Small talk with drunk people

As I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t been going out much recently. But on Friday night I put my new dress on, got my hair done and forced myself out the door.
And… it was ok. Not great, not terrible, just alright. 
The night started with drinks at someone’s house – a friend from work who I don’t know particularly well. I arrived just as she was pouring glasses of champagne. She pressed one into my hand but without skipping a beat I said, “no thanks, I don’t actually drink”. She looked mortified and was so apologetic it was quite sweet. However, everyone heard this and it meant that straightaway, there was no hiding the fact that I wasn’t drinking.
At first I didn’t mind talking about it. People are bound to ask some questions, especially when they know you used to drink.  But my god, some people would not let it go, including a so-called friend of mine who promised to get me “nice and drunk by the end of the night” because “you’ll never meet a man if you’re sober.” 
After a while we moved on to a party at the bar of quite a posh hotel. It was lovely there and for a while, all was good. There was chatting and mingling and laughing and I thought “Hmmm…. I can do this.” I like people-watching and I particularly like watching how people drink. It’s interesting who gets drunk quickly. Some knock back the drinks quietly whilst others linger over a glass of wine for hours.
I was standing there, minding my own business, when a man I know from work said to me, “Is that orange juice you’re drinking?” (Note to self: next time order a more subtle drink or at least get it in a wine glass). So I gave this guy Graham the usual spiel. (I normally tell people I stopped drinking in April as part of a health kick and I felt so much better I haven’t gone back, blah blah blah. Some people are happy to leave it at that, but others are much more nosy and ask lots of questions.)
After I’ve stopped talking Graham says, “Well that is funny, because I seem to remember that this time last year we were at a party where you were so drunk you spent most of the night with your tongue down someone else’s throat.” I groan internally, do my best oh-you’re-so-funny-laugh and say “well that’s another reason why I don’t drink anymore.” At this, Graham pauses, looks around and says, “but isn’t life all about those kind of moments? You’re missing out on so much.”
Now, my logical head knows that the best moments in life do NOT happen when you’re drunk, anesthetized and half out of it. But at that moment, in the middle of a busy party, with people hugging and laughing and being a bit merry, it felt true. Was I missing out? The question bugged me all night. 
Recently I read an interview with the actor Simon Pegg, who stopped drinking at 40. He said “when I go out with my friends now – and this was a revelation to me – round about 10 o’clock I start looking around me and thinking, ‘Everyone’s an arsehole! When did this happen?'” On Friday night I looked around me and thought exactly the same thing. In fact you could argue some people had been arseholes the entire night. By 11pm they were slurring and repetitive and I knew it was time to go.
The original title I gave this post was “Is there a magic formula for a fun, sober night out?” Then I realised that actually I kind of know what makes a good night out for me these days and Friday night just wasn’t it. The real thing I struggle with is how to handle other people’s idea of a good night. I can’t hang out with sober people all the time. But when alcohol is considered by many to be an evening’s entertainment, what is a single, sober girl supposed to do?    

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32 thoughts on “Small talk with drunk people

  1. jenisthesoberist December 1, 2013 at 9:26 pm Reply

    I dunno…the person trying to get you drunk and the guy telling you that you are missing out both kind of sound like a-holes! At least you stayed sober and learned something. I am trying to find more people who do not believe that alcohol alone equals fun…they have to be out there somewhere! Good for you for going and making the best of things. xx

  2. sobernorman December 1, 2013 at 10:07 pm Reply

    I dunno either. Difficult…..

  3. soberirishgirl December 1, 2013 at 11:10 pm Reply

    Similar experience myself this weekend. I’m so afraid that I’m going to spend the rest of my life feeling like I’m surrounded by eejits when out for the night. I know in reality we should prefer to be around the ‘real’ version of people but I’m not so sure, I think I preferred how I perceived some people when I was drunk!!

  4. Maggie Shores December 1, 2013 at 11:18 pm Reply

    Congrats on getting out and staying sober! It can be tough! I find that the people that give me hard time are usually the same people that should probably quit drinking themselves. And yes, dunk people are no fun when you’re sober. Lol! I like your health kick idea as an answer to why you don’t drink – I used to say I was on antibiotics, but that brought on a whole new twist to things! Lol! Anyway, good job! Woot woot!

  5. AsJimSeesIt December 1, 2013 at 11:21 pm Reply

    Playing “Spot the alcoholic” at these functions actually helped keep me sober in the beginning.

    • Lilly December 2, 2013 at 12:51 am Reply

      Ha! Love this! I was thinking just that the other night! It really does help because observing them sober just makes you so glad it’s not you anymore!

      • AsJimSeesIt December 2, 2013 at 1:38 am

        … and the more pathetic the better! I used to think I drank like James Bod, without the baccarat. I was a lot more like a staggering Britney Spears…

    • justanewme December 2, 2013 at 12:56 am Reply

      Ha–cool-a new game.

