You know those questions you ask the people you’re close to? The ones you already know the answer to?
- Do I own too many shoes?
- How obvious is it that I hate my job?
- Do these jeggings make my thighs look like Redwoods?
Mine was “Do you think I drink too much?” It was usually phrased as “Maybe I should take a closer look at my drinking?” but the meaning was clear. Note: this was usually said with a giant cocktail in hand.
It became a habit of mine. I’d settle in at a bar with a good friend to discuss our personal current events. Dating, work, family. Inevitably, the conversation would come back to my drinking. It was always on my mind. Do I drink too much? Why does everyone drink slower than me? Is it obvious that I’m already thinking about the next one? Why do I feel so guilty about my drinking?
And my friends would have a variety of responses. For the most part, they fell into two categories:
“No, I don’t think you drink too much. Worry too much? Yes. But drink too much? No.”
“I give you a lot of credit for asking this difficult question. How about another round?”
The reasons for the first category of response most likely varied quite a bit. The friends who didn’t think I drank too much (A) really didn’t think I drank too much, (B) didn’t truly know how much, how often, and why I drank, (C) were too uncomfortable with the concept of alcohol abuse or alcoholism to consider that one of their friends might have this problem, or (D) felt that we drank about the same (or that they drank more than me) and therefore I could not have a drinking problem because if I did it might mean that they did too.
A lot of people reading this might have reacted in this way. I’m very aware that launching this blog and trying to promote it on Facebook and Twitter might not be fully understood by a lot of people and might even be off-putting to some. In doing so, I’ve revealed a fair amount of personal information to a range of folks who frequent these virtual spaces – work colleagues, high school and college friends, family members, old drinking buddies. And I’ve certainly risked their judgment since alcohol remains a touchy subject.
Friends who answered with the second category of response were a little more thoughtful about my question. They appreciated the fact that there are issues that come up in life that are difficult and perhaps easier to ignore. I think these friends really did give me credit for asking “the hard questions” and I took great solace in this…at least for a while. (I have to imagine that one of the reasons for the record number of hits on my blog the day I posted To Be or Not To Be is at least partially because I addressed the question of whether or not I am an alcoholic in no uncertain terms.)
Rarely, a good friend might answer in a totally different way and take the risk of saying, “if you are concerned about your drinking, maybe you should do something about it.” These were the conversations that stuck in my head the most. They challenged me to do something I hadn’t done yet. Move past the talking, the questions, the theories. And take some action. Ultimately, it was the people who challenged my (often tipsy) musings about my drinking who motivated and supported me to stop and just see what happened.
I guess you could say that after a certain amount of time – and that amount of time is different for everyone – it becomes more important to do something about what you know is true than to continue collecting data to the contrary.