Love and light,
    Paul

  4. First let me say I love the name of your blog, Sober Grace. It caught my attention immediatly. I’m a grateful recovering drug addict with over five years clean and/or sober. I am married to a “normie”, so I GET IT..of course he does’nt “get it”, but anymore I don’t expect him to. I mean really, how could he really? I find myself thinking from time to time if I would’ve been happier married to someone in recovery. I don’t know the answer to that and actuallly it’s kinda irrelevant, however If I were in a relationship with another recovering addict…I would probably be trying to sponsor them all the time, OR I would say something to the affect: “Honey, don’t you think you need a meeting?” Great finding your blog and am looking forward to your posts. Thanking you in Advance and big HUGZS and blessings on your journey in recovery, jen

    • Thanks for checking out my blog, Jen. Congratulations on over five years! That’s truly an accomplishment. Whenever I hear from someone that is really grateful for their sobriety it gives me so much hope for my own. 🙂

      Yeah, I know my husband and I have said things to each other like “don’t you think you need a meeting?” or “maybe you should call your sponsor..” or “what are you going to do about that resentment?” The beauty in that, for me, is that when either of say things like that, the other one understands. And usually whoever has said it is right, the other one does need a meeting, or to talk to their sponsor, or to do a 4th step. But one important thing for us, is that we both work our own programs…and we don’t do it the same way. There’s a lot of grace given on both our parts. I suspect that’s the way it is being married to a normie too! Whatever works is the important thing.

      Thanks again for your comment!
      ~Jami

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