  6. Lilly December 2, 2013 at 12:49 am Reply

    Oh man, I have so had these experiences right down to the ‘but you’ll never meet anyone sober’ and ‘but isn’t this [drunk fun] what life is all about?’ Well, only if you think alcohol is the route to meaningful connection and have a pretty limited view of what matters in life.

    As we’ve discussed before, all of my WORST STUPIDEST hook-ups with men have been the result of being too drunk. And, no, admittedly I haven’t tackled sober dating yet but I just can’t imagine I’ll make worse choices. I reckon we’ll hook up much less but in doing so save ourselves some time, pain, embarrassment and arseholes! And, if I do ever want to jump someone when i’m 100% sober, well, hell, at least it’ll be genuine.

    Per my post re nights out, some nights out aren’t great, sober or not. And, yes, fully relate to feeling like ‘oh god even some of my best mates are such dicks when they’re drunk – how did I not see that before? Some nights suck and/or make you feel boring/left out but then you wake up the next day not hungover and feeling good and that pretty much ALWAYS rocks.

    It can be hard but it doesn’t mean drinking is the answer. We can’t drink so we just have to find other, BETTER ways of having fun.

    You said you know what makes a good night out for you now.. What is it??

    Also, you focused on the missing out part of that dickhead guy’s comments but the first part of what he said is what you need to zero in on as it was drunken nights just like that – and ill-advised hook ups like that – which led you to quit love.

    I’m 100% here for you over the hols if you need to vent. E me or get what’s app so we can message each other if you’d like?


    • soberjournalist December 2, 2013 at 4:28 pm Reply

      Meant to say, I’m glad you had a good night out the other day! Proof that some nights really are great.
      At no point during the night did I think “I wish I was still drinking” it was more like “I wish everyone would leave me alone”. I hated feeling like an outsider but I could see that drinking wasn’t the solution. I also felt that people thought I was boring, and that then made me feel boring and a bit uptight. Bit of a self fulfilling prophecy.
      In fact even if I had been drinking I might still have left early. (so I could go home and drink in peace!)
      I woke up feeling pretty good the next day too.
      I think good nights out for me now involve seeing good friends who don’t care what I’m drinking. I like doing stuff, or going out for meals, as it takes the focus off alcohol! Really appreciate your support xx

  7. Eggs December 2, 2013 at 1:01 am Reply

    I had an identical night last night, I wish there was an answer. Alcohol is always going to be the main event for my friends and family too, I am just going to have to get used to it. I will occasionally have to deal with their ideas of a good night, and have my own good nights elsewhere.

  8. Roxanne varner December 2, 2013 at 4:27 am Reply

    my family drinks like crazy and I’m the only one trying to stop…it is killing me to be around this and I feel so left out. I feel like I’m not participating.

  9. Mrs D December 2, 2013 at 6:14 am Reply

    Whoa tough room. that guys comment must have felt like a dagger to the heart… very very hard in that moment to refute.. but overall big picture of course it’s bloody bollocks. Life is all about celebrating a hard year with colleagues.. laughing and telling jokes, dancing, having new dresses on and nice hair cuts, maybe meeting new people or relaxing with people you’ve shared stressful situations with over the year.. it’s not about the alcohol. But sadly we’ve all be led to believe our whole lives that it is. It’s bollocks. But, you know.. how are you going to explain that to that man, or yourself for that matter, in the midst of a party. You did good. You did bloody good. Tick. Move on – sober. You’re brave and strong and clever and wise and doing wonderful things for yourself and all your loved ones present and future. Know that. xxxx

    • soberjournalist December 2, 2013 at 4:34 pm Reply

      Great advice as ever Mrs D. In the cold light of day I can see that his comment was total bollocks, but right there at that time it was hard to put it in perspective. And he’s such a smart arse I could never have a proper conversation with him about it. But next time, I will be ready with a cutting reply…

  10. sobermalarky December 2, 2013 at 8:41 am Reply

    I am not sure that this can change, because it’s not your fault. I don’t know how much experience you have of other drugs, but if your colleagues idea of fun was to get really stoned or take crack or acid, you wouldn’t for a minute think you were going to have a fun time with them sober. At least not on their third hit! So, why is this drug any different? It’s truly not, it’s just socially acceptable. People who change their brain chemistry for fun end up on a completely different wavelength to a sober person. They know this. And they are sincere when they say you are missing out, and they know what they are up to and feel uncomfortable with you there. I will stay a little while while I can still get sense out of people then make a sharp exit. The important thing is to manage your own expectations and to realize you don’t enjoy this stuff any more because you’ve outgrown it, not because you’re boring. You’re the opposite of boring, you’re genuinely alive.

