The “Just-One Genie”

By Diane J.

Pauli, you wrote well about the “Just-One Genie”:

<snip>Rest of the family knows I’m in a program and either not drinking or only “one.” Yeah, it’s terrible and causes me enormous problems. But a couple of “just ones” in a week is so much better than 18 months ago; I’m putting up with it for now. This is not my goal, however. I have really proven to myself that having just one sets me up to do it again.

I winced when I read this, a little, because I got a fairly lethal visit from the “Just-One Genie” (I LOVE the name) five and a half years ago after I got out of “treatment.” I hated the place, hated AA, was miserable and depressed, but had sort of decided to stay sober… (OK, NOT a good frame of mind….laugh). I even found one of the very early (first incarnation) Rational Recovery groups. Got home for Christmas, two months sober — and COULDN’T WOULDN’T deal with all of the subtle pressure to “drink like a normal person” and PROVE I wasn’t “one of those people in there.”

So I decided I’d just drink a little over Christmas and get sober again in January. Did it, too. There, proved THAT, didn’t I? Now, EASTER, on the other hand … it took me a little LONGER to get sober again, but I did it. And then, since I’d proved to myself I COULD drink under “special circumstances” and get sober again … well, why couldn’t I just drink at parties? After all, that would only be once or twice a month … well, there, you see, I can do THAT … so why couldn’t I maybe have a drink with dinner on Friday nights? Just one, mind you, and just on Friday … which would be only one drink a week, except for weeks with parties or visits or holidays in them, but hey, how many of those ARE there?

And, well, okay, if you’re going to have a drink with dinner on Friday you probably ought to buy a bottle of vodka, but it’s not like you’re going to DRINK any just because it’s in the cupboard, after all, are you? I mean, it’s not like bottles jump out and MAKE you drink them… (Anybody see a pattern emerging here yet? — laugh)

I don’t think, after I was off and running, that I was two days in a row sober for the next four years. All I can tell you is it was a hell of a setup for me, that couple of “just ones” in a week.

It sounds to me like you’ve seen a danger in it for yourself and are working yourself away from it. Good for you. I know how hard that is, when all the pressure is to smooth the issue over and having “Just One” WILL do it. It really will, too. But you can never tell when it’s a present from the “Just-One Genie,” I don’t think.

You write:

So—I tell you because I don’t think I can handle the shame with my counselors tomorrow. I think this trip home is the last experience with the “just one” genie. I think, I hope and I intend to make it happen; but I will not beat myself up if I ever slip.

Pauli, don’t shame yourself. And your counselors should certainly know better than to think that shaming someone is either generous or productive. You’ve learned a lot from this trip; your posts show that. And by talking to us about it, you’ll get many ideas for how to handle the situation more to your liking next time. There should be no question of shame. Be proud of yourself for recognizing the subtle traps in the situation and for thinking about how to make that the Just-One Genie’s last appearance.

Take care,

Diane J.

(Aug. 1998)