Reformed Drinker

I quit smoking cigarettes (for good) eight years ago and became a Reformed Smoker. You know the type: smoking disgusts me and I make no bones about it. I don’t want to be around it, and I if I can smell it, I hold my breath and go the other way. This mindset is born of both a genuine abhorrence for the addiction and its health effects, and as a means of shifting my thinking so as to ensure partaking will never again occur.

Here I am, Day 65 of not drinking booze, and I appear to be using the same psychology on myself. It seems appropriate to be a Reformed Smoker (what with all the second-hand smoke and all), embracing the assholeishness that goes with that philosophy. The propriety of embracing the philosophy of Reformed Drinker is not quite as clear-cut.

Everywhere I go, I see drunk people. Last weekend, I was sitting on my sofa reading blogs when someone knocked on my neighbor’s door. Our front doors are very close together, so I can hear when she’s having a conversation on her front porch. As I’m tuning them out, I hear a knock at my door. As an introvert, unscheduled knocks at my door generally annoy me. This knock was no different. But curiosity got the better of me, so I answered. As it turns out, my neighbor (Katherine) was talking with another neighbor (Tansy) and other neighbor’s ex-husband (Bob). We all know Bob because Tansy and Bob, despite being divorced for many years, spend the majority of their free time together. Tansy was taking Bob around the neighborhood to introduce him to his new neighbors. Bob is moving into our condo complex directly across the drive from Tansy. Yes, Tansy and her ex-husband are now living within yards of one another in separate condos.

As I stand on my front porch talking with Katherine, Tansy, and Bob, I notice the very pronounced odor of alcohol. Tansy is standing closest to me, and is quite animated, so I figure she and Bob have been out drinking. It’s 3:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. I’ll be the first to admit that I have, on many occasions, been out drinking on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Well, actually, I was more inclined to do my drinking at home, by the pool or in my garden watching the birds. I got Katherine very drunk one Sunday doing yard work and drinking margaritas. She hasn’t allowed me to serve her anything frozen since.

Tansy and Bob, who are drunk on a Sunday afternoon, leave us to continue their rounds of introducing Bob to his new neighbors. I am struck by my distaste for the idea of Sunday Afternoon Drunkenness. (Note the acronym.)

I tell my neighbor, “Boy, the booze smell was strong.”

“I smelled it, too,” says Katherine. “Do you think that’s why Tansy divorced Bob. Because of his drinking?”

“Maybe,” I say. “But she smelled of booze, too.”

“Well I hope you don’t think badly of me when I’m drinking, now that you’re not. And you know I never drink very much.”

It occurs to me I’m in danger of becoming a Reformed Drinker. The trouble is, I really do hate what alcohol does to people. I’ve got two brothers dead in their 50s from it. And a father who frequently raged during his binges. In fact, I don’t know what took me so long to quit. And now, everyone’s drinking has become suspicious. People whom I thought were “normies” probably are not normies. They just seem like normies because so many people are alcohol abusers. (I’m beginning to realize lots of people I thought were normies are really high-functioning alcohol abusers. The subject of another post, perhaps.)

soapboxAnd holy shit, I’ve got one step on a soap box.

I’m not quite sure what to do about this. I need to not like alcohol, and to keep in the forefront of my mind why it’s crap, in order to prevent myself from waxing lyrical about the good ole days of yore. But at the same time, I don’t want to become an asshole. Or more of an asshole than I already am.

Here’s another, more marked example. As I said, I live in a condo. There’s a homeowners association. A board. I’ve been on the board a couple of times, being the control freak that I am. We didn’t have recycling. I wanted recycling. I became the HOA president. We now have single-stream recycling. I’ve been off the board for many years now, and the property recently has fallen into disrepair. Despite lots of grumbling by the owners, nothing’s being done. The landscaping has gone to shit, the management company (since terminated) hadn’t been paying bills timely (resulting in cessation of trash and my beloved recycling pickup for several weeks), and the board hadn’t been monitoring our financials. So I decided to bite the bullet and get back on the board until things are straightened out.

The officer terms are staggered and the spot coming open at the annual meeting is president, while the secretary and treasurer have one more year left of their terms. The current president travels a lot and appears disinterested in fulfilling his obligations and his fiduciary duty to the owners. The treasurer, a minister, is prone to sneaking vodka at gatherings when his wife’s not looking. In fact, I sneaked a pint into a pool party for him a couple of years back. At the time, I just figured his wife was overbearing and he wanted to have a little fun. The secretary is a lovely woman who has been doing her best to keep things afloat in the face of an absent president and an ineffective treasurer.

