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Tuesday, March 28

Alcoholism Is All A Big Joke With Me

Yesterday afternoon I’m in an elevator with a middle aged guy; we’re both looking at that little TV screen that shows news stories, stocks, the weather, etc. A random statistic flashes across the screen reading “Over 15 million Americans are dependent on alcohol.” Then this conversation ensues:

Guy: (gesturing to the screen) “That used to be me.”

Me: (politely confused look)

Guy: “Yeah, that was me. Drinking every day. That was back when I was in advertising. Haven’t had a drink in years though. Now I’m an attorney.”

Me: (trying to be funny) “You went into law and then stopped drinking? That’s a bad idea!”

Guy: (dead serious) “No. No it’s not. It’s a good idea. Sobriety was the best idea I ever had.”

If there’s any possible correct response in a situation like that, I’d love to hear it. Because I believe mine was, “Good for you!” as though he had told me he just bought a previously owned BMW.

28 Comments:

As for the appropriate response, I think that your first reply was ideal. Any time you can say something like that with a straigt face, go ahead and do it.

I think I may have said, "Really? Well I'm just starting."

Alcoholics LOVE that.

By Anonymous Simon, at 1:30 PM  

HeeHee! For the record, I though it was funny. I work at a law office and it seems like everyone here needs a drink to get by (and some SHOULD drink just to lighten up)!

By Blogger lena, at 1:31 PM  

I can tell you EXACTLY what I would've said: Sobriety is fucking over-rated...and for the weak. (then I would've muttered) loser.

By Anonymous angelina, at 1:52 PM  

That would have been awesome, especially considering we still had about 15 floors to go. Maybe around the 8th floor I could have diffused the awkwardness by pretending I was going to punch him.

By Blogger the belligerent intellectual, at 1:59 PM  

Seriously...I can understand how proud he is of himself and all, but how odd that must have been! Odd and uncomfy. Sheesh...

And, um, a t.v. in the elevator? That's just weird, man. NY is a strange, strange world, isn't it?

By Blogger Faith, at 2:23 PM  

You should say, 'Really? Mine was post-it notes.'

You know, to point out that sobriety was not HIS idea. Former drunks think they know everything.

No one likes a quitter.

By Blogger ducklet, at 2:26 PM  

How about......
That's awesome, How about I buy you a drink and you tell me all about it?
Hunny

By Blogger Hunny, at 2:47 PM  

God forbid any of you are happy for the guy - knowing you only come this way once!

By Blogger belligerent mother, at 2:49 PM  

"It's a good thing I had the idea to pop open an AM Ale on the way in this morning. Otherwise this would be extremely weird."

Or, you could have divulged something personal about yourself. The joy of suppressing those outbreaks (thanks Valtrex!), for instance. Not that, ahem, alcholism and herpes are the same thing....

Gosh, a lawyer AND a self-righteous former alcoholic? Sounds like a winner. You two going to go out for a ginger ale sometime soon?

By Blogger Sheena, at 2:53 PM  

Why do people feel the need to share things like that? I just smile and nod but I really want to say "I don't care. Now please go away 'cause you smell like piss."

By Blogger fuzzymuffin, at 3:24 PM  

you should have kicked him in the nuts and ran. You might not have gotten to far, but that's a bridge to cross when you get there.

By Blogger Tim, at 3:37 PM  

"I;m working on trying to kick my heroin habit myself. then maybe I can tackle the booze." The H-bomb tends to shut peoeple up rather quickly.

By Blogger White Dade, at 4:24 PM  

I probably should have gone with the drug angle (or the herpes angle). Nothing like one-upping a guy so obviously precariously balanced on the wagon. Although, in hindsight, I think my ideal conversation would have went like this:

Guy: “No. No it’s not. It’s a good idea. Sobriety was the best idea I ever had.”

Me: "Switching to Geico was the best idea I ever had."

By Blogger the belligerent intellectual, at 4:44 PM  

He made that statement like advertising was the career equivalent of Vietnam.

Guy: "Yeah, that was me. Drinking every day. That was back when I was in the shit. Haven't had a drink in years though."

Me: "Really, my father was in Vietnam as well, for three years actually "

Guy: (chortles) "Yeah, but how long was he in advertising?"

