Life with an Alcoholic

As long as I don’t pick up a shift, Sundays are usually our lazy day. Yes, we can get a tonne of errands and cleaning done. But we like to sleep in, laze around a bit, and just plop down in front of the tv at the end of the night to watch so old Bar Rescue reruns.

And, there’s alcohol.

This past Sunday we had to go visit the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s father, about a 45-minute drive from here. So he got up a bit earlier than me and had a few sips of whiskey and a beer for breakfast. When I hopped in the shower a little bit after noon, he was sipping on a Snapple cooler. And just before we left, he finished the last half shot of whiskey.

Then we had to stop and buy more booze.

After driving for 45 minutes, we pulled up in the driveway…….. and he pulled a cooler out of the bag in the back seat to “slam back a quick one” before heading inside. Another cooler while we sat around and chit-chatted. Then it was off to dinner. We beat his dad to the restaurant, which meant he had time to sit in the parking lot and slam back a radler. Then there was a pint with dinner.

When we got home afterwards, my shoes were barely off before he was cracking open another drink.

And this all leads to more intense discussions and fights about his drinking. Some of the fights are long, drawn-out duels of stubborn quiet and harsh looks. Others are loud and frightening, ending with me bawling my eyes out and him sleeping in the other room. And sometimes, like last night, it just takes one or two comments to set a timer in him, waiting for me to do one thing just slightly not the way he wants it so he can explode.

Last night, I heard music coming from our room after he went to bed. I poked my head in the door, expecting to find that Bowser Kitten had hopped up on my desk and turned on Spotify with the keyboard again. He seems to have a thing for Talk Talk and Violent Femmes. Instead, I found AAB laying in bed watching a video on his phone. Then, I walked away to go get ready for bed.

When I came back, AAB was in a mood. He accused me of being “uppity”, meaning I wasn’t acting the way he wanted me to so I must have some sort of attitude problem. I told him I was just trying to pull some blankets out from under me, and flipped. Grabbed his pillows and half-yelled something at me about being “uppity” when I saw him laying in our bed because I apparently didn’t want him there. Then he stormed into the other room. I had to go in there a few minutes later and tell him I was just checking to see if my computer was on, and was surprised to see him still awake. His mood did a complete 180 and he crawled back into bed with me.

And this was a pretty normal weekend for us.

I will be perfectly honest with you: life with an alcoholic is anything but easy. It’s frustrating, maddening, depressing, and makes you doubt everything you ever thought about yourself.

Between my college and university friends, my line of work, and my family and friends outside of that, I have known a startling amount of people with alcohol issues in my life. You would think that I, of all people, would know better than to get romantically involved with someone with an alcohol problem. It wasn’t even like his problem was a secret: I worked at the store he came into twice a day to buy his booze. That’s how we met.

Alcoholics are not bad people. They’re just people who are not able to control their cravings and need for alcohol, to the point that it changes their mindset and their behaviour. Many people can have issues with alcohol, get help, and go on to live very normal lives. Some people have to abstain from alcohol altogether for life, while others can have a few drinks every now and then without relapsing completely. But being with someone who is in the deepest throes of their addictions, someone who is not in control, can really take a toll on both you and your relationship. Before you get involved with someone with an alcohol problem, consider a few things that I’ve learned in the 2 1/2 years that AAB and I have been together so far.

1) They will lie to you about almost anything.

“I swear, I didn’t have anything to drink before we got to the restaurant. I just didn’t eat today, so those two drinks hit me really hard.”

“I only hit the beer store today. I didn’t stop at the liquor store because I didn’t want any hard liquor.”

“I’m not day drinking. I just had a quick drink with Harry after our shift, that’s what you can smell.”

“I’m putting money aside so we can take a vacation together this year. It’s all coming out of my former drinking money! Aren’t you proud?”

Over time, an alcoholic becomes an expert had lying and hiding things from loved one. They’ve had years, maybe decades, to practice their excuses. They’ve gotten away with things to some extent for so long that they think no one can see through their wall of bullshit. With this mindset, it takes more effort to tell the truth than to lie to someone’s face, no matter how much they love them.

No matter how supportive of them you are, they will lie to you. No matter how much they say they won’t lie to you, they will lie to you. You will reach a point where you have to question every single thing that comes out of their mouth, and question what isn’t coming out of their mouth.

2) You better like guilt trips

I’m pretty sure I hear the words “I just can’t win with you” more than “I love you” these days. AAB will tell me something that he knows will upset me, but try to frame it in a way that makes he sound like he was trying really hard to be good. When I’m still upset, he makes it sound like there is absolutely nothing he can do right in my eyes.

I’ve known alcoholics who guilt their friends and loved ones over anything. It’s a way of deflecting negativity away from them. If they can make someone else feel bad for the way they treated them, then maybe they won’t notice their addiction.

Also, AAB has made sure I can never leave him because of the ultimate guilt trip. While his drinking is still really bad, it’s better than it was before. Instead of a 60oz bottle of vodka and a few beers a day, he has a bunch of coolers and maybe a mickey of whisky. And he’s made it known that if I ever try to leave him, that’s all it will take for him to snap and go back to his old ways. He’ll wind up drunk and be living on the streets, all because I couldn’t just be supportive of his struggle and put up with his “bad habit”. He’ll be a drunk on the street and it will all be my fault.

3) You are constantly doing too much and too little for them, even if you’re doing exactly what they said they want you to do

I once knew someone who drank themselves into a ridiculous amount of debt. They maxed out credit cards and took out payday loans that they just never paid back. When they got into a relationship, they told their partner to take complete control of the finances. Together they drew up a budget, settled on an “allowance”, and even looked into starting to pay off debts.

