Today is a bittersweet day. It is Father’s Day. And while I am so very grateful to have a living father, he is in a different country, and I can’t do much other than make a phone-call.
With no celebration to have, I decided to make my day a productive one and work on my She Recovers Designation. I like working from bistros and coffeeshops, so I took myself to one of my favorite places to eat and work. I silently congratulated myself as I walked past the bar to a small table. There is always a little spark of pride when I walk past the wooden stools that speak of obliterated hours and large alcohol tabs. I have to admit I feel a little thrill when I realize it wasn’t that long ago that I sat there, and it hits me that today my life is so different.
My lunch was excellent and the ideas came freely. I felt alive and vibrant for an hour or so, jotting down random thoughts on my first assignment, and letting myself enjoy every bite and every word. For desert, I moved down to the bar area, where I could plug my phone. Sitting at the wooden bar and ordering a tres leches cake felt so empowering. While at other points in time, sitting at a bar would be like playing Scrabble with the devil, today it just made me feel grateful. And yes, empowered. Why not.
The enormous slice of cake arrived and I smiled. Sure, my hips would probably take a hit but what the hell. It was beautiful, gooey and absolutely perfect. Let me eat cake, yes. I have been mom AND dad to my son, for 17 years. I raised my spoon ceremoniously and smiled. To me – the ever-evolving, blooming woman I am. The one I am unbecoming. And the one who has yet to emerge. With that, my spoon dove into the fluffy, moist, thick cake. I smiled as the sweetness exploded in my mouth. Wow. Spoonful two felt almost as delicious, the newness replaced by a mysterious tinge that I couldn’t quite place just yet. Spoonful three awakened a strange awareness – my chewing slowing down, my swallowing starting to feel forced. Spoonful four stopped me short. Oh. No.
“Excuse me, sir…is there alcohol in this cake?” I asked the busy bartender, a hipster with arrogant eyes. “Yes, but it’s been cooked out.” He said, twirling and walking away before finishing his sentence. My mouth was still full of cake, my mind was racing, my fingertips were reacting to the information – or to the offensive substance, perhaps.
Merde. Cooked out. Cooked out?! I wanted to scream. It is not fucking cooked out if I can taste it, dude. I can feel the sweet burn of booze in my palate and throat, as I force myself to swallow the remainder of the cake, too goopy and liquid to spit out.
It’s not fucking cooked out if I feel the alcohol sting inside my nostrils, dammit. I cuss in Spanish, under my breath.
I gulp down the rest of my Perrier and stare at the beautiful slice, tears of anger welling up in my eyes. It’s not that big of a deal, I think. Relax, mama. Its minimal, the amount of alcohol, says my reasoning self. Nonetheless, I am upset. I am really upset. I put down my spoon and my pen and close my eyes for a second. Why is this upsetting me so much? Nobody is to blame. It’s not like this constitutes a relapse. It no big deal. It’s not even this dude’s fault. He only knows what he’s heard. It is no big deal, seriously.
But I still feel angry and frustrated and irritated. So much that I have a vision of pinning the dude’s throat to the wall with one hand, in Ally McBeal style.
It is a big deal to me. Not because I swallowed a minuscule amount of alcohol. It happens to the best of us by accident. It is beyond that. It is the soul-crushing statement, the one I just received, which is really bothersome. How can that simple question be taken with such nonchalance, when 10% of the humans out there actually have a much heavier reason for asking it? How can you be allowed to be a bartender without knowing what that question really means?
It is the loud thud of ignorance that frustrates me. The daily reminder of how little people really know about alcoholism and the allergy to alcohol that comes with it.
If a person eating an entree stops mid-forkful and asks the waiter “excuse me, are there peanuts in this sauce?” – what are the chances of a waiter saying: “Yes, but we blended them really well and then cooked the sauce.” Oh well, great, then I will make sure to tell my anaphylactic reaction to stay at bay, bc the peanuts are blended and cooked. Surely, that makes it ok and I should not worry about it. No big deal.
Sigh. Ok – I am sorry (but not really) for that outburst but it comes from a
place of frustration. I have now vented. I have let it out. Now I need to go pray, and then continue doing what I am doing – bringing awareness to what alcoholism really is, and why that question may mean so much more for 10% of us. I need to use this experience as a daily reminder of a much larger vision, and a responsibility to change the story. Flip the script. Shift the ship. To bring awareness to my/our illness though information and not drama. It is a long journey, but I am not alone on this one. I am one part of the big tribe whose mission is to educate the other 90% percent.
“Let them eat cake!”, Marie Antoinette said. Yes, let them. Just make sure you don’t add brandi to it. It cannot be “cooked out” ma cherie.
Non, ca marche pas comme ca.
Pamela is a Certified Professional Recovery Coach & Educator. She has been in recovery since 2009, and is a passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding addiction. Please share this post via the channels below or anyone in your life who may benefit from a little information about drinking and recovery.