On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., we had our annual meeting. Five minutes after the meeting was to start, our treasurer still had not arrived. Someone called him at home, which prompted him to eventually show up. While a seat was saved for him in front, he insisted on sitting in the back corner. His contribution to the meeting was effusively thanking the ineffective outgoing president for his (nominal) contributions. He was slurry and not entirely coherent. Ten minutes later, he repeated his speech, seemingly forgetting he’d just said the same thing minutes before. When it came time for nominations, he was asked whether he wished to relinquish his post as treasurer. It looked as if he was about to stand down, when (to my dismay) he did an abrupt about-face, and agreed to continue. It then came time to fill the president’s spot. I offered to step up, was nominated, and had no challenger. (We are an apathetic group.)

After the meeting, I spoke with the treasurer, who wreaked of Listerine. I felt disgust mixed with pity. I find those feelings a bit distressing. It’s the same mix of feelings I had when my brothers were drunk, which they always were, unless they were in a rare period of sobriety. (And yet, I kept drinking.) Now that I am no longer drinking, I want to view alcohol and drinking objectively (to keep me on my toes), and at the same time, not be an asshole.

To my thinking, it’s okay to be a Reformed Smoker, but being a Reformed Drinker is different. The question I’m struggling with: How do you deal with the alcohol abusers in your orbit after you’ve given up the booze?


  • Tough question. Most of my friends are not abusers, just alcohol users. There is one colleague who is an addict – and sometimes I think even at work I smell it. He admits to drink each day in a pub Monday till Friday. EACH FUCKING DAY … That is abuse. Even if he only had 2 glasses of beer. But what do I do about it? On Thursday he walked into my office and nearly admitted having an alcohol problem (talking about his GP and about a liver function reading, that she said “It could be a fat liver, too” and that he said to her: “Darling, we all know where this comes from.”) This is as good as telling me, he is an addict. But I do not say or do anything. I am not my brother’s keeper. Still, I hink he knows I know. Makes you wonder, if he WANTS me to do anything.


  • Maybe it’s a pendulum? First you swing overly judgemental and holier-than-thou, but later you will find a healthy middle. It could be reminding yourself that your friend is not an alcoholic, but holding the Treasurer accountable. Actually, that situation could become very frustrating and stressful for you, especially since HA boards are often about popularity. I admire that you want to protect your home and serve the neighborhood. Good luck and congratulations, Madame President.


    • Oh, I like that. A pendulum. That makes sense. I’ve over-corrected and it naturally will swing back in the other direction, after a time. Thanks for the congrats, but it’s really more of a selfish endeavor. I want to be sure the landscaping is brought back up to par. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  • I think it’s pretty normal to suddenly realize just how prevalent alcohol anise is and how blatantly and unendingly alcohol sellers direct their commercials to young drinkers. They suggest it is normal and necessary to go out and get drunk regularly if you want to be social and have fun.

    It’s crazy. I never noticed it before, but I’ve also become the booze police.

    Most of our friend were hard drinkers. Many have fallen away, as our house used to be party central and it’s now dry. That’s ok. I find I can handle hanging with people having a drink. After 2 or 3 they become sappy and melancholy or assholes. And I leave.

    I shudder to think how I used to appear.


    • I’m fairly certain I could be a bit much when inebriated. Hell, I can be a bit much sober. As for boozers being everywhere: it’s like when someone tells you Ford Mustangs are everywhere, and then all you see on the road are Ford Mustangs. Then again, drinking really is everywhere. As for the marketing, a friend and I were just discussing how we’re brainwashed into thinking we must pair our cheese with a nice Chardonnay and our steak with a Cabernet. Like being sold the unnecessary handbag to match the shoes. My grocery bill has plummeted these past two months and I’m loving it.

      Liked by 3 people

  • I suppose I have been fortunate. I’m way “out” as a person in recovery, so most everyone I know is considerate in that regard. When I do go out, I find inebriated people both conspicuous and annoying. I cannot ignore them. The good news is though, my mental process always goes something like “omg, is that how I looked/smelled/acted?” So, in that sense, I guess seeing drunk people is actually good for me.
    The treasurer dude sounds like he could be a major annoyance. I don’t think there’s anything wrong and it would be wholly appropriate to hold him accountable to his job. That may or may not related to his drinking. It doesn’t matter. He accepted the position and should, therefore, meet his obligations.
    For the most part, I think you’ll find that the orbits of alcohol abusers intersect with yours quite infrequently. As you change, so will the landscape of your world.
    Oh, and congratulations and good luck, Madame President! : )


    • Thank you! My first inclination was to work around him, pick up the slack. But you’re right, he should meet his obligations. I will be careful to hold him accountable, rather than falling into my well-trained co-dependent ways. It will be interesting to watch the alcohol abusers fall away to float around in some other galaxy. Funny how the landscape of my world is changing, as is the landscape of my condo property. Merely a coincidence?


