She was very cheerful the lady at the supermarket who asked me this question. She was dressed smartly, standing beside her display table at the edge of the booze section which is also the end of the cheese and dips section.
This is where the alcohol lives in the place where I do my weekly shop. It comes at the end of the isle which starts with the bread and milk, moves into cold meats and yogurt, then ends in cheese and dips.
I’d just picked up some grated mozzarella cheese to have on our pizza dinner and some hummus for the kids school lunches when I glanced up and caught her eye. She smiled warmly and gestured to the bottles on the table beside her; “Would you like to sample some wine?” She asked me.
I didn’t really have time to think. Before I knew it a breezy “No thank you!” came out of my mouth and I moved on. My brain didn’t freak out. My heart didn’t race. I was the very model of a casual, cheerful housewife turning down free booze at the supermarket. My how times have changed.
Back in my boozy days I would never have turned down a free sample. And a trip to the supermarket would always include multiple wine purchases. Why wouldn’t it? It was always cheap as hell and right there for me to grab.
When I first got sober, the supermarket became a real challenge. Every shopping trip was like running the gauntlet. From the moment I stepped through the automatic doors I’d be having a fierce internal dialogue with myself about why I wasn’t going to buy any wine today. I’d frantically remind myself as I turned down each isle why I’d quit drinking and what I was hoping to gain by turning sober. I’d rush out the door with my trolly at the end feeling tense but proud that I hadn’t buckled and picked up any bottles.
I wish alcohol wasn’t available in the place where we do most of our grocery shopping – next to kitchen staples like bread and cheese – but unfortunately it is. And as much as I’d like to persuade our lawmakers to remove alcohol from our supermarkets, I don’t have the power of the alcohol industry and their clever lobbyists who are working hard to keep it there.
So instead I have focussed on the one thing I CAN change – and that is my own thinking. And here I’ve been very successful. As the months and years of being a non-drinker have passed I have completely flipped my thinking. I no longer see alcohol as the magic ticket to fun and relaxation, I no longer have any desire to numb and avoid my emotions and I no longer think of guzzling wine daily as a harmless thing to do. And as a result of this change in my thinking the booze section of the supermarket has become less challenging, and for the most part it now has zero impact on me.
Except of course when there’s a nicely dressed lady standing at the edge of it trying to give me a free drink. Then, yes, it did have a brief impact. But not an entirely bad one.
I noticed how easy it was to turn her down and that felt good. I noticed how I had zero pull inside of me to sample her wares and that felt great. And I noticed how more feisty and detailed responses to her offer formed in my mind as I walked away.
I imagined a response in which I was far more detailed: “No way. I haven’t touched that stuff for nearly six years and feel far more grounded in myself and connected to those around me than I ever have in my life. Do you think I want to throw all of that away for a sample of your foul tasting liquid?”
I imagined a response in which I was far more blunt: “No way. I’m not touching that shit. Do you know it’s a group one carcinogen that is estimated to cause over five billion dollars worth of harm to our country every year?”
But as satisfying as it was forming these responses in my mind I’m pleased I kept it brief. The wine-sampling lady didn’t need to hear my story or nor did she deserve my anger. She’s just a woman trying to pay her bills and earn money to get her own grated cheese and hummus.
No. A cheerful “No thank you!” was enough. But boy did it feel good heading home for a nice refreshing fizzy water that didn’t leave me feeling guilty and hungover.
Love, Mrs D xxx