    • soberjournalist December 2, 2013 at 4:37 pm Reply

      Thanks for your lovely comment. You’re so right – if they talked about other drugs in that way I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them what I thought and stand up for the decision I’ve made. Alcohol is just so socially acceptable!

  11. carrieonsober December 2, 2013 at 8:54 am Reply

    Guy was a dickhead, anyone who gives you a hard time likely has a drink problem themselves. Some nights will just suck and it probably would’ve sucked anyway but you’ve have gotten off your face to get through it. That was painful, this is painful, just in a healthier way! There are be people out there who are more interested in healthier social pursuits…you need to focus on the things you do enjoy doing for now, still early days. In time, I think this kind of situation won’t feel so disappointing. Hang in there xxxx

    • soberjournalist December 2, 2013 at 4:43 pm Reply

      You’re right, if I had been drinking the night might have been crap anyway – I just wouldn’t remember it! I think pressurising other people to drink is really weird, a form of bullying almost. Now a few days have gone by I can see that the people who gave me the most grief were the biggest drinkers. Maybe they felt bad about themselves. When I was drinking I never nagged to people to drink. In fact I was almost the opposite, I was so desperate to seem like I didn’t care…. x

    • Annabelle December 3, 2013 at 6:18 am Reply

      I absolutely agree that when someone gives you a hard time for not drinking, they, too have a problem. Being around a strong, sober person that has the courage to say “No” to the drink can make that person with the never ending questions and rude comments feel weak. I know, because I have been that person eleventy billion times in the past. I asked all those questions to check for similarities between myself and them. I have been forcing myself out lately, and I am always so happy to come home sober 🙂

  12. Amy December 2, 2013 at 11:58 am Reply

    The first thought that comes to my mind is turning the tables. If people are able to say things like “nice and drunk by the end of the night” because “you’ll never meet a man if you’re sober.” we sober folk could say things like, :No, I’ll be nice and sober by the end of the night, and not hungover tomorrow thanks.” And “Oh, the right one will come along, I’m not overly worried.” Then walk away. Or to that “but isn’t life all about those kind of moments? You’re missing out on so much.” dude we could say “What makes you think I’m missing out? What am I missing exactly?” And then wait for his amazing non-answer which would possibly be something like “Oh, um gee, I don’t know, like fun? And partying? And letting loose? Sticking your tongue down my throat by the end of the party because you’re wasted?” Sometimes when people are assholes it’s OK to give back what you’re given. I hate that whole “Oh, poor you, you don’t drink????” routine. Like I’m someone to be pitied because I’m not getting wasted and being embarrassing. Fuck that. 🙂 Show people how cool it is to be sober! 🙂

    Person: “You don’t drink? Oh how boring! You must have no fun at all.”

    Sober person: “I don’t. Not boring at all. And actually quite amazing and fun. See ya.” (smiles secret soberiffic smile, walks away.)

    • soberjournalist December 2, 2013 at 4:49 pm Reply

      Oh Amy I am going to print this out and take it with me next time! Now a few days have gone by I feel a bit annoyed with myself for being so pathetic – I wish I’d told people to just back off. I am proud of my sobriety, I should have been shouting about it, not feeling embarrassed and left out. Love the “What makes you think I’m missing out? What am I missing exactly?” line. Totally going to use that next time 🙂

  13. Drunky Drunk Girl December 2, 2013 at 8:47 pm Reply

    Yeah, that dude is a dickhead, and I wonder, *maybe* it’s harder in the UK? I mean, here, I have never encountered anyone who has every said to me, in a social setting where I am not drinking out of choice, that this is a bad thing. I think it might be b/c America is so…self-improvement-focused and well, politically correct. Whatever, the thing I’m finding that helps these types of bullshit comments roll off my back is that, I know that drinking would just lead to bad things for me, to no fun at all, to no fun for anyone around me! So, if I have to forgo a sloppy, regrettable, “fun” hookup, then that’s how it has to be. I CHOOSE to be sober, for all the good reasons; drinking leads to nothing good, or at the very least, nothing that much better–and always something worse. These days, I see people who need to drink to socialize as being emotionally handicapped, like, I have something that they don’t have, and I put in a lot of work to find it. I don’t ever want to be in the position again where I *have* to drink to be social, to have fun, to make memorable moments–I like having choice, being free. You are strong, and brave, and that is the only thing that matters! xx

    • soberjournalist December 3, 2013 at 12:19 am Reply

      I too have been wondering if things are different in the uk. I was listening to a Bubble Hour podcast today and the subject of what to say to people at parties/ festive functions came up. There must have been 4 or 5 people contributing to this particular podcast and they all said that whilst they’d often been asked why they didn’t drink, no one had ever hassled them about it. I was stunned. That has certainly not been my experience! But I guess they don’t call it “booze Britain” for nothing…

