Drinking “At”

By CA, Marianne H., Laura L., Marty N., Carol H.

CA began it:

… I couldn’t sleep because I thought I was going to have to suspend a student, and ended up drinking. …

Marianne replied:

… Hope that next time someone gets in a jam, you won’t punish yourself because of it…

CA responded:

I never thought of it as punishing myself, but maybe that’s what I was doing. You’ve helped me see this in a new way.

Laura joined in:

I had a counselor who referred to this “phenomenon” as “Drinking AT somebody.” During the time(s) when I was lapsing like that, it became very important to me to understand the connection between anger, sadness and shame in my own life. Among others, I drank “at” a staff member who was ultimately terminated. I had given her every chance, encouragement, training, threat, cajoling, etc. I was angry that she was “doing this TO ME” I was sad because I knew, eventually she’d be let go, and I was ashamed because I felt that the failure was mine. I drank at other people too, but she really sticks in my mind for some reason; probably because of the fallacious argument within my own mind, and the faulty logic I used to make myself feel even worse. Hope this makes some kind of sense.

Marty chimed in:

Thank you for that expression, Laura. It really fits. I used to do it all the time.

Marianne responded:

Me, too. My prime client paid me up to $650/day, so I thought I couldn’t justify turning down the work. However, we did not share the same values, so our relationship over the years was uneasy, at best, and unbearable at worst. So I drank *at* the organization, and particularly at whichever person represented its side of our latest dysfunctional interaction. Did that for nearly nine years, although nothing changed except I dug myself a deeper and deeper hole.

When I quit drinking in November, I began to think more clearly about that working relationship. And decided to wind it down as quickly and as gracefully as I could. To wind it down, “no matter what,” to coin a phrase, and even though I had no idea where to find replacement income. The day early in January when I mailed my last invoice was, tellingly, the first day I *knew* I could stay sober. I wouldn’t need to drink *at* my so-called “friends” any more.

Of, course, that wasn’t the only reason I drank. But it was sure a biggie, and it’s nice to have the phrase “drinking at” to remind me that I mustn’t get into that ever again.

Carol picked it up:

… Yesterday, I got angry with a friend and the first thing I thought of was having a beer. And then I remembered that someone on the list had said “I had a counselor who referred to this “phenomenon” as “Drinking AT somebody.” That helped me and for once I didn’t partake of my old friend.

Thanks again.

And CA closed the circle:

Tonight I’m trying Being Sober AT My Students. In other words, I want to be refreshed and clear for them tomorrow.

Posted 1/29-2/8/98