As I’ve mentioned, I work in a grocery store. It’s a locally-owned, organic grocery store, which somehow makes it seem respectable, but it’s a grocery store nonetheless. So I judge myself for working there, being overqualified and overeducated for the job, and far too ego-driven to be at such a piss-ant job. It’s okay for other people to work there—they’re artists, musicians, single mothers, immigrants, or something else respectable or interesting, in addition to working at the grocery store; the grocery store is not their primary focus in life, and I don’t judge them for working there (until they piss me off—more on that later). And at first it was a romantic idea for me to work this job. I pictured myself like Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, which is a movie I don’t remember that well except that a woman moves to a small town in France and opens her own chocolate shop, and at first people don’t like her, but she’s her own person, a badass in her own right, and everyone ends up loving her. She just does her own thing.
I suppose that could sort of describe me, I hope—the badass part, I mean. Take yesterday for example. Most of my co-workers are in their 20s, and our cooler sure smelled exactly like marijuana smoke. My mom used to tell me that as she got older she cared less and less what others thought of her, and I often hoped that I’d have the same experience. And voila! It’s happening now. These 20somethings needed to know that, in the words of my mom, I wasn’t born yesterday, and I’m onto them and their pot-smoking ways.
“Wow, it smells exactly like marijuana in here,” I exclaimed with a stern, squinty eye, making deliberate eye contact with each of them, partly for intimidation purposes, partly for investigation purposes.
Eyebrows raised from all around. “I can’t smell anything,” they exclaimed. No weed in here! Because I sure don’t know how it could possibly smell like marijuana in a grocery store.
Nonchalantly I let them know that when I worked in a restaurant that we used to get high in the cooler (we thought no one could smell it because somehow cold air diffuses the scent of marijuana smoke), and that I sure would not want anyone to go to jail.
“For what? Getting high at work?” Tony asked.
He had a point.
So I mumbled something about having a bag of weed at work and decided to let it go. That bled into a discussion of the legality of marijuana in the DC area, and one of the girls wanted to know if I still got high, and I told her no. The other two had already walked away by then. But she wanted to know if that meant quit for good or did I smoke every now and then? So I told her I’m a recovered alcoholic so I don’t do anything at all anymore. Her mom had dated a recovered alcoholic so she understood that it meant one drink is too many and a thousand is never enough.
But it got me to thinking. Up to this point I haven’t really cared who knows I’m a recovered alcoholic. I don’t think of it as a big deal. I don’t have the image of the homeless man in a trench coat who drinks from a paper bag. Most people I’ve known have been functional alcoholics, and for me it just means that I can’t drink without getting trashed and I no longer want to do that anymore. It means I cannot drink safely, without getting blackout and pass-out wasted, waking up the next day wondering what I said or did to embarrass myself or hurt someone else. It means I can’t drink without getting a nasty hangover that in the end got so bad I wanted to go to the hospital.
I’m pretty sure that my being a recovered alcoholic who’s aware that my co-workers may be getting high doesn’t really make me a badass, or any wiser or smarter than anyone else. It’s possible that no one was getting high and who knows? Maybe a skunk had sprayed the parking lot. (For the longest time I thought the smell of skunk was marijuana. True story.) In the end none of it really matters. Really I was just pissed off at the smell of marijuana smoke in the same way that I get pissed off when I smell alcohol. It’s not because I want to smoke or drink, and it’s not because I’m resentful that others can, but it’s because my life does not revolve around drinking anymore, and I don’t want any reminders of what my life used to be like.
When I think about it, I do want these reminders because they remind me why I don’t want to live that way anymore. If you’d told me my life would be better without it, I’d have never believed you. But it’s true. So it pisses me off when non-alcoholics glamorize it or laugh at it because it’s actually not funny. It’s pathetic, tragic, and disturbing. (On the other hand, when sober alcoholics make fun of it, different story. Then it’s hilarious.)
It’s possible no one was getting high, and they all think I’m crazy. But I really don’t care. One thing I’m learning in my new old age is that trying to explain to a sophomoric, often younger person (who doesn’t want your advice) that you’ve been there before falls on deaf ears. We all have to have our own experiences.
So I won’t be calling the cops to let them know that hey, we got some kids getting high at work over here. Because the truth is I really don’t care. If they’re destined to go to jail for whatever stupid decisions they make in the future, it has nothing to do with me. But if and when someone wants my help, I hope they will come to me.