Friday, October 05, 2007

Outside Opinion Needed

Ok... I need all of you to put down your lurker hats and put on your commenter hats because I need your opinion.

I wanted to do something nice for Jake to celebrate his one year of sobriety. I mentioned it to a friend of mine and she suggested that we go away for a weekend. I thought that was a great idea so she suggested a weekend in AR fishing. Wonderful!!

So, I sent out an e-mail asking several of our couple friends to join us for the weekend. We will be driving, to save on money and also only staying two nights, to save on money. The idea is to rent a house or a cabin and to all share it which will also cut down on costs. However, in the end Jake and I are not millionaires so we can not afford to pay for every one's trip. SO... the other couples will be spending approximately $500-$750 of their own money if they choose to go with us.

This morning I sent an e-mail to these couples respectfully requesting that they refrain from drinking if they choose to attend this weekend with us since it is a weekend to celebrate Jake's one year sobriety.

The response I got back from a friend of mine was less than positive and I was just floored. I immediately burst into tears. I really wanted this weekend to be a fun weekend for Jake to show him that you can have fun without drinking. We are supposed to be celebrating his one year sobriety and so all I can think is what a crappy way to celebrate his sobriety by drinking in front of him.

The following are the e-mails that followed:

It came to my attention last night that I may not have mentioned this to all of you so I thought I would very quickly. This weekend in AR is supposed to be to celebrate Jake's one year of sobriety. SO... I think it kind of goes without saying that we would appreciate it if there was no drinking. (Or drugs... Jessica leave that baggie at home!!)

This will be his first vacation since he got sober and I would like to show Jake that it is possible to have a great time without drinking and partying.

Knowing you all as I do, I don't anticipate that this will change your decision to go or not to go but I thought it was only fair to mention it up front. I just don't think it's fair to Jake to celebrate his sobriety by waving alcohol in front of him.

Response from Friend:

I don't know if it will change our decision to go..but I don't think husband will be that receptive to me telling him he can't drink. Now I think he will be considerate of Jake as he has been in the past but I can't promise you he WON'T drink.

Response from Me:

Don't you think it would be a little crappy to say hey... congratulations on not drinking for a year, Here let me have a drink in front of you?? I don't think having a drink if we are in a restaurant or whatever will be a big deal but if they are sitting around playing cards or pool and all the guys are drinking except Jake I think that will be a pretty crappy way for him to celebrate his one year of sobriety.

I guess I could see where I can not ask people not to drink if it is just any weekend get away. I mean if we plan a couples weekend just for fun than hell no I can't ask everyone not to drink just because Jake doesn't. But we are going on this trip FOR Jake, BECAUSE he has been sober for one year. Doesn't that make a little bit of a difference??

Her Response:

I think we have all been supportive of Jake but it is getting a little annoying to me that EVERYTHING is surrounded around Jake and his recovery. I want to help him celebrate but if I am going to spend $1500 on a vacation I am not going to tell husband he can’t drink or I can’t have a glass of wine (god-for-bid – I would want one). This may sound harsh but it’s honest….husband is not the one with the addiction (thus should not be punished). So far I have been very impressed at his lack of alcohol use around Jake.

Let’s put it like this….I am going to be on a hard core diet by then trying to lose weight for my class reunion so I would appreciate it if no one ate junk food, or treats or fried food around me that weekend because it would be too hard. Food is my addiction and as we can see I haven’t done that great at staying clean.

I honestly think that Husband #2 and Husband #3 won’t go if you put this sort of pressure on everyone. I don’t know I can’t speak for them but that’s just a hunch. You can only control yourself and your family….to plan a trip that everyone is paying for and try to control that I just don’t know that it will happen.

We are helping you celebrate but this vacation is just as much for us. YOU and JAKE are going on a vacation to celebrate his sobriety. I just don’t see it like you do.

