Dry Wit: Words That Don’t Quite Sting

I was talking with a friend the other day about a rotten situation we were in with a friend who, for reasons unbeknownst to us, was being deceitful and manipulative, and when called out on her behavior, just layered on further lies and couldn’t, for lack of a better word, figure out how to fight fair. My friend said her deceptiveness was “like an alcoholic,” and then immediately apologized out of sensitivity to my issues.

But the thing is, I wasn’t offended. Any alcoholic who tries to defend her veracity while she’s still drinking is not just lying to her friends; she’s lying to herself as well. Alcoholism makes liars of us all. The worst part, perhaps, is how often we think we’re telling the truth when we’re lying through our teeth. When I was drinking, I couldn’t keep my story straight at all, and the moment a person tried to point out inconsistencies in the babbling I spewed, the more confused I became.

So, fast forward through a few months of sobriety (and a renewed commitment to honesty no matter how much it can suck) and my friend’s comment about how a form of argument that relies on skewed dishonesty and manipulation seems so “alcoholic,” and I couldn’t help but nod my head in agreement. Her apology was super touching – any time someone shows sensitivity toward another’s experiences I think that’s pretty rad – but I personally found it unnecessary.

See, people who’ve struggled through watching others fight a winning or losing battle often make comments about alcoholics that could be construed as hurtful. Alcoholics are deceitful, manipulative, untrustworthy. Alcoholics are emotionally volatile, unpredictable, lacking in any sense of personal responsibility. Alcoholics are selfish.

It’s all true, by the way. Comments like this could sting, if I thought they were about me. But the truth is, these are symptoms of a disease. And as Gail Caldwell wrote in Let’s Take the Long Way Home, “Relax. It’s bio-chemical!” That doesn’t let alcoholics off the hook for their behavior while they’re under the influence – or under the influence of the influence. But it does help those of us who are seeking sobriety to go a little easier on ourselves, and let comments that aren’t meant to be about us personally roll off our backs. Not to mention, sometimes these comments serve as a pretty timely reminder of what we have to go back to, should we break the trust we’ve established with our sobriety.

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Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

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