I had absolutely no intention of putting a glass of vodka mixed with cranberry juice to my mouth. No desire to have it touch my lips and wash against my tongue. In fact, when it did, my reaction was so strong, it surprised me. I immediately recognized that it was not my drink (cranberry juice and club soda) and once I realized that there was a strong amount of alcohol in the drink that I picked up, I turned away from the two women standing next to me and spit it out. And spit again. And again. And I think wiped my tongue with my sleeve. And then wiped my lips. Repeatedly. I have not had a drink that contained alcohol in nearly 7 years (2537 days to be exact). What used to be so familiar to me was now a very, very unwelcome stranger.
I’m pretty sure I simply said “Well, that was not my drink!” The woman whose drink I accidentally picked up apologized profusely. She knew I didn’t drink. Totally not her fault. The drinks looked identical. Both had lime garnishes. Both a pinkish-red hue from the cranberry juice. But one had an ingredient that was clearly not okay for an alcoholic. I walked away to return to the work event I was attending. The other woman, a good friend of mine, came over to me and asked if I was okay. I told her that I was more than a little freaked out at having picked up an alcoholic drink. She told me not to be too hard on myself, not to give it a second thought, since I clearly hadn’t done it on purpose. I let it go…for the time being.
When I got in my car, I picked up my phone to call a friend who is also in recovery. But then I hesitated. For a few seconds, I worried that if I told her what had happened, should would tell me I should reset my start date and begin again at day one. So I thought about not telling her. I think that scared me more than picking up the drink. Sobriety requires “rigorous honesty”. Keeping a secret about something that clearly bothered me, considerably, was not a good plan. It doesn’t matter that other people may think it was totally innocent, no big deal, that I was overreacting, whatever. The fact was that I was more than a little flustered about tasting vodka again, even for a split second. I dialed the number and told her what happened. She told me it had happened to her, several times, that it was okay, clearly not intentional, that I didn’t fake it and swallow it and continue to drink the wrong drink, and that I did the right thing. She said it was a “sip, not a slip.” I felt much better.
As Elvis Costello will tell you, accidents will happen. Chances are good that something like that will happen again. I’m actually quite glad that my reaction was so strong. That I didn’t taste the vodka and feel like I missed it and wanted more. I’m grateful that I woke up today with another day of sobriety under my belt. Grateful to wake up without a hangover. Grateful it was a sip, not a slip.
“There are no accidents…there is only some purpose that we haven’t yet understood.”-Ritu Ghatourey