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.