Now if you were having a party at the lodge where you were paying for everything and furnishing all the beverages then I could see asking everyone not to drink….but you are not paying for my trip and I just don’t think I can ask husband not to drink at all. A-he will be annoyed that I am telling him what he can and can’t do and B-it would probably be better if I let him be considerate of this on his own as he has in the past.

It was at this point that we decided to turn it over to you guys... I don't want to know who is right or wrong. I don't care. I just want to know if I'm being unreasonable to ask people to be respectful of Jake. I have a tendency to control situations or try to control them and I don't want to be doing that. We have good friends, I assume that they can make this decision without me reminding them. However, at the same time I don't want Jake to be put in an uncomfortable situation when I was trying to do something nice for him.


Laura said...

I don't think you should have even had to mention to them not to drink. If they had any respect for you or Jake they would put their own interests aside. If they can't go away for a weekend and not have a drink then maybe they have a problem of their own. If my alchoholic friend asked me to celebrate with her on her 1yr aniversary I wouldn't even entertain the thought of having a drink. Sounds like you have some selfish friends who only care about themselves.

Heather said...

I don't think my friends are selfish but I think it may be a case of them seeing this trip differently than I did.

And in the end, maybe they would choose not to drink on their own. Maybe I don't need to remind them of that.

I just really don't want them all drinking and playing cards or playing pool and Jake just sitting there left out or feeling uncomfortable.

Heather said...

Perhaps I just need to trust my friends and leave it up to them to know that Jake is in recovery.

Shane and Jessica Olson said...

That email portrayal is not quite accurate...yes I said all those things but that is not exactly how the conversation flowed.
However....We are more than respectful friends, we have done everything we can possibly do for Jake and Heather. My husband has been immensely respectful of Jake and his rehabilitation. Honestly it was almost insulting to my sensibilities that you would think we would be anything other than respectful of the situation at hand.
My only point is....while you are planning this vacation FOR JAKE, I don't see it as all that. Yes we are helping Jake celebrate but this vacation is just as much for my husband and I. In addition my husband while extremely respectful is not receptive to me telling him what he can and can't do. For me to tell him we are going on this vacation during his VERY busy time of year and oh by the way YOU CAN'T DRINK. I don't think that would fly in our household. I don't want to promise you something I have no control over.

Shane and Jessica Olson said...


We are anything....ANYTHING....but selfish. You have NO idea!

AND....I don't drink so I definately don't have a problem.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you can control the situation. You friends are already offering to spend their own money to help you celebrate which is huge support in itself.
You need to trust them to be respectfull of the situation and vice versa. You need to be respectful of them and their likings too. It is a two way street.
Love the diet analogy! That's a great comparison...Are you willing to avoid this to help your friend?

Heather said...

Thank you for your input anonymous. I appreciate someone being able to see it from another point of view.

I have told Jess that I trust her and Shane and they are GREAT friends to us so I'm leaving it up to them to do what they feel is appropriate.

As we say in Al-Anon... progress... not perfection.

I'm working on trying not to control situations. Sometimes I just need people to point it out to me before I realize that's what I'm trying to do.

Laura said...

Just FYI this is not the same Laura as the commenter above. Jess I thought her comment was hurtful and I wouldn't want you to think it was me.

Having said that, Heather I don't think you can necessarily control your friends just because you made a request, but I do think the request itself was fair.

Jess, I can understand where you're coming from but I don't agree with you. I hope you will view my response as respectful while still disagreeing with you; I really don't want to start a war here but I am responding to Heather's question.

I understand about viewing it as more of a break/vacation than a celebration of sobriety, but from my outsider's standpoint it sounds like you're just getting technical about terminology. Heather invited you to a celebration of sobriety for Jake, so that's what the trip is. Maybe that's not ALL that it is, but that's the reason for the trip in the first place. I think it would be the considerate thing to do for your husband to refrain from alcohol around Jake, whether at this weekend getaway or elsewhere.

