Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Crab Trap Syndrome.

"Aha", said my friend, "I knew you'd start drinking again!"

He was referring to the chilled amber liquid in my glass, that I was enjoying while sitting on my porch step, in the late September sun.

A second later, visibly disappointed when I pointed to the AF beer can, he asked...

"So when are you going to start drinking again?"

This is a question that I am being asked frequently these days. It's as if my friends and acquaintances have indulged this fad of mine for the summer- much the same as indulging a new diet or exercise regime..."Oh God, are you still cutting out bread? One slice isn't going to kill you!" - and are impatient for me to get back to being....well, the old me.

In the very early days, I was very hesitant about declaring LIFE LONG SOBRIETY!...firstly because I wasn't sure that I could even make 30 days without a drink, and I certainly didn't want to contemplate the whole of my life with an wine shaped hole in it , and secondly, I was embarrassed. I wasn't able to admit that the reason I had stopped drinking was because I had to.

Now, four months later, even after I have explained the full truth, it's as if some people in my life either don't quite believe it, or have chosen to ignore it.

My husband wasn't really fully on board to start with either.

"Well, you'll have a drink when we tour the vineyards in California, won't you? he asked.

Now, he is first one to say proudly when I'm offered wine - "No, my wife doesn't drink".

Yet, for others, it was OK to cut out the booze for a while " Well you were pounding it back a bit" and 'That break from wine has done you good - you've lost weight!", they were basically supportive of what they saw as an experiment, now it's time to get back to Normal.

Time for the Old Jackie to come back.

These people fall into several categories. And for me - and maybe you also - the category will be the deciding factor of whether they ever play a major part in my life again.

Because folks - you heard it here first - The Old Jackie Is Never Coming Back.

So, here are my categories...
  •  People Who think I'm Over-Reacting
I never looked or behaved like a "real" addict. I didn't lose my job (pretty hard when you're self employed, although I definitely could have fired myself many times over), I didn't fall over drunk at every social occasion, I didn't get a DUI, I didn't live under a bridge, or drink cheap cider out of a bottle in a paper bag. I didn't fit the stereotype of a 'drunk", so therefore I couldn't possibly have had a problem. More likely, I'm a middle-aged women who is self obsessed with my "issues".
  •  People Who Have No Understanding About Alcohol Dependency.
These are the people who are "normal" drinkers. They make one beer last all evening. They have one glass of wine. They are people who actually use those pretty wine stoppers to save the wine after drinking one glass. So they have blank looks on their faces when I try to explain that for me, an open bottle of wine was an invitation for a race to the bottom.
"So why didn't you just stop?" they ask, all confused.
In fairness, the confusion is mutual. I never understood them either.

Lastly, there is the more dangerous category. These are the people that the Wine Witch would love to recruit as her henchmen. These are people who are suffering from......
  • The Crab Trap Syndrome 
A crab is attracted into a trap by the bait (chopped up old fish). The trap has an opening, the crab wanders in, eats the bait, and then.....if the crab is all alone, it will often wander out the trap, the same way it came in.
But here's the thing, if there are more than one crab, they will eat the bait, BUT, if one crab attempts to wander out, the other crab(s) will pull it back in!! 

Even though all the crabs could leave the trap through the opening, they will all prevent each other from leaving. It's the crab version of "misery loves company"

For some people in my life, sobriety is not something to be celebrated or supported, because it sheds a harsh light (so they think) on their own drinking habits. The only way to shut off that glare, is to pull you back into the trap.

I don't really concern myself about the first two categories of people. Over the last months, they have got used to me refusing a glass of wine, and the comments have gone from;

'Still not drinking eh?" to "Oops, I forgot, I've got some AF beer here for you"

And the last category? Sadly, I leave them to the bait. I see it in the trap, I see the other crabs chomping on it, and I just keep walking (sideways- this is still a crab analogy)......these days, the bait is just stinky rotten fish.



  1. This is maddening, the people who think it's a "phase" or a detox or a break. I've literally had to tell the same person 3 times-- I'm not drinking. Still NOT DRINKING. I have STOPPED. Alcoholic, here!! And she was like, oh good for you for sticking it out this long. Because obviously no one would want to stop forever, the horror!!

  2. Great post! People actually use those pretty wine stoppers and save the wine?? Ha!

  3. I've mostly found people very supportive and a few who would like to do the same as they 'get it' but they feel they can't yet. That's fine by me!. Those who don't understand as they don't drink much are also supportive and would happily have a soft drink with me. Then there are the ones who are a bit obsessed...... I can't even be bothered getting into it with them. My life, my decisions xxx

  4. #2 (aged 8 at the time) bought me one of those pretty wine stoppers for Xmas. I was gutted. Firstly because he knew wine was my favourite thing, and secondly because I knew I'd never use it! Great post WB x

  5. I got a wine stopper for Xmas too - and I was so paranoid about my wine drinking that I was certain that it was a "message" !

  6. Interesting you use bread in your analogy as I had the same reaction when I went low carb a few years ago. Offered bread and cakes at every turn. One "friend" even baked me cupcakes for my birthday!!! I think coping with that made me stronger for going af. People do eventually start saying oh you don't eat that/ drink. Its takes a good year though.

    1. I believe that some people genuinely don't understand, and therefore in a weird way are offering you a 'treat", or a "break" from your self imposed is improving though, some lovely friends have started to get in AF beer when they invite us for dinner.