My 22-year-old daughter recently moved into her first apartment and arranged to have a housewarming party. My husband and I were invited, along with several family member and a rather large group of her and her roommate's friends. I was a little apprehensive because I wanted to make a good impression but I am not terribly outgoing. The result was that I ended up getting extremely drunk and making a total fool of myself. I spoke to my daughter the next day and apologized. I also made apologies to my family members. I have totally lost respect for myself for making such a bad decision and I feel I have lost the respect of my family. How can I move past this and feel good about myself again?
You want to relax and forget and feel good? Here's an idea: Have a bunch of drinks!
Nyuk, nyuk. Actually, I should preface this column with some sort of caveat along the lines of: Obviously, if you think you have a problem, seek counselling or a program, etc.
I don't want to seem insensitive to anyone that alcoholism has got its hooks into, or their loved ones. It can be insidious, a terrible disease. It can split up families and destroy relationships. It can ruin your career, your looks and your liver. It can land you in jail, hospital or the morgue.
But all in all I'm pretty pro-alcohol – in moderation. My thing is: "I want to be moderate so I never have to give it up." I don't want to wind up standing around with a cranberry juice in my 60s because I overdid it when I was younger. Not to be able to have a stiff drink with my wife at the end of a tough day and vent? What a dystopian vision!
Still, it's true it takes a toll. I've experienced many of what my friends and I used to call a "Ben Johnson Sunday" – waking up in a stew of shame and self-loathing, stripped of all accolades and self-respect, groaning and grabbing my face as I reflect on recent events and the poor choices I made.
Which is what it sounds like you're going through. You didn't go into the details of your drunken misbehavior (which I would've dearly loved to know: readers, please, more shameful details!), but it sounds like whatever you did has left you thoroughly traumatized.
Don't be. It's one of the central tenets of Damage Control: It is indescribably helpful if your offence is perceived as anomalous to your overall character, i.e. "unlike you."
And no offence, but you do sound like a booze rookie.
Another Damage Control motto: "What's done is done and can't be undone / the bell that's rung can't be unrung / the sands of time, they can't unrun / you did the deed, now it's gotta be spun."
It sounds to me like you've spun it just fine: You apologized to everyone. Time to drop it. There is such a thing as overapologizing, which can fuel the fire of gossip and fan the flames of shame.
I'm willing to bet the attitude of most of your friends and relatives is to shrug and smile and think: "Hey, it happens." That should be your attitude, too.
A couple tips for the future, though:
a) Have dinner before you go out. It happens to the best of us: You're trying on different outfits, spraying on perfume, you run out of time for dinner and you figure, "Ah, there'll be food at the party." Then you wind up having two Cajun crab puffs for dinner and next thing you know you're staggering around in a chardonnay-scented haze, shlurring your shibilants and generally making a fool out of yourself.
Listen, people: If you insult the hostess, break a glass into the shag rug, and barf in the bidet, no one's going to remember your delightful outfit or how great you smelled (earlier in the evening, before the vomit). So eat something before you go out, even if it's only a fistful of squished bread.
b) Don't look upon drinking as an activity that should keep on winding up to a big climax, like a movie.
The best way to approach an evening of imbibing is to kick things off with a couple of stiff ones, then go into "buzz maintenance" mode. If you feel sobriety slipping away, switch to spritzers, or intersperse your drinks with glasses of water. Or switch to water altogether, if you start to feel things going "sideways."
(And I hope it need hardly be said in 2012: Don't drive if there's the slightest question of intoxication.)
Then when you get home, take a big drink from the fishbowl – oops, I mean, have a glass of water – and hit the hay, knowing you've left your reputation intact and not in tatters.
David Eddie is the author of Damage Control, the book.
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