Monday, March 21, 2011

Sober St. Patrick's Day

*** Submitted by Diana, who is a regular contributor to Crying Out Now

St. Patrick’s Day is always a time of reflection for me.

Silly really, but this seems to be a holiday that is celebrated almost exclusively by drinking. Sure there is the wearing of the green and a shamrock here and there, but mostly when you think of St. Patrick’s Day you think of green beer and Jameson’s. And in a big city like Chicago, with bars that don’t know when to close and lots of people of Irish heritage (both real and situational) there are drunk people every where you look starting on the Friday before the holiday.

Towards the end of last year I began working in an office again. I was in an office of sorts for two years before now, but I was usually the only one in it. My current place of employment is, however, fully populated. There are 100 or so people on my floor alone. This is my first venture back into corporate America sober and, while I am on the higher end of the age spectrum, I have been invited to my share of happy hour events. For whatever reason, I haven’t been able to attend any with the exception of the holiday party and the more I decline the less I will be invited to. Part of me would love to go and socialize minus the cocktails, but I don’t enjoy being around drunk people anymore.

It is amusing to me that not much has changed since I first entered the workplace twenty cough-cough years ago. And if I were still drinking, I promise you my age wouldn’t stop me from joining in all the reindeer games. I can tell you who my drinking buddies might be and who I would probably have to watch out for. It is like an alternate reality that I can picture clearly. Sometimes it makes me a little sad that I miss out on all the fun and camaraderie. But the reality of this particular alternate reality also involves me embarrassing myself on a regular basis and dragging my dry-mouthed, bloodshot-eyed sorry ass in to sit miserably at my computer each day and I know what that feels like. So yeah, never mind.

The other thing that I am acutely aware of now is the behavior of my younger colleagues. I have been them and I am not judging, but on Monday morning when they shared their weekend war stories, all in the name of St. Patrick, I listened (OK eavesdropped) mostly without envy. When someone announced casually that he “blacks out all the time”, I paused. I assume that this is just your garden-variety twenty-something binge drinking, but it gives me a window into why I took so long to question my own behavior. No one bats an eye when someone says they black out in this environment. No one suggests that this is dangerous or out of the ordinary. On another occasion when a married colleague circulated the office trying to piece together his evening in the same clothes that he had worn to work the previous day, it was a joke, a funny anecdote. This was always how I was treated when I was over-served, as an amusing casualty of post work cocktails. My professional environment enabled me for the longest time.

As my husband and I were running errands last weekend we saw throngs of Kelly green people shuffling from one bar to the next. There were trolleys filled with revelers and leprechauns painted on every bar window. Lines extended out of random bars and cover charges were charged at places where none ever are. This was all, mind you, at 2:00pm in the afternoon. We watched as one young lady clung to her date as she valiantly attempted to put one foot in front other. Her struggle was painful for me to watch. When we passed the couple at the intersection I saw that her head hung as she waited for the light to change; just to have a quick nap before trying to make those damn legs of hers cooperate again.

“Who could get that drunk?” Bob asked incredulously. “And this early in the day.”

“Me, remember?” I answered.


  1. Thank you for sharing part of your story, and the reflections that come from sobriety.

  2. It really is amazing how the drinking holidays change after getting sober. The perspective it gives. I'm struggling right now with springtime in general, and all the talk about summer drinks - margaritas!
    What hit me the most in your post is the bit about the black outs. Because I remember the same thing, talking about blacking out, and people just laughing it off or saying that was normal. It wasn't...

  3. Oh Diana, I was the person who rarely drank at office events. I would blame it on commuting but I think in my hearts it was a knowledge that the possiblity that I wouldn't be a fun drunk was very real.
    So often I would attend for a half an hour and leave to go to our local establishment to abuse alcohol instead.
    I actually have found it almost totally acceptable in society to become a "Drunk" long as you're functional or "fun".
    Sad really.

  4. I was deeply entrenched in the Happy Hour culture for most of my drinking. It was the only place I could go as a drunk where I felt like I was with my "people." Kind of like AA meetings today :)

  5. "Who gets drunk so early in the day?" Ummm I did and at the end I didn't need a holiday as an excuse.

    So grateful to not wake up forgetting what I did the day before, wondering what kind of ass I made of myself, etc.