      • sobermalarky December 3, 2013 at 10:54 am

        I don’t know any other culture but here in Manchester UK drinking is like breathing for most non Muslim people. I’ve just resolved to change the focus of my life and I don’t spend time in drinking places or with drinking people, unless it is an obligation and then I go for a couple of sober hours. I don’t feel like I am missing out any more, sobriety is better than anything that could happen in those scenarios. I didn’t feel like that at first but I do now. For dating, have you considered the internet? I met my husband on OK cupid, funnily enough when we were both drinking and we have come through the sobriety thing together! But the algorithms are really good now and you should be able to set it to only show guys who are not drinking. Obviously you have to go into these things with your eyes open, but if I were single again now that is what I would do. Having a totally sober partner would be amazing I think! (Sporty and fit? Woo!)

  14. Anonymous December 3, 2013 at 2:37 am Reply

    Check out a crossfit box. Seriously. You can’t do those workouts and booze it up. Has totally helped me. Intimidating at first but worth it. Goggle it!

  15. Anonymous December 3, 2013 at 2:38 am Reply

    Plus i swear you’ll meet a bunch of cool people!!!

    • soberjournalist December 3, 2013 at 4:53 pm Reply

      I live quite near a cross fit and have been thinking about giving it a go for ages, I keep backing out of it as it looks quite scary. I hadn’t thought about it as a way of meeting people …. good idea!

      • Anonymous December 10, 2013 at 4:06 am

        me again. I was totally intimated and had to just force myself through the doors but the truth is, it is people of all shapes, sizes and abilities and everything can be scaled to what you can do. I joined just under a year ago and it has completely helped me stay the path. they will put you in a beginner type class to start too. i’m a 43 year old mom… one day 114. I love your blog. Great posts. Always.

  16. Belle December 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm Reply

    my plan of attack is to leave events at about 10:30. it’s usually the point where the drinkers have consumed enough to be boring, irritating, and repetitive. up till then i’m fine, but it’s like i have an internal alarm that goes off that says “THIS is my time to depart.” and the only person who would give you a hard time is a boozer. plain and simple. cuz their wolfie wants company. so they don’t feel so alone. too bad for them, you’re taking care of you 🙂

  17. byebyebeer December 3, 2013 at 8:50 pm Reply

    Graham sounds like a jerk. You sound like you held it together beautifully and had a normal reaction to what isn’t very fun for us sober folks. That’s okay because so many other things are. I like Belle’s suggestion above.

  18. girlonthelearn December 4, 2013 at 2:15 am Reply

    Agreed — a jerk. Also agreed — totally normal reaction. I mean, we all remember the fun feeling of drinking. The last thing you need is to have it rubbed in by someone while you’re trying to get through the night! Belle is right… I know it’s the boozer who wants company who is the one who will give you a hard time about not drinking. I know, because that was me!! I always gave people who were not drinking a hard time. Or I at least internally rolled my eyes and thought they were a bore. I feel bad even thinking about that! And it is also what makes me keenly aware of what others are thinking of me when I say I’m not drinking. But you know what? Who cares. In the end we all have to just take care of ourselves and that’s that. After all, the only opinion about you that truly matters is your own.

  19. Anon December 12, 2013 at 3:05 pm Reply

    I really enjoy reading your blog. I finally felt compelled to comment as in this post you’ve struck exactly on the alcohol = good time paradox, which I’ve waged war with since I stopped drinking.
    Essentially I’ve found that a normal night out with those who are drinking will break down into the following periods.
    Hour 1 You tell people you don’t drink anymore, some look concerned, hear you out and are supportive, others roll their eyes, make derisory comments and try to persuade you to drink, (I find when these people already know you’re not drinking they still feel it necessary to go through this charade again).
    Hour 2 People are now a couple of drinks in, they’re not worried about you not drinking , and are generally good company.
    Hour 3 Animal Farm, you know the bit in animal farm where at the end, they look in the window and the pigs are all standing up and wearing clothes, pretty much like that. People have started slurring and acting boorish, those who were saying you should have a drink earlier because you’re “not like Gazza” have become unintelligible, conversation slows as people run out of things to say and are able to enjoy inane and banal chat as they are anaesthetized. The all in it together attitude has changed and people follow try and drive the night down the narrative they want. I find it is typically at this point I go home.
    I think you really summed it up when you wrote “it was ok. Not great, not terrible, just alright.” Sobriety is great, I feel like I’m a much better person for the albeit short period I’ve abstained, however I’m I don’t look forward to the same things as I used to, and that my friends still do. Realising a solution to this is difficult, but I’m sure it can be done.
    Keep posting.

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