This lasted almost 4 days.

Then the yelling started. “You’re too controlling. You’re such a nag. Why can’t you just treat me like a real man and let me live my life?” All their partner had done was do exactly what they were told to do, and apparently, that was all wrong.

I go through this with AAB quite a bit. He’ll tell me to hold him accountable for his drinking and the things he says and does while drinking. Of course, the second I actually do that I’m suddenly “uppity” and “a nag”.

These plans they make are made with good intentions. That’s as far as they’ll ever go through, usually. The second any of this interferes with their ability to drink at will, it all goes out the window. And the second you try to stick to the plan that goes against them being able to drink at will, you are the enemy.

4) When you think about everything you’ll miss out on because of your partner’s drinking, you’ll start resenting them, even if you love them. Especially if you love them.

My friend I mentioned above will never be able to buy a house with their current partner. They can never get married because that would mean legally joining their finances which would ruin his credit score because of his partner’s ignored debts. He’ll never be able to take a vacation, or buy a new car, or enjoy pretty much any of the nicer things in life that he had hoped for. Instead of joining finances towards a common goal, he has to keep a tight eye on his finances while his partner squanders away his own paychecks on booze each week.

And I’m in that same damn boat.

There were things I wanted in life that I know I will never have as long as AAB and I are together. He’s in the same drunken debt hell as my friend’s partner. Even the little things in life that I had wanted, I know I’ll never be able to have. Like I always wanted a little mini bar in my home. I had the beginnings of one when AAB and I met, and he drank his way through that. I can’t even keep booze in the house for myself without hiding it.

Speaking of that…..

5) You’ll start hiding things.

The last time I left a full, unopened bottle of my favourite whisky (which I have to go across town to find) on top of the fridge, AAB drank it and then hid the bottle behind other bottles so I wouldn’t notice it was empty. I’ve lost count of the number of bottles of liquor he’s stolen from me. He once even stole a Christmas gift I got for my dad and drank it.

Now, I have a collection of little make-up bags full of mini liquor bottles hidden in my sock and underwear drawers so he doesn’t drink them. I have my good booze hidden in my closet and my knitting bag. I have my emergency cash hidden in envelopes taped to the bottoms of drawers because he’s taken money from me. And I know I’m not the only one who does this.

I’ve known people to hide alcohol, money, prescription medications, even cold medicine from their addicted loved one.  It’s not because any of us want to hide things from them. It’s because if we don’t hide things like these, they’ll get stolen. The money would be taken for booze, booze would be drunk, cold meds are taken when booze isn’t available.

And it really sucks, knowing that you have to do this.

6) They’re probably going to get pretty damn mean

After a bit too much whisky, AAB gets mean. He flat out admits that he’ll say things to me that he knows are hurtful, just because he knows they’ll hurt me. When he’s drinking and I do even the slightest thing wrong, he’ll want to mentally and emotionally hurt me as bad as possible.

A few of my very close coworkers (my work family) know a bit about this. They’ve seen it in him, and have seen it affect me. They also know that I’m very accident prone, and have been showing up to work with random cuts and bruises since long before I met AAB. Still, Sugar has pulled me aside multiple times to make sure I know that she’s there for me if any of those injuries are from him. All it takes is one bad night for him to go from screaming to slapping someday.

And that scares the hell out of me because I’ve seen it happen way too many times.

I have nightmares about the day he finally snaps, and this seems to be a common thing among some of the people I talk to in online groups for loved ones of alcoholics. I know people who won’t leave their loved one home alone with their kids, or even their pets because they don’t know how they’ll treat them once they’ve had a few drinks. Me, I have nightmares that he finally snaps and hurts me real bad. The worst dreams are the ones where he hurts me and the tiny adorable Bowser Kitten too.

7) You’re going to worry all the damn time

A lot of the alcoholics I know drink during the day, even when they have to work. Quite a few of them drive vehicles. A bunch of them work jobs involving heavy machinery. One even worked in medical settings at one point and was responsible for distributing medication to patients. Can you imagine knowing your husband or wife is going to be half-drunk, behind the counter in a pharmacy-like setting, and their job requires incredible focus and accuracy to make sure they don’t give out the wrong meds and kill someone?

I worry when AAB gets behind the wheel of our van because I never know what he’s had to drink beforehand. I worry when he’s at work, whether he drinks there or not. I know other alcoholics work there because they were customers of mine too. I worry when he shows me pictures on his company’s website of the machines they use because there could be a drunk person on that machine right this very second while he’s working with it. Sometimes when he passes out in the afternoon on the weekends, I worry that his body is just going to give up on him after a decade of heavy abuse and he’s just going to die right there in front of me.

 

Don’t get me wrong, AAB is a great guy….. sometimes. If he wasn’t, I would’ve walked out on the first date. He’s smart, sweet, artistic, caring, and generous. But alcohol destroys all of that and leaves him a tired, cranky, mean shell of the person he was before.

I don’t know what will happen with the two of us. I have dreams of leaving him, of starting over again, but I can’t do that to him. He’s already said that would drive him to drink more. I feel like I’m trapped; like there’s no use in trying to figure out my feelings for him because I’m stuck with him no matter what.

If you’re with someone who has a drinking problem, or any addiction problem at all, know that you’re not alone. A quick Google search can pull up support groups and hotlines for your area, where you can turn to deal with how their drinking is affecting your life. And if you’re not ready to reach out like that publically, I’m always here. You guys can all reach me at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com anytime you need to vent, need to cry, or just need to know that you’re not alone out there.