I can understand that you say your husband doesn't take kindly to you "telling him what to do," - mine wouldn't either! But you don't really have to TELL him what to do, do you? Couldn't you just suggest that it would be nice to refrain from drinking for Jake's sake, or even say that Heather asked if that would be possible, so it's a request rather than you ordering him around? Maybe he could have a drink or two when he's not hanging around Jake?

I don't think this should be a cost thing about whether Heather is paying or you're paying. You know that things are tight financially for her and I'm sure if she could pay for you, she would, but that's not possible. I don't mean this as a harsh statement but a genuine alternative - if you don't really want to abstain from drinking at a celebration of 1 year sobriety, maybe it would be better to stay home and go on a different vacation with your husband another time, just the two of you. You can always just tell everyone else you hadn't budgeted for the trip so you can't go at the moment.

Please know this is all just my opinion of how best to go about handling this situation and I hope that you don't find my remarks offensive even though I don't agree with you. I think you have been a great and supportive friend to Heather and I don't think this trip will take anything away from that.

Anonymous said...

First off, I'm not trying to start a fight or cause any more drama then there appears to be, but there's a reason why names weren't named in the original blog obviously! This would be a situation that if you're involved, it's best to remain anonymous.

Second... who is arranging this trip? If it is Heather, and if Heather is telling you BEFORE you start spending money and booking things that this trip is to celebrate Jake's sobriety... who the heck are you to try to ruin that? You may not have a 'problem' with drinking, but if you'd ever been addicted to ANYTHING in your life, you would know that it's easier to be less tempted if you're not around it. As far as your dieting is concerned, this trip doesn't sound like it's a 'let's help jess lose weight' trip. It's set up for Jake. Period. Now if you, for instance, were dieting and planning oh, a supper party for a birthday and you're the hostess, you could definitely request low fat sides be brought. But unless this was your idea, unless you weren't informed that this was for SOBRIETY, then you need to let go. Sometimes friends, men and women, let go of some things that they LIKE to help other friends.

As far as this vacation being a vacation for yourself and your husband, it can be that too. If drinking is required for you two to get away and have a fun vacation together, whether his work is busy or not, without drinking in front of Jake, is just ludicrus.

And I agree with the part about if you're out to eat, one casual drink... even 2 isn't unheard of and I don't think there would be any problem with that.

I think you were right, Heather, to request that of your friends who are joining you on your vacation. I don't think you should say NO DRINKING EVER... that's a little much. I think that a lot of people (I'm assuming everyone invited is close and knows the situation...) should've realized that on their own, but the reaction from one friends says that assumption would've been wrong.

Congrats on Jake making it this far! I hope the vacation is fun and I hope Jake realizes how much support he has. I hope the rest of the reactions weren't so selfish. And while maybe that's not the norm for your friend, in this case, it's a case of flat out selfishness.


Heather said...

Thank you Laura & T. After discussing it with a co-worker at lunch I think I have realized why my original reaction was so bad.

In Al-anon we learn to recognize and accept our part of every situation. My part is that I tried to control the situation instead of just trusting my friends to do the right thing.

The reason I left the post without names is because I didn't want anyone to judge Jess as she is a GREAT friend.

However, I think the reaction I was looking for was of course we would not even think about drinking on this trip as opposed to what I got which was totally negative.

I can not tell others how to think or act and so I think my e-mail would have been more appropriate if I would have told them that I didn't want Jake to be uncomfortable as opposed to telling them I didn't want them to drink.

However, with that said, being an addict is NOT the same thing as being on a diet. It actually bothers me quite a bit that there are still people out there who do not know that.

And Jess, if you were really on a diet and REALLY were a food addict I would totally eat a salad with you or go to the gym with you or whatever to support you.

If you wanted to go away for the weekend to celebrate that you had lost 30 lbs I would not be bringing chocolate cake or eating snickers bars in front of you.

While Jess helped me think of the place the idea to do a mini-fishing trip was one that I came up with FOR Jake and so I don't want the weekend to loose the focus as he is the only one who does not know that the idea is even out there. Therefore it is still very much a surprise for him.

Shane and Jessica Olson said...

The idea of having a sobriety party was Heather's....the idea of the vacation and location was mine. The idea of combining the vacation and sobriety party into one was mine.

Shane and I did realize this on our own, I just didn't feel the email sent out to all of us telling us not to drink during the trip was a little much.

Shane and I moved our Alaskan cruise so we could do both...what was that you were saying about selfish again?

spellconjurer said...

If I was asked to attend a weekend away to celebrate sobriety, hard earned, tough sobriety, I would never drink during the weekend. If I went out to dinner to celebrate someone's not smoking for 6 months, I wouldn't sit in the smoking section with my friend, puffing away. Jake isn't invading anyone else's holiday with his own "needs". Others were invited to celebrate a holiday concerning his sobriety. He shouldn't have to spend those celebratory days, fighting harder than ever, and more than usual, the urge to have a drink. It's not a test. It's a chance to feel happiness and joy. If someone can't cope with those stipulations, that is OK! They should simply decline, and spend their money and/or time on a vacation that gives THEM joy. If Heather and Jake end up going alone, which is what I personally would have opted for anyhow as a chance to reconnect as a couple intimately (emotionally), then that is fine too. No friendships should suffer over this. It's simply a case of what Heather and Jake need, what is best for Jake in this instance, and people being comfortable with those needs.

spellconjurer said...

Uh oh,,,,,comments came in while I was typing that! I see now that it was a combined effort in planning it all,,,,I still feel the same though in basic ideas,,,I guess it doesn't matter "who" came first in the planning stages,,,,,(and I think you're all great friends, and wish I lived closer,,,,,sigh)

Heather said...

Just so we're all clear... and not that it matters... but this is the original e-mail I sent to Jess:

Ok... since you are the queen of all things fun and surprisey (is that a word??) I would like to do something nice for Jake's one year but I don't want to spend a lot of money.

I had thought about a mini-fishing trip because he LOVES to fish but his one year is in March so I couldn't go with him anywhere until after April 15. So then I thought maybe all the boys could go somewhere but then I started freaking out about whether they could all be gone for a weekend and not drink and if they do drink would Jake be uncomfortable if they had a little too much, etc., etc.

I know if he just went with Shane it would not be a big deal or just with Matt or whatever. I just wondered with several other guys if they would want to be drinking and what not. Which sort of ruins the point of a one year celebration of his sobriety.

So what do you think??

JF- said...

I am one of Jess’s friends and I know this story inside and out…plus I know Shane and Jess very well. They are the most respectful selfless friends you could have. I understand disagreements between friends and while I think you and Jess both have your valid point’s, I question the motive behind feeling the need to tell your friends to be respectful of Jake. If they are your friends and such GREAT friends you say why would you even have to tell them such a thing? Besides if I recall correctly as one of Jess’s GREAT friends, she doesn’t even drink and Shane barely does. Seems like a lot of focus and energy on something that just isn’t an issue.

As I read back through all of this I feel bad that you Heather would let these false opinions of your "friend" fly like this on your blog as I know first hand the level to which she will go to to defend you.


Heather said...

I have not let ANYONE's false opinions of her fly. I have defended her always. Jess is a phenominal friend to me. I just wanted to know if I was over reacting to the situation.

You have to understand where I'm coming from. I probably didn't need to tell her to not drink. It was me over steping my boundries. It is something I'm working on in Al-anon. I have appologized for that. I should have trusted them.

However, this e-mail did not go to JUST Jess and Shane. It went to EVERYONE who was invited on this trip and several of them do drink, although I'm realizing would probably NOT drink around Jake.

I guess the biggest thing that upset me was the way she reacted to my request. Instead of with empathy and understanding of a friend saying Heather you can't control everything, of course we wouldn't drink around him... I got I'm sick of everything being about him and this is our trip too...

That's the part that hurt. Jess and Shane have been nothing but wonderful to Jake and I but we do not always see eye to eye. This is one of the areas where this is apparently obvious.

Jenn said...

Jess and Shane have been wonderful if you follow Heather's blog much... I don't think that should ever be in question.
On another note... I have to agree with Heather. It would be one thing if there were seperate accomidations and the substance in question could be stored away from Jake, but given his history (or what I know of it from reading) I wouldn't worry about drinking in front of him as much as him taking some and drinking on his own. It's a huge risk. If the other people there have one or two and there's none left over I can see that being okay... Training for the real world, but to have it sitting in a fridge? That's unfair temptation for a recovering addict.

Shane and Jessica Olson said...

Great point Jen...and I know I don't have to tell you how wonderful my husband is because you know as well as I do. :)Thanks for the different point of few and always seeing the best in us...right back at you!

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the trip already happened but here is my imput.

If the man has been sober for over a year then wouldn't it be a good test and proof that he is improving? To show him that he can still have fun whether his friends drink or not? Plus I'm sure he will feel more respected if they treated him like any other person in the group and avoided treating him like the man in the bubble who has to be shielded and protected from alcohol.
I think heather is more worried that he might end up dissapointing her and ruining her vacation and hopes that he has improved. I'm sure she, just like her friends need a nice vacation and what better reason to have one? It's wonderful that he has been sober for so long but by restricting people from drinking, she feels that she can remove the problem and act like nothing has happened and be left with the happy feeling that everything is ok if not for just that trip. While it would be nice to accuse other people of being incensitive by wanting to drink, it's naive to realize that no one is shoving the alcohol down his throat. If he wanted alcohol during the year that he was sober then he would easily been able to get it without anyone knowing. Same goes with any addiction, if people want it then they will find a way to get it. You recover by not giving in to temptation and the more he refuses , the faster he recovers. He should be more than overjoyed by the fact that he was able to have a fun trip that was planned by his wife and friends to celebrate his sobriety. and the fact that he isn't bothered by the idea of seeing someone else drink especially a friend, is a huge milestone.
If heather thinks that he will be tempted and unable to resist drinking just by the meer sight of beer then it isn't the time to be celebrating. He needs to get use to the idea that people drink and he can't hide from it and his wife can't hide it from him either or secretly have to ask everyone else to not drink so that he doesn't have to be in a situation. Don't you think he will find it weird that no one else is drinking? Wouldn't it make him a little embarrassed by the fact that he is being treated differently?
May I suggest that if she wants to hold a sober celebration for him with friends, she should keep it to something that wont cost the rest of the friends a bunch of money and their vacation days. Maybe out for a nice dinner? Heather seems to want to make this really really special for her husband and that should be something that should be just the two of them. While your friends support and love you, they should not be worried about going and wanting to enjoy their vacation without ruining a friendship by wanting to enjoy a nice glass of wine while away from work and everyday life. Heather is the one who is selfish by only thinking of herself and the fear that there may be fights and dissapointment between her and her husband if she doesn't restrict people from drinking.
What if you on this nice trip and people agree not to drink? What if jake runs into a complete stranger who not knowing his condition offers him a drink and he accepts? You have to realize that Jake has to have more will power than just being tempted or bothered by the sight of alcohol. I'm sure if he made it a year then he make it one trip and still have fun.

Anonymous said...

Wow this is quite the popular blog Heather! I would like to start by saying that this shouldn't be a fight between who is more selfish, Heather or Jess. No one should have to defend either of them. If you didn't notice, Heather is simply asking if she made the right choice in asking that people remain sober.

