The other night I went on a rant with a friend and I tweeted out a list of ridiculous things that I’ve been tipped (its quite the list and sometime it might be a topic of a post) but there’s one thing that has been a growing collection in the bottom drawer of my night stand;
tokens/coins/medallions of sobriety.
Although they represent the accomplishment of not drinking and they’re recognized by Alcoholics Anonymous as a token of achievement over time, there aren’t technically a real part of the ‘twelve step process’ of AA and its more of a time honored tradition passed on by sponsors. My old man has been sober for over thirty years and I went to AA meetings with him when I young and had no clue what they really meant other than a group of people that used to drink but don’t anymore, and if they do, they look for solace and forgiveness for their mistakes. As someone who has been going once in a while as my therapist has recommended it, I see it now as a well knitted, protective community and a safe space for those to talk about resisting temptations and urges and bond over the struggles and emotions that only become more complicated with substance abuse.
As a bartender, and a former champion binge drinker, I fight with the struggle of being accepting in these situations. I appreciate the concept of AA and I do believe it helps people that need it and open themselves to it. There are times when I feel guilty as I know I’m not staying sober for the rest of my life and have no intention unless my body requires it - and telling my story at some of these meetings makes me feel hypocritical. Sure, I’ve been sober for a full eight months now and the intent is for a full year at least, but the concept for my drinking is to be social and have fun, not roll out of bed and drink a flask to be able to function. There isn’t any problem admitting alcoholism - I’ve abused it by going too far to feel good, and there’s definitely times shots have been needed to change the mood.
How can you decide you’re okay with leaving your medallion with a bartender? You’re unconsciously blaming them for your problem? They aren’t forcing a drink onto you, hell, more than likely they don’t know you’re sober. Mind blowing that anyone thinks that someone else is responsible for their drinking problem, most especially someone that’s gone through the steps and process and learned that ultimately it is their problem. It hasn’t stopped me from getting a medallion or token as a means of payment or tip occasionally. I used to feel sad and hurt that someone would burden me with this, as it isn’t my problem. Now, as someone that’s realized he’s enjoyed and abused alcohol, if I catch them, I throw it back at them. “You should really give this to your sponsor and own your own behavior,” was what I just told the man that tried that shit on me the last weekend. Tell me you’re in recovery, close to relapsing, and I’ll gladly buy you a soda and shoot the shit about feelings, stories, temptation. Blaming me for your struggles doesn’t win any sympathy from me and just goes to show me that you aren’t really buying the system you’re trying and maybe you need more help than you have been searching for or getting.
Nevertheless, I have a drawer of medallions from under a year to a 25 year that I look at quite often these days when I have had a long shift. Looking at them when I’m tired of dealing with people and remembering the days I would just get whiskey fueled to handle the constant stream of shitty behavior, assholes, and disasters relieve me in a way sometimes. I’m not to blame for these peoples behavior - I have a hard enough time owning and conditioning my own behavior. Blame yourself for your relapse, your plight and make amends with your own heart before you set out to make others guilty for things that they cannot change.