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So far, so good, I ordered diet coke and no one bothered me. But then came a round of straight shots of tequila, and even the dreaded peer pressure: "Oh come on, we'll get you a sprite to chase it down, you'll be fine". Meanwhile all I can smell is strong tequila odor wafting up from the platter of shot glasses.
Years ago, this situation would have really shaken me, regardless of whether or not I would have caved and taken a drink. And when the peer pressure came, sure enough, I felt the old reptile trying to nudge me into accepting the drink - "It's a business lunch, just one, you need to drink to fit in with your colleagues here, they'll be offended if you don't drink", in a fraction of a second these thoughts washed over me. But my response was immediate and firm: "No, thanks, I never drink alcohol". And that was that, situation resolved, it was that easy.
The dreaded drinking lunch can really frighten us in early recovery, and perhaps with good reason, because it can be a strong temptation that often leads to relapse. But as I discovered last week, beyond a point it's no big deal, and in fact no one but an addict will really care if you drink or not. "No thank you, I don't drink" works just fine, and once you say that, all but the most aggressive drunks will leave you alone.
It took over 5 years of sobriety, but last week, finally, I encountered the dreaded drinking business lunch. I was out of town visiting another site, and soon discovered that they tend to do things differently there. The culture is, come in late, leave early, maybe or maybe not work Friday, and take 2 hour drinking lunches. This culture is helped by the site being urban, so everyone walks and takes public transportation to get around: Hardly anyone drives.
The first lunch out was not so bad. An old colleague who I used to drink with years ago took a couple of us out to lunch, and when he ordered a round for all of us I had to pipe in with, "No, thank you, I don't drink anymore, I gave that up years ago". He looked surprised and sad, but what can you do. It was only two beers each, and no one was noticeably buzzed.
The second lunch was worse. Cinco de Mayo, and an excuse for six of us to go to a Mexican restaurant. It started with a pitcher of margaritas, then a second pitcher of margaritas, then finally lunch. By this point, a couple people were noticeably buzzed.