Until next time, Sunshine.

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Updates

Wow, I really forgot how much I hate having random roommates. The creepy roommate left for 8 weeks to go visit his family and came back very early this morning. I’ve been hiding out in the bedroom all morning with my homemade granola, trying to avoid him before I’m sufficiently caffeinated to deal with the world.

I have to talk to random people all day at work, where I’m awake and chipper and full of flavoured water and bubblegum. I don’t want to have to do the same thing here, not even showered, with someone who thinks that every time we pass each other in the hallway we absolutely need to have a long and awkward conversation.

I guess that’s par lately, though. I’ve kind of avoided coming on here the last few weeks because……… well, everything just sucks. And when everything sucks, my brain goes blank. I can’t even write erotic friend fiction anymore, much to the disappointment of my coworkers.

Right after Easter, our hours were cut at the store. Not just “well, guess I can learn to survive on 25 hours instead of 30 hours” cut. I mean “well, that 37 hour week was nice. What the hell am I going to do with myself when I only have 4 hours next week” slashing.

For the entire month of April, I was lucky to get scheduled for more than 4 hours a week. The boss pulled me aside, went over the scheduling and budget with me, and swore things would get at least a little better. Just not any time soon. So, I had to start looking for a second job.

Had a few interviews, got a bunch of rejections. Then I signed up with a placement agency that seemed super promising. They recruit for a place I’m dying to work for and said they always have openings there. They promised they’d send me every listing for there as it came in. That was weeks ago, and I haven’t seen anything since.

I’ve spent days going over cover letter tips because those damn things are the bane of my existence. I’ve got at least half a dozen different versions of my resume ready to tailor, and have a small collection of application packages from various local businesses. Basically, when I’m not at work I’m at home looking for work.

That doesn’t seem to matter, though. The second week of April the boss called me on one of my many days off. The transfer notices came out for our district, and I’m being transferred to our downtown location.

Now, there’s a little group of us who have worked together for years. When they built our new location, we did the move from the old one together. We’re like a little family, the five of us. So as soon as I got off the phone, I went into our online group chat to tell them the bad news. Turns out, all five of us are being separated. Four of us got transferred to different stores, with one staying behind. We have been a collective emotional wreck since that day.

This group of us is family. We’re all super protective of each other, and of the other people at our store. When the big scary customer guy came threatening me and stabbing at me with his pen, it was my work family that came to my rescue and got him out of the store.  We’ve gone to each other’s kids’ birthday parties and weddings. We’ve celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, cats, and Sundays together sitting poolside with too many drinks. MamaBear’s two sons are my favourite little gentlemen, while PapaBear’s kids are the cutest little balls of awkwardness and hyperactivity. Sugar and I (she calls me Cinnamon because of my red hair) have been leaving chocolate bars in each other’s lockers for years now. And the WorkBFF, well if I get into why she’s awesome I’m going to start crying again.

There have been a lot of tears shed, and a lot of group hugs. Our last day at this store is Saturday, and it is going to be one sloppy day. The WorkBFF and I are closing together that night, and don’t think we can make it through the shift without crying a few times. Every time we close the store together, she drops me off after work. The last few times, I’ve managed to contain my tears until I’ve gotten out of the car in my driveway.

Throughout all of this, things at home have been ridiculously strained. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend has been anything but amazingly awesome. I’ve caught him hiding alcohol from me a dozen times in the last weeks, and caught him shopping at other liquor stores to hide his purchases from me. He’s been back on the hard liquor with a vengeance, and his drinking is just spiralling.

We had planned on doing so much together while our roommate was gone. Instead, we spent more time sleeping in separate rooms than together because of the fights about his drinking. His drinking puts a huge strain on our relationship, and his lack of caring makes it worse.

At night, I fluctuate between two types of dreams now. In one, AAB gets drunk and angry with me. I know he would never hit me in real life, but he does in my dreams. He hits me, or pushes me, or tries to hurt Bowser. Whatever he does, I wind up getting hurt badly while he just rages on.

In the other dreams, he’s gone. I’ve left him and started over in a new apartment alone. I have a cute little bar cart, Bowser has a sibling, I have plants growing on the window sill. I’m happy. Even though I’m working all the time and super stressed in the dreams, I’m still happy to be alone.

I don’t think it’s possible to leave him, though. He’s pointed out dozens of times that regardless of how much he’s drinking, he’s still much better than he was when we met. The only thing that would ever drive him to drink like that again would be if I left him. If I left him he would drink himself out of a job, and a home, and wind up on the streets. If I leave, then that will drive him to drink even more, and it will be my fault that his life is destroyed. I can’t do that to someone, and couldn’t live with myself knowing I’m responsible for someone else’s alcoholism.

I’ve spent the last 4 weeks in a constant state of panicked haze. Nothing seems real, nothing seems safe. I’m constantly waiting for something more to go wrong. Every time I drive with AAB I panic, wondering how much he drank so far that day. I’m constantly worried that he’s going to hurt himself or someone else while he’s driving, or while he’s at work.  And he gets so mean and demanding when he drinks, too. The other night he announced that we’re getting a kitten, he’s picking it out, and the sometimes scratchy Bowser Kitten needs to get declawed because he’s a vicious beast of an animal who will kill anything smaller than him.

This was also the day after he out-catted Bowser Kitten in the Battle of the Bathroom Centipede. Bowser was too gentle with it, and it almost escaped. Oh, that vicious little beast, eh?

