Sometimes a couple of days or maybe a week will pass and I don’t really think about the fact that I no longer drink. It just is what it is. Being sober is part of my life now, part of my routine. I don’t need to walk the long way round the supermarket to avoid the wine aisle. I just walk right through it to get to my fancy cordials and expensive coffee.
So that all feels fine. But there’s a lot of stuff outside my sober bubble that I’m not so comfortable about. Socialising, whilst sober, is still a biggie for me. Alcohol was a comfort blanket and mood alterer that turned so-so parties into great ones. Wine made me funnier, sexier and more confident. Or so I thought. Now, going out sober is like learning to be ‘me’ all over again.
On Friday night I went to a work party and last night I met a few friends for drinks before going to a gig. I pick and choose my nights out quite carefully and I went to both because I thought I’d enjoy them – but they turned out to be quite hard work.
The work party was at someone’s house and on paper, it sounded great. It started mid afternoon. There was going to be a BBQ. It was out in the countryside so lots of people had driven there. The hosts had catered for all the sober drivers and there were tons of soft drinks to choose from. I was delighted by this as often the only choice for non drinkers is diet coke or water.
The main problem on Friday night was, well, me. I felt like I was acting the whole time. I knew everyone there pretty well and in the office I’d have no problem talking to them. But for some reason I felt out of my comfort zone and I struggled to make small talk. The whole time I worried that I wasn’t interesting enough or funny enough. Despite all the sober drivers, there seemed to be quite a few tipsy people and I felt reserved and uptight in comparison. When people drink together they share a certain something; it pulls them together in a way that’s hard to describe.
Despite feeling uncomfortable I didn’t want to drink; I knew that I would pay a huge price if I joined in. I just felt very self-conscious, as if I was carrying my sobriety around with me, like some precious ornament that needed handling carefully and protecting from the drunk people. Anyway, the real lesson of the night was this: always have an escape plan. I did not make one. I don’t have a car at the moment so I got a lift there with someone else. Not only did we arrive later than I would have liked to but my friend/driver insisted we stay till the bitter end.
Last night was better, however I was the first to arrive in the bar where I’d agreed to meet my friends. So I had a bit of an awkward wait on my own. When I was drinking I was a) rarely on time and b) I’d have just killed that kind of feeling with a drink. In fact I’d have used it as an opportunity to knock a drink back quickly and get another. Last night I deliberately queued at the busiest side of the bar, thinking I could kill some time waiting to be served. Of course, sod’s law being what is, just at that moment a large group of people moved out of my way and I got served within 30 seconds.
I ordered a tonic water and watched the bartender like a hawk as she got my slimline tonic, just in case she’d misheard me and was adding a gin as well. A couple of other sober bloggers have been served alcoholic drinks by mistake and this is something I really worry about. If anyone buys me a drink I take the first sip really carefully, just in case. It’s not that I don’t trust my friends – they’re hardly going slip something into my drink! – but you can’t be too careful. Aside from the drink paranoia the rest of last night was ok. I knew I could leave when I wanted to (it was within walking distance to my flat) so the minute my feet started to hurt I was outta there.
I’ve written about sober nights out before and (yawn) I probably will do again. It strikes me that whilst I’ve settled into a fairly comfortable sober routine in my day-to-day life I have not got the hang of going out sober yet. Like I said, I pick my nights out carefully and I always avoid going to things that revolve entirely around booze. I’d thought that Friday and Saturday night would offer lots of other things, like good music and the chance to catch up with people I know. But in the end both nights were pretty booze orientated. Or at least they were in my mind. Perhaps a ‘normal’ person wouldn’t agree?