There is a bottle of vodka in my house (I think)

… and last week, I had cake that was made with Grand Marnier liqueur.

Let’s talk about the bottle of vodka first. I am not completely sure if it is still in my house or not. We had a large snow storm in January and the snow drifts on our street are quite intense due to a large, open field that our house faces. This was the same day that I helped to shovel out a school bus that was stuck and was late for work. When I arrived home at the end of the long day, my husband had just finished pushing a 6th car out of the snow on our street.

A few days later, a neighbour who my husband helped brought over a thank-you bottle of vodka. What I see as important is that a connection has been made between someone in our community. Kindness expressed to another human is what is paramount when giving a gift, not so much what the actual gift is.

I asked my husband to take care of the bottle of vodka and whatever he did with it was up to him. He doesn’t drink hard liquor and vodka was never my thing. If the bottle of alcohol had been something like wine, spiced rum, or whiskey, I would have made sure it left the house. I actually did not give the bottle of vodka much thought until last week.

My husband and I went to a cooking class for copy cat recipes that showcased popular dishes from restaurants. The group next to us prepared the dessert, an orange cake flavoured with Grand Marnier, both inside the cake and in the glaze.

The cake itself was light, fluffy, and perfectly baked. I would make it again, minus the Grand Marnier for obvious (and non-obvious reasons.) There was a strong taste of liquor and it was not something I found pleasing. I was reminded of the Blueberry Bourbon Stuffed French Toast that I made a number of years ago. The strong taste of the liquor simply did not taste good.

I will happily eat beer battered fish or a red wine reduction served on a rib eye steak. When it comes to hard liquor, I have had very few dishes where the flavour of alcohol didn’t overpower the food. I am a bit of a foodie and defining sobriety for what it means to me is that I am OK with eating food that has alcohol in it. Alcohol used in food was not where my problems happened.

Circling back to the bottle of vodka that may or may not be in my house, what if I am gifted a bottle of alcohol by someone who doesn’t know my journey? I’ve actually had this conversation with my support village and here is how it would go down:

I would graciously accept the bottle of alcohol, text a couple of people to let them know that I have it with me, and I would make a plan to re-gift it. I wouldn’t say anything in the moment to make the person who gave it to me feel awkward. Depending on who they are, I may reach out for a gentle teachable moment.

That being said, if someone who knows my journey brings a bottle of wine into my house or gives it to me as part of a gift exchange, there will be a whole lot of “what the fuck is the matter with you?” as part of an intense teachable moment, that I no doubt will learn a lot in too.

My boundaries have evolved since I decided to no longer drink alcohol. A set of hard-and-fast rules doesn’t jive with who I am. I’ve known myself for almost 36 years and in that time, I’ve been known to break countless rules (nothing overly bad!) but I’ve never been someone who followed all of the rules, just because I supposed to.

I have an inner badass who is now channelled through solo hiking. My inner badass still knows how to break rules through. The key to my sobriety success, at least for right now, is boundaries. My sobriety will have to evolve again some day. That’s just how life is.

I always loved the highway
I just don’t run it as fast
I still go wherever the wind blows me
But I always find my way back
I still don’t get it right sometimes
I just don’t get it as wrong
I still go a little bit crazy sometimes
Yeah, but now I don’t stay near as long

Dierks Bentley

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