I’ve been trying to write more to take my mind off of everything, but nothing is coming of it. At least, nothing I can throw on here. I have dozens of half-finished pieces sitting on my desktop, and a few more scribbled in notebooks. I don’t know, maybe I need a new blog. Or multiple blogs for multiple genres. Or maybe just stop altogether.

I don’t know, my brain isn’t clear enough for rational thought anymore. I think it’s time for my lunchtime cry now.

Mommy Needs Vodka…..?

It’s almost 5pm and I’m just sitting down to try and write and eat some pizza pockets before the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend gets home. I got the short shift today, and it was completely dead. I basically stood on cash all day, waiting for someone to find something I could do while I was up there to pass the time. I just kept going over in my head all the things I needed to get done when I got out of there. I cleaned the kitchen before I left for work, but I still had the bathroom and the floors to do. Desperately needed a haircut from a professional, and not just from me in the bathroom with scissors trimming my bangs. Gotta clean out the fridge, wash all the Tupperware in there, wash the hallway walls where AAB puts his grubby hands after work while he takes off his shoes, and all with a killer headache from mold exposure, stress, and lack of food.

Of course, while we were in between menial tasks that needed to get done on our slowest day of the week, we stood around talking about what we all needed to get done outside of work. While we were all comparing lists, making sure no one forgot anything important, we all just kept saying the same thing back and forth to each other:

Don’t forget to pick up some wine. You’re definitely going to need a drink after today is done!

And you know what? We probably all will have a drink tonight. Or two. Or three. It’s a normal thing for us, actually. We work with alcohol, deal with people buying alcohol, and have become friends with some of our customers because of our friendship developed due to alcohol. Come to think of it, a lot of my friendships have revolved around alcohol to a certain extent. I made a lot of friends in university through a fraternity and at frat parties. Most of my friendship outings somehow involve alcohol. Even this weekend, when we have our girls’ day at the Christmas Homes Tour, we end our day at a winery for samples and wine shopping. A lot of our lives at some point involve alcohol.

I was going to write a big long post about how alcoholism is so accepted in our society today it has become mainstream, but I just don’t have it in me right now. I typed out a whole bunch, and then took a break from writing for half an hour to go attend to the bathroom. Wound up scrubbing mold off the ceiling, dousing myself with vinegar, and soaking mildew in baking soda and vinegar in the bathtub where it meets the shower walls. I have so much going on around me today, and I just can’t keep up.

Truth be told, I had wanted to write about alcoholism because it’s all around me, constantly. A good friend and member of my work family is dealing with it right now, and it’s affecting all of us. Every time they have to miss a shift, or wind up in the hospital, or go on a binge, we all have to scramble to cover the shifts they miss. I worry myself sick waiting for a text or Snapchat message (it’s the only reason I keep Snapchat, to keep in touch with them) to make sure they’re ok. We all drive ourselves nuts trying to look out for them. Some of us have more experience dealing with this outside of work than others, some of us have more patience than others when it comes to this. But it’s rough for everyone.

Part of the problem, at least on my part, is that our job is to support alcoholism. I have customers that I see multiple times a day. We know they’re not buying cheap vodka on the regular to stock a really crappy bar with. They’re there because the vodka they bought when we opened that day is gone, and now it’s time for their afternoon vodka. For most of these people, we can’t physically prove it. They don’t smell like booze, they’ve been drinking like this long enough that they can walk and talk just fine. They don’t seem drunk in any way when they come up to my counter. If I didn’t know they had already been in once or twice that day already, I would never know they’ve already been drinking.

I feel like I am directly responsible for their drinking. I know, that’s a crazy thing to think. If I wasn’t working the counter when they came in, someone else would be. But still, I sell them booze. I know damn well that they have a problem, but legally I still have to sell to them.

We’ve had some customers that we’ve become close with over the years. Some of them are our weekend regulars, picking up booze for the weekend. Some come the same day every week or stop in for a beer or two after work. Some come in sporadically, but are super friendly and talk to everyone like we’re old friends. And there’s some that are Regulars that we get to know. We had a really sweet woman come in all the time for her beers. My work BFF were ready to adopt her when we found out just how bad her drinking was. When she shouldn’t afford to buy her beers, she was pocketing vodka and beer and then distracting us with her sweetness to get away with it. When she was caught, she was banned from the store.

And I cried.

Most of you out there don’t know this, but the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend and I met through my work because he was a Regular. Twice a day he was in for vodka and/or beer. On our first date, we talked about his drinking in an open and honest way. When we started dating, he told me how much he wanted to quit drinking. He tried a few times to quit completely, and we eventually settled on another method of sobriety. Instead of quitting completely, he very strictly controls his drinking now. In a lot of European countries, the treatment for addiction includes smaller doses of the addictive substance. We do somewhat the same thing, but instead of a maintenance shot during the day or something like that, he has a few beers after work. He’s gone from drinking a 40 of vodka a day to just a few beers or coolers. He can even make a 26 of whiskey last the two of us a week, and that’s with me making the odd Manhattan with it.

This hasn’t exactly been easy though. He’s slipped up a bunch of times. We have some pretty major fights about his drinking. He’s had to battle with this daily. And when it came down to it, when I knew he was lying to me about his drinking and that he was drinking a lot more than he was letting on, I still had to look him in the eye and sell him his damn booze with a smile on my face.

