What Is “Accidental Ingestion”?

A long time ago, in my 2nd year of sobriety from alcohol and drugs (circa 1996), I found myself walking into a bar for an event I was attending. The temptation to drink wasn’t present anymore within me by that point in time, but the urge to have a glass of something constantly in hand still was. That’s why my drink of choice at bars had become Diet Coke, which is precisely what I ordered from the bartender when he asked what I wanted. I never thought to pay attention to him as he filled my order. Instead, I scanned the surroundings around me until I noticed the soda was placed in front of me. I was quite thirsty that night, so I immediately took a huge gulp. As soon as it went down my throat, I knew it was a lot more than just a Diet Coke, as indeed it also had a lot of rum in it. That’s when I instantly told the bartender he had made a mistake, which he profusely apologized for mishearing me and swiftly re-poured me the correct drink.

For someone in sobriety that truly wanted to remain clean and sober and had done so for a good while, I was totally freaked out once this happened. My heart raced as I wondered if it meant I had now broken my sobriety and had to start all over again. Thankfully, it wasn’t long after that where I learned from sober friends I didn’t have to and was told that what I experienced was something called “accidental ingestion”, which is simply when one accidentally consumes alcohol or drugs that was not by choice, which was so very true in this case.

Something else I learned from those sober friends was that accidental ingestion is something that tends to happen in sobriety the longer one remains clean and sober. I wasn’t sure if I should be grateful to have experienced something so unpleasant as early on in sobriety as I did that night, yet I had been more than thankful to learn it wasn’t a relapse. What was interesting though, was learning that if I had continued to consume that spiked beverage after discovering its true contents, it would have then been considered a full relapse.

For someone who’s not a recovering alcohol or drug addict, this type of thing may seem rather cut and dry and not a big deal. But for someone who hadn’t tasted alcohol on their lips or in their throat or consumed any type of mind-altering substance for a considerable amount of time because of what it once did to them, it actually was a very scary thing to experience. And ironically, it wouldn’t be the last time I experienced accidental ingestion either.

The next time it happened was when I was visiting a friend overseas in Manchester, England back in 2007 for the Christmas holidays. It was specifically Christmas Eve and my friend had bought a wide variety of beverages for his guests to drink that night, one being a non-alcohol-based orange soda for me to consume. What I didn’t know was that my friend had also bought a similar beverage from this company that was alcohol-based, where the only real difference between the two was a note at the bottom indicating its alcohol content. So, when I was brought my drink, I had no idea that my friend had mistakenly poured it from the wrong bottle. Thus, after swiftly guzzling about half of my glass’s contents in one fell swoop, that same look of horror was once again on my face, as I realized I had just consumed alcohol again. That’s when I immediately dumped it out and poured the correct one for myself. But thankfully, this time I felt no guilt, solely because I was well aware of what accidental ingestion meant by that point in my sobriety.

I’m happy to report that I haven’t experienced this ever since and pay a lot more attention now when a drink is poured for me. I sincerely hope I never find myself going through this unpleasant experience again in this life, but if by some unfortunate chance I do, I’m at least thankful to know it will just be another example of “accidental ingestion”, so long as I don’t continue to ingest it…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson