I never worked in a bar sober but professionally I have been around the usual drinking at holiday parties or after-work dinners in a bar that devolve into liquid meals.
But recently, I've been confronted with a really pernicious form of the disease in the form a colleague who very well may need "a seat in the rooms" as we say.
Let's call him Mark. I heard from other colleagues that he really does pound them down so I already know Mark drinks. He's no kid, around 40 with children and a wife and a home and all that. One day he asked to borrow money for lunch. Apparently, he was in the doghouse for a particularly bruising night out and the wife had taken his credit cards. Gradually, the pieces start to fit into place. Coming in late due to 'traffic' or some sick child at home. One sick day turns into a flu that adds up. He has a routine where he asks people to move stuff around on his desk in the morning so it looks like he's 'in the office.'
About 6 months ago, Mark flat out confessed that he had just smoked a joint outside and was completely lit. He did look a little out of it, but then, I'm just not monitoring his behavior so much. For some reason, me being the former stoner, he felt comfortable telling me. It was sort of a joke to him. I didn't immediately flip out but I did confide in a co-worker who is also sober. She said Mark told her the same thing. I guess Mark figured she too, former addict/alcoholic, was the perfect person to clue in.
“The culture of marijuana in the mainstream is, to me, personally is at once tempting and scary.”
One day he comes into my office, shuts the door and sits down. He's just making idle conversation and I'm still turned away from him, looking at my monitor. I wasn't even thinking and before I know it, he's twisted up a joint and he's on his way. I'm never around pot in any context, let alone in the office. It just struck me as so blunt, (pun intended I guess) that I never even had a chance to protest. And, in a way, maybe I was fascinated with seeing pot in front of me. And yeah, I smelled it: Sweet, pungent odor of what we used to call "Hawaiian."
A few weeks later, he stops and a quickly twists up another joint. In this case, he explains to me, he's going to an interview for another job and figured if he shows up high, then they'll just assume that's how he looks and not question it. This is that brilliantly twisted thinking that only alcoholics & addicts can reason through. Like the Big Book kernel, "If I were to put an ounce of whiskey in my milk it couldn't hurt me on a full stomach."
After the second incident, I had to speak up and told him to please not roll joints in my office. Again, the addict-logic deems a response like that. Why exactly do I have to even utter a sentence like that? It's like saying: "Can you please not cook heroin in my office."
Now, for the people of the Recovery Revolution and other former potheads out there, we are in a very tricky time.
Entire states are opening a door which to this addict would've been like nirvana, an orgasm, and pure happiness rolled into the biggest joint of the best weed ever: legal, open use of recreational marijuana. The culture of marijuana in the mainstream is, to me, personally is at once tempting and scary. It is changing before our eyes and my eyes are wide open. The new wrinkles and options present are beyond my little world back in the day when the idea of a big plastic bong was considered cutting edge. Which brings me to Mark and his Vape Pen.
So one day, I'm in my office with another colleague Eddie, going over some details and in comes Mark.
He shuts the door. He takes out his vape pen. Now the other colleague, Eddie, is one of the ones who had reported back to me that Mark drank like a fish. And I know Eddie has smoked one of those freshly twisted joints with Mark after work. But even Eddie is telling Mark not to take it out. Again, this is happening very quickly, and while I am now horribly uncomfortable, jumping up and leaving the office would be even more strange. Maybe he's just waving it around and he's not gonna smoke.
But he does. The damn thing doesn't even leave a smell. Eddie, half feigns protest but then partakes as well. What is going on here? In a room of 3 people in an office building at work, I am now outnumbered as the minority not getting high. I'm disgusted. As if it makes any sense at all, Mark then asks me a few questions about work. I try to smooth it over and talk through it, but it's very sloppy. Mark and Eddie are giggly and unhinged from any semblance of work.
Mark can see I'm disgusted, staring straight at my computer monitor. He further makes believe he's gonna actually do work and asks for a pen to write down these project details we're supposedly talking about but we are definitely not really doing any work. I hand it to him, saying, "That's a regular pen, don't try to smoke it"
And then Mark and Eddie EXPLODE in ridiculous spasms of laughter, their faces bright red, the laugh a full body expulsion of air and noise, from the gut through the head, both of them gasping. This errant joke about a pen is SO funny that they are high-fiving each other and pointing at me as if I am The Original Comedian and I have just told the funniest joke EVER.
But it wasn't funny. It wasn't interesting. There was no insight. It was just two guys stoned finding nothing in something or something in nothing or just nothing. And it did kinda belittled my hard-won sobriety. I don't need to be around people who think I said something funny.
My sarcasm of "the pen joke" wasn't meant to set off waves of laughter. It was pretty much serious. Because if this fool was going to vape weed at work, he might as well be trying to light a pen up and boil the ink inside or just inhale whatever he could get in his lungs.
And maybe I just wanted to get back to work. Because I had some real work to do. Staying sober.