So when another customer has a problem like that, it gets to me. I know what she’s putting her family and her friends through. I know all the different things this city offers to help someone sober themselves up, and how each of these things can fail. I know what it’s like to be the person waiting at home for a loved one who “just ran to the store” when you know they’re really just drinking. I know what it’s like to find booze that’s been hidden from me to drink the next day when someone has already sworn to me that they’re not drinking during the day. I know what this customer’s family is feeling because I’ve felt it too. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it because it’s my job to put on a big smile and just ask you if you want your booze in a bag or not.

I’ve been around this a long time, so has AAB. We both have alcoholics in our families, we both presently drink, and we both have friends who are alcoholics. Hell, I’ve got a glass of cabernet sauvignon sitting here next to me while I write this. And I feel like absolute crap when I think about the friends and families out there who are dealing with an alcoholic loved one tonight because of the booze I sold them. I’ll be walking down the street sometimes and see a really cute family, and suddenly the thought creeps into my mind: “is their mommy or daddy one of my Regulars? Are they living through their own personal hell because I told them booze?”

I’m sure there are lots of people out there who deal with this, especially in this city. We are a city full of bars, restaurants, and strip clubs. I know, it makes this place sounds nasty, but all cities are like that. We just happen to have of some of these things than a lot of other cities. I know a tonne of people who work in the industry. I’m sure at least a few of them have had these thoughts at some point. I just have no clue how to ask. I mean, what the hell do you say? “Hey man, you ever look at a regular customer and wonder if you’re partially responsible for ruining their life because you sell them alcohol? No? Well, you’re gonna start thinking things like that now that I brought it up, that’s for damn sure!”

I don’t even know where I’m going with all of this. This is just something that has been getting to me a lot lately, more than usual. I can’t get these thoughts out of my mind sometimes. I know a lot of you are reading this thinking, “Well why doesn’t she just quit her job? Find a new job, one that doesn’t involve alcohol.” The truth of the matter is I really do love my job most of the time, and I really love my co-workers. I have been looking for another job for years, one worth leaving this place for, and I’ve found nothing. Yes, I could take a job somewhere else for less pay but more peace of mind in these matters. But I’m barely keeping food on the table as it is, and financial instability is a huge anxiety trigger for me.

I really don’t know why I wrote this all out. Reading it over, it just seems crazy and silly and scary and pathetic all at the same time.

Yes, You Really Do Need To Show ID

Well, today is a bust. I woke up feeling like death, dragged myself out of bed, and went to work. I am sore all over, my head is pounding, my neck is stiff and sore, and to top it all off I have cramps that could cripple a giraffe. We were also short staffed at work today, so I couldn’t even leave early. I have felt like falling down all day. Cases of coolers that I can usually throw around two at a time felt like they were filled with cement today. I could barely lift things, let alone be of much help doing our Monday afternoon load.

Luckily for me, the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend took the day off work today. He usually does four or five 10-11 hour days a week, one day of 8-10 hours, and a 5 hour day on the weekend. So, sometimes when Monday rolls around he’s just too damn tired to get up.  Instead, he stays home, watches a little tv, and just relaxes. But today he saw how sick I feel, and he’s been working at home all day. I came home to a freshly scrubbed kitchen. He even cleaned out the toaster and the microwave. The bed is all made and looking extra comfy for when I collapse after I finish typing this. And the ever playful Bowser Kitten looks like he’s played plenty of fetch today and will sleep well during my nap. He basically did everything I do in a day (except for the writing part) and is still going to make dinner, let me nap, and take care of me all afternoon and evening.

Having him around really cheers me up on days like today. On top of feeling horrible, I also had to deal with customers. For the most part, this usually goes ok. They put their item on the counter, I scan it, they pay, we say goodbye, and they leave. But sometimes, asking people for ID throws a wrench in our little routine. For the most part, people have no issue showing me their ID. There are always those few people out there who make a big deal out of it. Too big a deal, if you ask me. They seem to think they know my job better than I di, and frequently lecture me on why they don’t need ID. Or they huff and they puff and whine and pout and generally waste everyone’s time. Actually, there’s a whole lot of different things people do when it comes to ID that either really pisses most cashiers off, or gives us a damn good story to tell our families at Thanksgiving when they say, “Wow, your job is so easy. Must be nice to not have to deal with any real drama or work, eh?”.

And yes, I had someone say that to me last year at my parents’ New Years Day party.

1. I know the rules better than you do.

We get trained over and over about the rules when it comes to IDing people in our store. We’re told repeatedly about the consequences we could face if we don’t ID people properly. We know that corporate pays mystery shoppers just to come in and see if they get ID’d, and if we don’t ID them we could get in serious trouble. So for those of you who are wondering, all the different reasons we can have for legally asking you for your ID are as follows:

  1. You brought the product up to the counter, or are paying for the product, and look like you could be under 25.
  2. We saw you touching the product in the store while you’re shopping with someone else, they are buying something, but you are with them.
  3. We see you give money or any other form of payment, like a debit card or credit card, to someone who is buying booze.
  4. We hear you ask someone to buy you something.
  5. We hear you tell someone which product to buy.
  6. You came in as part of a large group, where multiple people are all picking up the product, talking about products, and it is all part of one large purchase.

If you bring a bottle up to the counter, put it down in front of the cashier, and your friend is paying for it, you both need to show ID. We actually had a guy last weekend put a bottle down on the counter in front of one of my little Kitten Crew cashiers, and his friend pulled out his wallet to pay. When she asked them both for ID, the one who carried the bottle up right in front of her said, ” I literally never touched it.”

She. Watched. You. Put. It. On. Her. Counter. Dude.

Luckily, this was the sassiest member of my little Kitten Crew. She can take abuse from customers, stare them down, and talk to them in a totally deadpan manner. She stared this dude right in the eye, grabbed the bottle away from him, and said: “I literally saw you put it down on the counter, so now I literally need to see your ID or you can literally just leave now.”

We get a tonne of young people who take a fit and claim they know the rules better than we do. We’ve had young kids claim they are the children of police officers and lawyers, so obviously, they know the law better than we do. They get right in our faces, try and taunt us, tell us their father will hear about this. They go the full Draco Malfoy.

If we ask you for ID, it’s because we had one of those 6 reasons above to do so. We’re not backing down. Once we ask you for ID, legally you have to show it to get your purchase. Once the words “I need to see your ID” leave my mouth, you’re showing me your ID or you’re leaving empty-handed.

2. No, you don’t need it.

Seriously, people tell us this all the time. We ask for ID and they say, “you don’t need that”.

Look, if we didn’t need it, we wouldn’t ask for it. You’re not the one who decides if I need to see your ID or not. If we have a reason to see your ID, we’re the ones who decide to ask for it. It has nothing to do with whether you think you need to show it.

3. Why would you threaten us?

One night, I had three guys all shopping together in our store. They were talking pretty loudly, so all of the cashiers knew they were shopping together. Like, we heard them talking about how much each of them was paying the other one to buy the rum for the three of them for the night. One of them grabbed the bottle, brought it half-way to my register, and then handed it to his friend who put it on my counter. I asked all three of them for ID.

Only one of them had it.

The one gentleman asked me a bunch of questions, very calmly and honestly, about why he needed ID, and what he should do the next time he comes in shopping and forgets to bring his ID with him. The other guy was nowhere near as nice. At first, he just kept insisting he didn’t need his ID. Then he basically took a sidebar with the friend who did have an ID. They whispered to each other just off to the side of my line, and then came right back up to my till. Then buddy had the nerve to look me in the eye and say, “I don’t know these two guys. I’m not with them. I don’t need ID.”

Seriously. He walked in with his two friends. He shopped with his two friends. He very loudly talked about giving his friend $15 towards a bottle of rum. Then he carried the bottle of run halfway up to my register before giving it to his friend to bring up. And suddenly he’s never met these guys in his life?

To make what turned into a very long, drawn-out, expletive-riddled story much shorter, I denied their purchase because they didn’t all have ID. I did what we’ve all been trained to do. Of course, this didn’t sit well with them.

These boys yelled and screamed at me, tried to convince me to sell to them anyway, and were just a general nuisance for a few minutes. I told them to leave, and that they weren’t being served by any of us there that night until they all had their ID with them. This didn’t sit well with them. They slowly walked back towards the door, still yelling at me. Once they got to the door, the only one in the group who actually had ID stood there staring at me. He stood there just pointing at me, and suddenly yelled out that he was going to “track [me] down and fuck [me] up”.

Want to know how you make sure you are watched by management and security in a store for the rest of your natural life? Threaten an employee.

I don’t think these guys realize, but they are being watched ridiculously closely any time they walk into any of our stores. Security knows their faces. We all do by now. All any of them have to do is step out of line in the slightest way just once, and they’re banned for life. You can’t just go around saying you’re going to track people down and mess them up and expect there to be no consequences.

4. We don’t take pictures of ID

I had a coworker who had the greatest reply to this once. It was so great that years later, we use this reply regularly. And I do mean regularly. Even on a slow weekend, the front end gets this situation a handful of times.

Someone will come into the store. In this situation, it’s usually a member of a small group of people. This group will walk around for at least half an hour, with a shopping cart, with all members of the group putting things into the cart. When they’re asked for ID at the counter, at least one person in the group will pull out their phone. They didn’t actually bring their ID with them, but they did take a picture of it on their phones. I mean, it’s not like pictures can be manipulated by modern-day technology or anything, right? A picture of a passport or license should be good enough.

No. No, it’s not.

As my coworker once said, “If all you have is a picture of your ID, then all you’re leaving with is a picture of the booze. Sorry.”

5. We don’t care if you let your kid drink at home

Seriously, we all drank underage at some point. Ok, except for my mother. She waited until college before going crazy on the cherry whiskey and orange juice. But my friends (and siblings, and their friends) drank underage. But back in my day, because I am ridiculously old and can say that, we knew well enough to give our money to our of-age purchaser before they went into the store and told them what to get us without walking in with them and yelling, “Oooh, this is what I want! Buy me this!”

My parents knew we drank underage. Like most of my friends’ parents, they said they would rather we do it at home or at the home of a friend (with trusted parents somewhere nearby) than stealing booze and hitting up a bush party somewhere. When I really really wanted a bottle of Crown Royal for a party, and I had the money leftover from babysitting, my dad went out and got it for me. I didn’t have to go to the store with him and tell him what I wanted. My friends and I knew that if we were mature enough to drink, then we were mature enough to know what we wanted and give someone the money to get it.

Ok, so our parents knew better back then than to bring some whiney, hormonal teenager into the liquor store with them to pick something out. Dad basically said, “Am I grabbing something for you? Or do you have a 19-year-old friend who’s going to buy you booze behind our backs anyway?” Dad didn’t let me get the cheap gut-rot stuff. He sat me down and taught me about responsible drinking. Then, mum told me the story about the college party she went to where she and her friend had too much cherry whiskey and orange juice. The grass never did grow back properly on her neighbour’s lawn where she threw up. If watching your mother roll around on the floor doing her impression of 19-year-old her rolling around in the back of her friend’s boyfriend’s van doesn’t scare you into drinking responsibly, nothing will.

The point is that my friends and I didn’t walk into the store advertising that our parents were buying us booze, and our parents didn’t let on that they were buying for us either. If we did get the privilege of going into the store with them, it was a “blow this and you’re drinking Kool-Aid at parties until you’re legal age” kind of deal. I wish I could say that kids these days keep screwing this up, but it’s the parents I take issue with.

I have lost track of the number of parents who have loudly yelled across the store, “Honey, do you want whiskey or vodka for your prom party tonight?” while talking to their very under-age child. Again, if we think you’re buying it for someone who doesn’t have ID proving they’re of legal age to buy it themselves, we can’t sell it to you. It’s called a “second party purchase”, and a cashier could actually do jail time for that.

So when you’re yelling across the store, or we hear you say something like, “Just grab what you want and bring it up to the counter”, legally we need to ID your kid. And really, we don’t care if you let them drink at home. Seriously, we don’t. If I had a kid that age, I would let them drink too. I want to teach my kids about responsible drinking, the consequences of drinking too much, and the legal restrictions put on the sale of alcohol. And part of that means not obviously buying for your kid right in front of me.

Look, if you come in and buy a bottle of whiskey, I’m going to assume it’s for you. If you buy 12 bottles of whiskey, I’m going to assume you’re buying gifts or stocking up on something. Any of those could be for your kid, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about that. But the second you let your kid pick out that whiskey in my store, we have a damn problem, Brenda!

6. The drinking age here is 19

The next province over, the legal drinking age is 18. You still have to be 19 to buy alcohol here.

I’m in a border city. In Michigan, the legal drinking age is 21. Many many American young adults trade in their stars and stripes and freedom from ‘Merica to come to the Great White North and drink legally in bars. When those 19 and 20-year-olds go back across the border, they still have to be 21 to buy alcohol there.

If you’re a student here from another country, or on vacation here, or visiting a friend, or on an international quest for love, or doing whatever the hell you’re doing that brought you to my store, and you’re from a country that has a lower drinking age, you still have to be 19 to drink here. End of story.

7. No, I won’t seriously ID your 5-year-old

When someone comes in with little kids, I like to joke around with the kids. I ask them for ID.

You mean you don’t have anything? Drivingt lisence? Fishing lisence? Boating lisence? A lisence to kill? What about a health card? A sick card? A feeling a little pukey but still want to go to school card?

What can I say, it’s my schtick. If your 5-year-old grabs a can from your basket and tried to put it on the counter, I know you’re not buying it for them. While they’re not allowed to touch anything in the store, I know they’re just trying to be helpful.

When people bring their 17-year-old kid into the store, let them pick out something, and then let them bring it up to the counter, do you have any idea how many of these parents yell something along the lines of “What, would you ID my 5-year-old if I brought them in with me?”

8. We’re IDing you because we have to, not because we want you

The Kitten Crew probably gets this more than I do, but even I get this sometimes. And I’m really damn old, remember?

If I ask for your ID, it’s because I need to legally verify that you can buy what you’re trying to purchase. Not because I want to sleep with you. Seriously.

That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head right now. And that head is freaking pounding. I think it’s time for me to lay down with the always snuggly Bowser Kitten while AAB finishes dinner for us.

So is there anything else you have to deal with when IDing customers that I missed here? Leave a comment, or drop me a line at TheFailedGrownUp@gmail.com.

Believe Me: I Know My Job!

So I can’t say exactly where I work, but it deals with selling alcohol in a store run by a provincial government. Now, we are trained to a ridiculous degree! I met the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend after I had been hired on here, and showed him the training booklets I got just to be a seasonal worker. And then the books for the tests to be a casual worker. And my Service Knowledge book. And Product Knowledge books. And my Customer Service training books. And the notes from my in-class training. And the online modules for my mandatory training. In short, I am constantly either in training, about to start training, or just finishing training.

And one thing we’re trained on constantly is the ID laws for our province.

Here’s the gist of it all: in order to buy alcohol at my store, you need to have valid government photo ID with you. I can ask anyone at any time to produce their ID, and deny a sale if they don’t have that. Yes, the legal drinking age here is 19. That doesn’t mean that if you’re 20 you don’t need your ID. We are legally obliged to ID anyone who appears to be under 25. And that’s not all.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not the one paying for it. If you touch it, talk about it, point to it, offer money for it, pass money to someone in the store, or say something like “Thanks man, I’ll pay you back for this later” in front of us or our security staff, you’re getting ID’d. We have this little thing called a Second Party Purchase, where we know someone is buying alcohol for someone else. If you carry it up to the counter for someone, you’re getting ID’d. Yes, there are a few exceptions: if you’re a child carrying it up for a parent on crutches, or you lift it up onto the counter for a wheelchair bound friend who can’t do so themselves, we will most likely let that slide. You are allowed to help, as long as it is clear you  are only helping.

We get this training drilled into us. Do you know how much of a fine we can face PERSONALLY if we serve an underage person? $250,000!!! So we are damn sure to ID everyone we need to! Not only that, but we look out for each other. If I see a group of customers all picking things out together, I’ll be sure to tell my co-workers to make sure they ID the whole group. You are damn right we’ve all got each other’s backs!

All of this being said, it amazes me that amount of people who come through my store and seem to think that either the rules don’t apply to them, or that they know our jobs better than we do.

Case in point: last week, I walked by a group of three young men in the vodka aisle discussing what brand of vodka to buy. All three of them were pointing at bottles, and were talking about how they would pay their friend back later for buying the vodka. When they came up to the register, I motioned for my coworker to ID the whole group.

Well, the young lad who was paying went off! Apparently his dad is a cop, which means he knows the law inside and out, because the first responsibility of being a cop is to make sure your son knows exactly which laws don’t apply to him. According to this boy, even though him and the cloud of cheap Axe body spray he called friends had all decided together which bottle to buy, we couldn’t legally ID his friends because they didn’t touch the bottle.

Normally, our story would end here. Child Who Is Not Smoll would yell and scream, and then leave without his bottle. But not this time!

No! After being denied once because his friends didn’t have ID, Boy Child came back in the store to try and buy the bottle again! Now, since we just saw him in there trying to buy for his friends, and it’s recorded on the store’s security camera that he was denied for his friends not having ID, we can’t sell him this bottle. The only way we can sell him the alcohol is if his friends both come back with their ID. But he wasn’t hearing any of this!

No! His dad is a cop! He knows the law! His friends didn’t touch the bottle! And he came back in alone!

Needless to say, he was rejected again. As he slowly meandered on out the door, he had some very loud choice words for my coworkers and I. Out shift leader told him that since he had already created a scene twice in a span of less than 15 minutes, he was not allowed back in the store for the rest of the night. If he did show up again, he would be denied service and asked to leave.

Did that stop him from coming back?

Well, if it did, would I still be writing this?

He came back with his friends a while later, claiming that because they all had ID now we had to not only serve them, but APOLOGIZE to them for not serving them earlier!

Needless to say (even if I am saying it here), they did not get served. Even better, we had police on sight for a separate incident later that night. You know what? They had no clue who this Boy Child was, and had no officers on the force with his last name!

Want to know the worst part of all of this? His two friends seemed pretty apologetic throughout the whole thing. If they had just come back with their ID, we would’ve served them. Even if the Boy Child had flipped out a little tiny bit at first like he did, but they all came back with ID and apologized, I would’ve served them.

But after all of that, the three of them left empty handed.

The moral of the story Sunshine? While you may think you know customer service, the people in each position get specific training for their job like you would not believe! So don’t be THAT customer that tries to teach employees about return policies, or ID laws, or anything else.

Customer Service Representatives get a shit rep, and take a lot of shit from people. We are all people, and we all deserve the respect you would give any other person in any other job. So be kinds, be polite, and don’t be that asshole who thinks they know our job better than we do!

You Can’t Change Them

I just want to say something real quick to anyone out there who needs it:

There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving someone who is dealing with addiction. There is nothing wrong with loving a family member or friend who has substance abuse problems. And there is nothing wrong with falling in love with someone who has an addiction.

It’s going to hurt, though.

There are going to be good days, and bad days. Whether they are abstaining from their substance of choice, trying to control their intake, or are in the throws of a full-blown bender, there are going to be some days worse than others. And no matter how much you love them, how much you try to help them, how much they love you and appreciate what you’re doing for them, they will hurt you.

You can’t change them.

You are not responsible for monitoring their every move, tracking their addiction. You can’t make them get clean. You can’t guilt or shame them into rehab. They have to do these things on their own. You can give them support, you can help them when they need it, but they are the ones who have to make the decision when and if to get clean, and to what degree. They are the ones who have to put in the work.

And it’s not easy for them to get clean, no matter to what degree. It doesn’t matter if they want to stop completely, cut back a bit, or just make themselves a bit more functional: it’s not an easy task for them. They will have to deal with this constantly, every day, for the rest of their lives.

There will be times they slip up, times they fail. There will be the days when everything seems all sunshine and roses, and things seem like they’re getting better. Then there will be the days when they lash out at you, when nothing you do for them is right or enough, when it seems to you like they’re not even trying anymore. And if you want to remain a part of their life, a part of their recovery, then you have to deal with these days too.

I am in love with an alcoholic. He is not interested in total sobriety, but instead wants to manage his drinking so he can drink socially and responsibly. And I totally support him. There are days when he will have a few beers after work, we can watch TV together, and everything is great. There are days when he has a bit of hard liquor, and still manages to control himself. And then there are days when he has a bit of liquor, and is a whole different person. He can be mean, he can be cruel, and can completely shatter my heart.

But when he’s sober in the morning, I make sure he knows what he was like the night before. I make sure to tell him, “You were drinking a lot, and here is what you said to me, and here’s how it made me feel”. Yes, there are nights (or weeks) where one of us sleeps on the couch. Yes, there are a lot of tears shed.

But I know that he is a good person, and he is trying. Yes, he will have his days when he overdoes it. He has his demons to deal with, and that is never easy. Through all of this, I am trying to be patient. When he drinks and lashes out, or says nasty things, I don’t let it slide. I tell him flat out, “Just because you were drinking, doesn’t make this ok. Even if you don’t mean it, or would never think that when you’re sober, you still said it while drunk and now there’s consequences.”

I make sure to ask him what he needs. I ask him how I can help him. I ask how I can support him, how I can help him deal with things, how we can work together to help him. I will not take on the full responsibility of his addiction, I will not baby him or make excuses for his behaviour. I only want to help him do what he needs to do to get through this.

So anyone out there in this same situation, just remember: you can’t change them. You can be there for them, you can help them, you can do all sorts of things for them to make their battle a little bit easier to get through. But they have to put in the work; you can’t do it for them.

For anyone out there who needs help while loving someone with an addiction problem, there are groups out there you can join. One I’ve been looking into lately is Al Anon. While this group is aimed at the friends and family of problem drinkers, many chapters do have resources for other addictions. You can check out their website HERE for more information.