For office holiday parties. I tend to shy away from these sort of gatherings, because fundamentally they revolve around alcohol as a social lubricant.
If I feared the temptation to drink, I simply wouldn’t go. That decision is easy for me. Fortunately my recovery program has brought me to a place where mentally and physically I don’t have to worry about feeling weak in the presence of.
Instead I lean more towards an unwillingness to do what feels like “work” — I just did plenty of that, all week. Forcing small talk, asking trivial questions, giving stock answers, etc etc. Guess what? When you commit to a life of sobriety, it forces you to make yourself whole and worthy of participating, and it makes you sharper, more interesting, and more present.
So tonight I was pleasantly rewarded for putting in that “work.” The big lie we tell ourselves as addicts and alcoholics is that our substances (and highs we get from them) are our defining quality. So, so much more to life — and to us — than that. People are interested in what happens outside the office, and they do want to hear what we have to say.
It’s learning how to find self-esteem that comes from within, and that comes from without (alcohol).
Nursing a jar (mason jars, so trendy right now) of water at the restaurant bar, I found myself conversing with coworkers ranging from 10 to 40 years my senior, and contributing to a very frank discussion on the state of the country, the world, this life. I live for those honest channels of discourse, and despite the gravity of the topics we covered, I felt very…reassured, that we could talk plainly and openly about them.
A rich, well-cooked steak-on-the-bone entree complimented other high-ends appetizers & desserts (a sort of #TreatYoSelf for my 3-year anniversary, as my mother sagaciously framed one way to approach the evening). Objectively: a gesture from the company, that does indeed impact me as an employee. I work hard, amongst a staff of hard workers, and we are appreciated for it. This is not a situation for me to be complaining about.
Being the 7th wheel at a dinner table of 3 couples in their 30’s/40’s was a fascinating exposure to contemporary socioeconomic parenthood. I was glad of my manager’s presence seated across from me, and that of his wife — a very strong, intuitive woman whom I like very much — as she apologized for all the talk revolving around kids. I told her I did not mind, and I meant it. A perspective to learn from, for one, and a reason to be grateful of my relatively obligation-free lifestyle, for two.
[Disclaimer: this gets a little heavy; if your heart is not steeled for some rocking, skip ahead a few paragraphs to the next set of boldface brackets.]
The other reason I did not mind was that during cocktail hour conversation, the Newtown tragedy was touched upon. One of the senior admins lived there all her life and of all the people chatting with me were local in Connecticut when it occurred (I was not).
They talked of the horror, and how, in some ways, the international spotlight cast upon the virtually unknown slice of American suburbia was a cruel invasion of privacy for a community trying to mourn a soul-cleaving loss.
I will tell you right now that I had to muster up my composure, because the tears involuntarily welled. “It was the single worst thing I ever heard about in my life,” somberly remarked one of the 30something wholesalers that I share a desk pit with. I know pain, and I know sorrow, and I know loneliness, but this…as a grounded man working to live a mindful life, this cold-blooded taking of the purest form of human innocence is beyond my comprehension, beyond my reasoning. We didn’t dwell for long, but you could feel the sadness envelop your soul.
Please, go hug someone you love. Hug everyone you love. Hell, hug someone you don’t love. This world needs it.
[Okay, we’re good.]
At the end of the night, I find myself returning to what has unquestionably become the guiding principle of my life, absent the death grip of drinking it all away: be grateful for what you do have. It’s honestly all that matters. It’s enough. When you can acknowledge that, you might also find the strength to be big enough to give what you can back to others, in whatever form they might need.
It’s the season.