You may have heard about the “Sober Curious” movement. Many people are seeking out the numerous benefits of going alcohol-free (AF) and there are even bars popping up all around the country that don’t serve booze. According to a CBS News Story (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/sober-curious-alcohol-free-bars-events-changing-what-nightlife-looks-like/), “Interest in the “sober curious” community can be seen at new alcohol-free bars and events and online, with more than 1.2 million #soberlife Instagram posts and more than 500,000 #soberissexy posts.” While the movement is growing, it has a long way to go before it comes close to the 4.2 million likes of the “Mommy Needs Vodka” Facebook personal blog (almost as many as Sobrietease—ha).
A CNN Business article from June 10, 2019 (https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/08/tech/alcohol-alternative-sober-curious/index.html) says that people who want to socialize in a “bar-like location, but without having to drink alcohol” are part of a “larger trend”. The article claims that “people of all ages are drinking less beer, while millennials are drinking less overall.” It seems that more and more restaurants I go to have non-alcoholic drinks, or mocktails, on their menus. As a recovering alcoholic, it’s nice to have options other than club soda or sparkling water with lime.
Last night, I went to a holiday work dinner at a restaurant that I’ve been to before. I looked forward to having one of the creative, non-alcoholic drinks on their menu. As work colleagues ordered their pomegranate martinis and commented on how festive the deep pink hue was for the holiday season, I was happy to order my mint-cucumber-lime concoction. We chatted over appetizers, ordered our entrees and as another round was requested, I asked to try a different drink from the alcohol-free selections. This one was made with blood orange juice, sage and ginger beer. The waiter asked if I wanted that without alcohol, and I said yes, also from the alcohol-free selections. He said “Oh, the first drink I brought you had alcohol in it.” I froze. As did the people seated immediately next to me as they overheard, knowing that I have been in recovery for over seven and a half years now. I stared at him in disbelief and questioned him. I told him, no, I had ordered one of their AF drinks. It couldn’t be. I just kept looking at him. He kept a straight face and continued to tell me that it contained alcohol. After what seemed like hours, he finally broke into a smile and said “I’m just kidding!” He winked at me. I went from terrified to furious. Enraged. If I were a cartoon character, you could have seen smoke blowing out of my ears. I was speechless. Not wanting to make a scene at the table, all I could muster up to say to him quietly was “that was not the least bit funny.” He collected glasses around the table and went to get the next round. My night was ruined. Those seated across from me and next to me were also blown away by the waiter’s absolutely idiotic joke and behavior. I made it as long as I could and was so relieved when the night was over and I got into my car to head home. I was still fuming when I got home and shared what happened with my husband and daughter.
I tossed and turned some during the night, not only upset about what the waiter did, but also about what I did not do. I didn’t do anything. I froze. I knew that I needed to take a little time to breathe, calm down and then sit down to write a piece about it. But I wanted to do more. If there are so many people out there “curious” about sobriety, more needs to be done to educate them and train people in the industry. As soon as the restaurant opened, I called and asked to speak to the manager. To my surprise, and I’m sure a God-wink, I got a hold of the manager, a very nice guy named Dan. I calmly explained what had happened last night, but sternly made it clear that in no uncertain terms was it the least bit funny. I explained to him that there can be many reasons why someone might order a drink from the alcohol-free options on the menu—they could be pregnant, nursing, on medication that they can’t mix with alcohol, allergic, acting as the designated driver that night, or, as in my case, an alcoholic who is already struggling to stay sober during the difficult holiday season. In any of those scenarios, joking about accidentally serving a drink containing alcohol is just plain cruel, tasteless, stupid, moronic, dumb, idiotic, asinine, foolish, brainless, imbecilic…did I mention idiotic?? I explained that I did not ask for the manager last night or make a bigger deal of it at the table given the circumstances. It was also not my goal to get the waiter fired right before the holidays, but instead I hoped that the establishment would focus on educating and training their entire staff to be more aware and sensitive to the severity of the issue.
Dan not only apologized but shared with me that he has 16 years of sobriety. He was mortified that one of his servers (or anyone for that matter) would be so thoughtless. I was assured that he would share my concerns with his full staff and make sure they know that something like this is completely unacceptable. He thanked me for “doing the next right thing” and taking the time to call him and explain what happened. I hung up the phone and finally exhaled. I realized that the old me might have simply held on to this resentment for days, weeks or longer and have been afraid to use my voice since I tend to avoid confrontation whenever possible. But, as I grow in my sobriety, I grow in my strength and self-worth. I owed it to myself to speak my truth. While I’ll never know, I hope that perhaps taking the action I did and writing this piece may help someone else from having the same experience I had last night.
For someone who writes books and a blog called “Sobrietease”, with a tagline that says “God, Grant Me the Serenity to Laugh at Life”, which emphasizes finding humor in life whenever possible, some things are simply not joking matters. Off-limits. Yes, it would have been much, much worse if there actually was alcohol in that drink. And yes, I would think that I would have tasted it if it had, but who knows. Sober curious does NOT mean that someone is curious about throwing their 2761 days of sobriety out the window at a holiday work dinner. Sober curious means that many people, for whatever reason, are looking into living their life without alcohol in it. I applaud the restaurants that are offering non-alcoholic options on their bar menus. I salute the talented bartenders who indulge me in my challenge to make delicious concoctions without booze. I thank the waitress I had in San Antonio who was smart enough to make the connection when I asked for an alcohol-free drink that she warned me which dishes and desserts on the menu contained alcohol. And, to my waiter from last night, I hope you’ll think next time before you make a joke like that again. I have a great book you should read….maybe I’ll drop a copy off for you. You might learn something.
“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” e.e. cummings