So to touch on that, has anyone asked Jake his opinion for this? Not sure if this is a surprise for him or not, but if he knows of the trip and knows what it's for, we all could be underestimating a response from him. It's possible he would say he's confident in his recovery and it wouldn't bother him a bit. He could want to join in the poker game where everyone else has a beer and he could have some iced tea. On the other hand, he could very well not want the temptation. Alcohol seems to be the lesser of his addictions and could be the easiest to relapse into. If everyone is drinking while fishing and drinking during other activites in their cabin, he could end up the one stuck in his room with the door closed because he doesn't want to have to be put in that position yet.

Not knowing if that has been said, I do not think it's wrong of Heather to send a Mass email to everyone invited reminding them that's in planned for Jake's sobriety. Regardless who's idea or location or whatever it is, if it's for Jake's sobriety then it is.

Jess good for you for changing other plans for Heather and Jake. I would think I'd do the same in your situation. I understand from one of your responses that you guys don't drink very often. Could you think that this email was sent possibly either for someone that it may be more of an issue than for yourself and your husband? And if you already did realize this on your own, then return emails with content like the blog stated--that's just asking for something like this to come up. If I got an email from a friend, especially a close friend, asking me not to drink on a trip planned for a close friend's sobriety, and I already realized on my own it was for sobriety, that's a good indication that you can disregard the request, because you're fulfilling it on your own!

Heather, I don't know the specific wording of your email, and it's highly possible it was worded in a way that someone could take offense to it. To me, from the blog, I take it that the email was pretty much saying no alcohol please! I don't think the concept of your email was wrong, just possibly the wording off, or the intensity of the no emphasized too much. Possibly something like--Just a reminder, this trip is for Jake's sobriety so please keep that in mind when you make your beverage selections!-- maybe that would've been taken a little better. You did add a little comedy factor in the--or drugs, leave your bag at home jess-- so that does give the impression to me it was written light heartedly.

That's my 2 Cents worth! (and just so it's not replied on later, I don't think either of you are selfish, I don't think either of you are wrong. I think both of you could've handled the situation a lot better. This is not a Jess VS. Heather Match, at least it shouldn't be. I think you both could've handled this a lot differently, in a much more respectful manner in which this blog probably wouldn't have been required, but it's done. I hope you both understand that and I hope it doesn't impact your relationship!

Anonymous said...

Good conversation! I don't have much time but here's the one thing I want to add to this.

If you were going to say anything Heather, I think you're timing was perfect. I think 'something' had to be said just so that later, after everyone had money invested already into this, that someone wouldn't come back and say, "What? I can't drink?" and by that point it's too late because they already have the time off work and already have agreed to use their vehicle to drive or agreed to pay their part of the cabin or house that you're all staying in.

Now that they all know there shouldn't be any arguments about it later!

Good job on that! Cheers!

Heather said...

Just to touch on a couple of questions that were asked...

No, I'm not at all concerned that Jake will want to drink. That's not why I asked that. And he is not bothered by someone casually having a beer. The main point of my e-mail, which I apparently did not get across very well, was that I didn't want everyone sitting around drinking several drinks because that is the part that bothers Jake.

No, Jake does not know about this trip so we have not asked his opinion. However, he has told me that talking to people who are tippsy or being around people who are drinking a lot bothers him. That was the part of the evening that I was trying to avoid.

In the future I will pick up the phone and call each person and mention my concerns to them seperately. That way each person will be able to react without being personally attacked.

For the person who mentioned the baggie... that was TOTALLY a joke. Jess is the most straight laced pareson I know... that's why I used her name because I knew people who know her would laugh... (sort of like me saying I would leave my baggie at home. I've never had a baggie of ANYTHING in my life so it makes for a good joke!!)

Finally I would just like to say that I'm going to close the comments on this blog. I have spoken to Shane and explained to him what I meant and gotten his opinon on it.

Jess was right about me telling him not to drink at all... which was not entirely what I meant but possibly how it sounded when I wrote it.

The trip is not until next May so we have plenty of time to work out details and I hope that it will be a really great surprise for Jake and that all of our friends can join us and show him what it's like to have a really fun weekend with good people. (Something I'm not sure he's ever had.)