  • To address your question: Don’t allow alcohol abusers into your orbit. Being extremely unsocial makes this fairly easy.

    I enjoyed reading this yarn. It makes me glad that I’ve never had anything to do with a homeowners association.


    • I try to be unsocial and people knock on my door anyway. The HOA is a headache. Being in control is a different kind of headache, but at least things get done. Once the landscaping and finances are back up to spec, adios.


  • I have found that I have a pretty keen radar for people who might have a drinking problem, and I simply don’t like being around them very much anymore. I try not to judge but I don’t enjoy being around people who are drunk at inappropriate times, or overly inebriated, or whatever. Normal drinkers don’t bother me at all. I enjoy them as much as I ever did, and their drinking isn’t usually a problem for me to be around. I come from a family that is pretty alcoholic, so being around the drinkers reminds me of the times I’ve felt sad and scared around my family, and I don’t like it. I know I used to be the inappropriate drunk one sometimes, but I am not anymore and I’d rather hang with the sober folks/normal drinkers/high on life crowd. Best of luck. I agree that you will find more of a middle ground as you continue on your path. πŸ™‚


    • I completely relate to being reminded of unpleasant family memories when around drinkers. My own drinking was reminding me of it, which is one of the reasons I stopped. There’s just too much sad attached. I look forward to falling in with your kind of crowd.


  • Uh oh. I just clicked the trackback button, hoping it would tell me what it was. Not sure what i just did.
    In any case, fantastic post. I’m 15 years sober and agree with so many of the comments here, particularly the pendulum and your changing sober landscape. These people, the abusers, the drunks, you kind of get used to them after a while. In other words, think I’ve experienced a change in my inner landscape that makes drunks less noticeable. The longer I’m sober, the less it bothers me. Yes, it’s sad and pitiable, but unless they’re asking for help there’s nothing we can do. We hold them to their obligations, like your treasurer, and go about our business. Congratulations on your sobriety. It’s the shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lou. Fifteen years. Terrific! In fifteen years I hope to write that I don’t notice them any longer. Right now, my pendulum is on a mad swing toward hyper-awareness. And no, there’s nothing we can do. Sad lesson to learn.


      • I too hope you get to write exactly that at 15 years. And you know what? That’s what it’s like. Life just becomes life, which is a huge relief. The beginning is the hardest, and it does get easier. Take care.


  • Oh, how I love this post! I nodded so much in agreement/sympathy as I was reading it. There are huge differences between ‘reformed smoker’ and ‘reformed drinker’. Heck, there are huge differences between what a smoker can do while smoking and what a drinker does (and tries to do) under the influence. I find the way my middle class environment moves around drinkers and drinking difficult to swallow in these early days of my sobriety. I wish it was more black and white like the reaction to smoking nowadays (because the universe spins around me, obviously). There is so much sad attached to being around drinkers for me as well – though for different reasons. I just would rather not be around it – or I tend to fly into ‘rescuer mode’ – which is equally unhealthy. I would find working with that treasurer… challenging. I bet the secretary is pleased you are now the president. Good luck. I am heartened to read the other comments about pendulums and new social landscapes… looking forward to those things. Nup, sorry, no suggestions re dealing with alcohol abusers in your orbit – just wanted to say that I am amazed by the way my reaction to people abusing alcohol has changed since being sober and is still changing on a daily, hourly basis. Maybe these things have a way of sorting themselves out… I wonder who really knows the science of how our social orbit gets arranged – I know we make choices and do things along the way to influence these things… but there is a hefty serving of the random and uncontrollable in every social landscape, and our reactions to that landscape – though the human mind is good at finding patterns in chaos. Gah – blathering on again.


    • Yes, we are conditioned to look the other way when it comes to drinkers. But smokers are fair game. I’m coming around to thinking the landscape is beginning to shift as to the social acceptance of boozing. Barely perceptible, to be sure. But it could be as frowned upon as smoking some day. And then the new thing will be weed. πŸ˜‰ Thanks for the luck. Studying our changing social landscapes will be interesting.

