Dear Miss Mare: The appropriate response is: “Congratulations,” without the exclamation point (a bit too exuberant) or “Good for you.”
I am a polite person. I know how to deport myself. For example, I know that the appropriate response when a woman tells you she got engaged is not, “Congratulations!” It suggests a proposal of marriage was an achievement for her. I also know one should always light the wicks of new candles.
When I was a drinker, my manners were ofttimes skewed. For example it is never appropriate to announce loudly to a mixed group of holiday makers (including children, couples, the elderly and colleagues), “I usually get laid on New Year’s Eve, but with this crowd it’s unlikely!” Falling from sturdy pieces of furniture to the floor, is also never done in festive gatherings.*
The photograph above is a garden gnome I gave to Dee for Christmas one year. When I helped her move, I unearthed it from her garden. Years of wind and rain had upended it and it was partially buried beneath a hydrangea. The gnome is appropriate as a masthead for this post for several reasons:
- Dee is very polite;
- I put the gnome in my trunk intending to clean it and give it back to her for her new house, but I really like it and now it is sitting on my porch in Georgia and I don’t think it’s polite to steal someone’s garden gnome;
- most people say, “Good luck,” when an alcoholic tells them they have quit drinking.
Quitting drinking is not about luck.
In everyone’s defense, “Good luck” has become a throw-off platitude, like “How are you?” or “Have a nice day,” but it means: success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.
Anyone who has suffered the ravages of alcoholism and quit, knows how difficult it is to stop drinking. I have yet to meet a person in recovery who says, “I wonder why I didn’t try that before? Quitting drinking was easy peasy!” or “I’m lucky! I got a great parking space at the mall, and I quit drinking!”
I am not militant. I will not cause a scene or say something rude if you wish me, “Good luck.” I’ll take it. Just know that when you wish a recovering alcoholic bon chance, it diminishes the journey. We are realizing the kind of introspection, soul searching and hard work that deserves, “Congratulations,” “Good for you,” or my favorite – “God’s speed.”
Thanks to Miss Manners for backing me up on this one…
How come you’re not drinking?
*I am so sorry.