By Blogger jakezebra, at 4:56 PM  

Guy: (gesturing to the screen) "That used to be me."

You: "Well... this is awkward." (stares at TV and whistles for rest of elevator ride)

By Blogger shirley, at 5:31 PM  

Or you could have said you were a guy sex addict and give him the glad-eye.

By Blogger Kate, at 7:09 PM  

That is frankly hilarious. That has to be one of the most awkward exchanges ever recorded.

By Blogger Anonymous Midwest Girl, at 10:12 PM  

A joke horoscope I just read told me my best sex toy is "a drink or joint to help relax"

I hope that guy isn't a Cancer... if he is, the whole sobriety thing is going to mess with his sex life.

By Blogger minijonb, at 10:43 PM  

Guy: (gesturing to the screen) "That used to be me."

Me [You]: Really? Looks like a tight fit.

Seriously, recovering addicts are gluttons for attention--at least those I'm familiar with. They feel society owes them some kind of eternal compliment for breaking themselves of undesirable behavior(s). For many, it's their only worthwhile accomplishment in an otherwise meaningless life created by vice in the first place.

For those out there who have recovered, congratulations, but please don't forget to live the life you've been given a second chance at. Dwelling on the past is rarely healthy.

By Blogger Tom Jensen, at 1:57 AM  

sorry, I'm stuck on the "tv in the elevator" part. I'll have to get back to you with an appropriate response.

By Blogger Amy, at 8:57 AM  

I also am not sure of this "TV in the elevator" thing, you speak of it like there's one in every elevator..I'm a tad jealous...

By Anonymous abigailroad, at 12:32 PM  

I'm kind of partial to something like, "Wow: you couldn't hold your liquor AND you couldn't hack it in advertising. No wonder you're taking the elevator: the stairs were just to much of a commitment?"

By Blogger RetroDragon, at 1:39 PM  

You sound like one of those people strangers open up to. I'm one of those people too. Just yesterday some lady in my step class who I barely know told me when I asked how her vacation was that it was OK, but she got her period on the second day so she couldn't really have sex with her husband.

I had no response to that. I mean, should have I?

By Blogger Jenni, at 5:47 PM  

"Yeah, well the jerk store called, they're running out of you!"

By Blogger B.A. Slattery, at 8:19 PM  

I can't help you there, cause that's exactly how I would have handled it: An uncomfortable laugh and a last second joke. Sorry I couldn't be of more help . . .

That and I couldn't help the guy, since I am a binge drinker.

By Blogger Dr. Kenneth Noisewater, at 8:46 PM  

"No no, I meant that being a lawyer is a soulless avocation that can only be survived by anesthesizing oneself regularly with egregious amounts of alcohol so you can look at yourself in the mirror without putting a sharpened pencil in your eye while spiralling into the pits of hell because you couldn't cut it in advertising. That's what I meant.

Dick."

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:33 PM  

As another recovering alcoholic I can tell you that we -- in the super secret spy club -- call that "Meeting Mouth" -- it's when you don't know that you are not in a safe place to share about your sobriety. It really sucks when you're on a blind date and find yourself telling about that one time? when you were wasted? you like, blew this guy because he had crack? but like, you're not really a crack-whore because you already knew him and stuff? But, now, like, you have a higher power? and you're like really grateful because you don't have to blow guys today? unless, like, you want to? This usually happens with newbies.

Yeah...Meeting Mouth

The fact that they are sober at all blows their mind so much that they don't realize that pretty much nobody else cares -- nor should they! Only another boozer would give a flying crap.

He might have also been trying to 12-step you. That's what we do. We go to all kinds of "neutral" places and strike up conversations about being drunks hoping that someone will look at us with dewy hope in their eyes and beg us to take them to a meeting.

I mean, you bring in 10 newcomers and you get a cash prize AND they tell you about Xenu. Seriously.

By Anonymous Drinkity Drunk Girl, at 8:50 PM  

The Geico response is gold!

Personally I've found that dropping phrases like "my lord and savior" and "salvation from roasting in Satan's eternal hellfires" before inviting them to a prayer meeting usually brings conversations to a screeching halt.

It's powerful stuff so I only break it out when I have to.

By Blogger Broady, at 10:35 AM  

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