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  • I’m going to have to address this in my own life very soon, I’d imagine. My husband has no desire to quit at all and he can DRINK. *sigh I have no idea how I’ll handle it if he decides he wants to “go out” anytime soon.
    Like you, now that I’m not drinking, I see drunks everywhere! It’s actually very common where I live but I’d really never noticed them before unless they were hurling their dinner all over the sidewalk. Funny how that is, right? Drunk people disgust me now too. I am doing my best not to think about how I used to conduct myself. *shudders and hides my face in my hands


  • Great posts. To some extent I agree with those that say remove the alcohol abusers from your orbit, although since drinking is fairly socially acceptable that may not be easy. When I was a drug abuser I had to remove the drug abusers from my orbit. That worked. They were friends but we weren’t doing each other any good by influencing each other in abusing. Sounds like your normal orbit includes a lot of drinkers. Take care of yourself first and worry about the others later. Save yourself and let the others save themselves, or not, on their own. I’m firmly convinced the world will be a better place if I do nothing but try to improve myself. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but it’s ME first, in a good way, not at the expense of others. Keep going. You are doing fine.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a lawyer. Yes, lots of drinkers floating about in my universe. “Save yourself first.” Yet another motivation for early retirement. I’m very happy to at last be heading in the right direction for self improvement.


  • i am a (psycho) therapist retired. this is what my accountant puts on my income tax form under occupation. i told her she shouldn’t say i am a psycho space therapist with a space. so now she lists my occupation as psychospace therapist.
    the irs always leaves me alone.
    anyhoo i just mention this to give authority to the assertion that there is no such thing as a “normie.”


  • Loved your observation about the sheer number of people who drink consistently. I often have similar thoughts when I see how many liquor stores my town supports. Someone is buying all of those spirits to keep the brick and mortars in business. And those someones are nearly the entire populace. We can only support one bakery but six package stores? Nuts.


  • “I see drunk people” – that made me laugh. πŸ˜‰ Since I quit drinking (except on very rare occasions), I’ve noticed my sense of smell is heightened, and I can smell alcohol much more acutely now. And I’ve now smelled it on my boss once or twice – at work, during the day. And on his wife, too. And sometimes I’ll come in and she’ll smell oddly of men’s deodorant, which makes me think she’s trying to cover up another odor. Now it’s very weird, at work, suspecting that both of them are closet alcoholics. Every time my boss acts weird or runs off at the mouth (which is frequently), I wonder…is he drunk? Every time his wife leaves the office at 2pm to “take the dog home to pee” and then returns, I wonder if she went home and guzzled some wine. It’s none of my business, I know, but…I do wonder.

    I know several people who are daily drinkers or binge drinkers. The former seem to be extremely high functioning, and/but most of their Facebook posts are drinking related (“day drinking at spring training camp!” and “cocktails/wine in Palm Beach!” and “visiting all the vineyards in New Mexico!” kind of thing). The latter say “I don’t drink every day, but when I do drink, I get totally hammered and often sick. But I’m definitely not an alcoholic.”

    I can’t relate to either type.

    I am constantly amazed, though, by how rife our culture is with drinking. Seems like half the businesses and non-profits in my area sponsor alcohol-related events. Drinking and craft nights are suddenly popular – go to venue and paint something or decorate ceramics with your friends, while drinking wine. Seems very weird to me. Our library is hosting a wine tasting fund raiser. Our NPR station announced a “Policy and Pinot” round-table discussion of state political issues. VERY strange.


    • I never noticed before how prevalent it’s gotten. You used to not be able to drink at a movie theatre. Now they serve bottles of wine. The Whole Foods I grocery shop at has an oyster/beer bar. People wander around aimlessly pushing their carts with one hand, holding their pint of beer in the other, oblivious and blocking aisles. Yours are good. I’m going to closely observe and compile a list.


  • It takes time to be comfortable around drinkers when you are the reformed side. It may never become comfortable but it will become bearable. My rule is-stick around until I begin to feel like it’s getting to be too much….then leave. It works for me.

    As far as the home owners association….I got nothin.

    As far as the abusers in your circle you don’t have to deal with them….just live by example.


  • I think it’s perfectly rational to train your mind to avoid alcohol and people who drink. Developing a distaste for the smell, and the idea of engaging in SAD (!) is completely normal, IMHO. I think at 65 days, one might even say that this kind of self-protection is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself.

    I’ve had to come face to face with these with my friends here – drinking is done in copious amounts in the French 2 hour leisure lunch. I used to engage with gusto. I still have lunch with those people and they drink rosΓ© to their hearts’ content. I drink fizzy water with juice. (It’s a lot easier now!) That said, having the opinion (albeit an internal dialogue) that the smell of booze on someone’s breath is disgusting…that’s a good thing for me right now and it probably is for you too. πŸ™‚ It sounds like you’re navigating this thoughtfully…to each his own path to sobriety!


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