Pressing the flesh

I do not like networking events. All those strangers; all those hands to shake and names to remember; the endless polite conversation. Last week I had to go to a drinks and dinner evening, as part of my new job. It’d been on the calendar for months and I was dreading it. Not only was I having to go on my own, but I knew I’d need to make a good impression. Hiding in a corner – or staying at home – was not an option.

I’ve noticed these kind of events offer people drinks the minute they arrive. (At least in the UK they do). The message seems to be: here’s a glass of liquid courage for you, this will help you to be the social butterfly you wish you really were. Sure enough, I’d barely taken my coat off when a waiter approached me offering a choice of two drinks: white wine or red wine. Hmmm. When I asked for a soft drink he pointed towards the bar. Get it yourself. 

As I was getting ready for the event I thought about how handy it’d be if I could still drink, because let’s face it: alcohol is great at squashing down unwanted emotions, like nervousness. I’m reading a good book at the moment (Goodbye Mr Wonderful, by Chris McCully) which describes alcoholism as ‘a disease of the emotions’. I think that’s a great description. It’s those pesky emotions – and our desire not to feel them – that drives us to drink. When we stop drinking, we have no choice but to learn how to handle those emotions head on. ‘Dealing with stuff’ is not always easy and I think it’s natural to look for ways of avoiding unpleasant emotions every now and then.

Even though I know alcohol is a lie and a con and a big fat waste of space, I find that every now and then my brain clicks into ‘old’ mode. If there’s a problem, it scans its database of possible solutions, and – imagine cogs whirring here – ta da: booze is presented as the answer. I mention this because I think it’s important to know the difference between a craving and a thought habit. I’ve been sober a year and sometimes old thought patterns creep in. But that’s all they are – thoughts. There’s no need to act on them.

Anyway, back to the evening in question. I made a beeline for the bar and ordered a tonic water. To my dismay, it was handed to me in a tumbler, with a straw. Honestly, a straw! What am I, a child? This annoyed me immensely – I wanted my drink in a grown up glass like everyone else. So I (politely) asked the bar tender if she could pour the tonic water into a wine glass. She gave me an odd look but did what I asked. For a few moments it all felt a bit awkward, but that conversation paid off later on. Once we’d sat down to eat, I seemed to become invisible to the waiters, who floated round offering people wine, wine and more wine. Fortunately, the bar tender remembered I wasn’t drinking and came over several times to see if she could get me anything else.

Having spent so much time worrying about the evening, I was relieved it went ok. I survived by acting my ass off and pretending to be the confident person I wish I really was. Although, maybe I am more confident than I think? Who knows. The only person who commented on my sobriety was the man who interviewed me for the job. He came over, pointed to my drink and said “You’re being very abstemious. Are you trying to make a good impression?!” Our conversation was interrupted at that point so I never had to reply. But his comment made me realise how nice it felt nice to be in control of myself – so I could indeed make a good impression. It was reassuring to know that everything I said came from the real me and not the drunk, sloppy version.

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37 thoughts on “Pressing the flesh

  1. jackietrinder April 27, 2014 at 7:09 pm Reply

    Great blog post, so well described thank you for the clarity with which you see this type of situation. Aren’t people thick and rude at times? Glad the barman saw you were ok. We all like him.

  2. Laurie G.F. April 27, 2014 at 7:19 pm Reply

    I’ve heard, “The thoughts will come like butterflies, but you don’t have to let them land.” I look very young for my age and I work with people much older than myself, so when I’m ordering ginger ale or lemonade at social functions, I often feel like I’m someone’s child tagging along. I suppose it’s a small price to pay for not having to be a fall-down drunk, but it certainly can get annoying.

  3. jenisthesoberist April 27, 2014 at 7:20 pm Reply

    Ugh, I hate it when non-alcoholic drinks get placed in different glassware. That happens here a lot… soft drinks and water go into plastic cups with big straws, instead of normal glasses. It really does make me feel like a child! Or a weirdo. Not the sophisticated lady that I want to be… Oh well. The embarrassment and uncomfortable feelings are a small price to pay for making a good impression. Hugs to you. Nice to hear that you are handling sober life well these days. 🙂

    • soberjournalist April 28, 2014 at 2:48 pm Reply

      Getting a glass with a straw certainly makes it obvious you’re not drinking! I think that’s why I was so annoyed. Nice to hear from you Jen, hope you’re well x

  4. Drunky Drunk Girl April 27, 2014 at 8:00 pm Reply

    This is just great! It really is starting (starting?) to literally astound me just how many people seem to rely on booze…for whatever reason (they feel socially awkward, they want to get around having to feel nervous, they want to be able to “chat” better)! It’s everywhere. Good for you! And yes, that bartender really needs to step up his/her game and get with it! 🙂

  5. Mrs D April 27, 2014 at 8:17 pm Reply

    Fantastic post.. love it.. brave you.. just so great. And thanks for the book recommendation, I haven’t heard about that one but I do so agree .. for me the biggest thing about getting sober was discovering that I’d been using wine to avoid tricky emotions. I had NO IDEA thats what I was doing. Real denial.. not willful I don’t want to admit it denial.. I honestly had no clue that’s what the booze was doing to my life. Getting sober has been all about learning how to be emotional for me…and I love it. Hope the new job goes well .. xxx

    • soberjournalist April 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm Reply

      Thanks Mrs D. When is your book going to be available? I need something else to read! X

  6. lucy2610 April 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm Reply

    Another book to add to my ever growing wish list! Thank you xx

  7. Anonymous April 27, 2014 at 10:39 pm Reply

    So great to see you’re back, I have missed your postings. I am newly sober and have so enjoyed your candor and humor!

  8. FitFatFood April 27, 2014 at 10:54 pm Reply

    Distinguishing between a craving and an old thought pattern is SPOT ON. It’s so rare I actually have a true craving but I’m plagued by the thought patterns. Great post- you’re my sober idol. I love how confident in your sobriety you seem x

    • soberjournalist April 27, 2014 at 10:59 pm Reply

      Aww thanks, I never thought I’d be anyone’s sober idol! Congratulations on 100 days – that’s absolutely fantastic. I remember the stop starting in your early days so it’s great to see you doing so well. K x

      • FitFatFood April 28, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        It’s nice to get some momentum eh? 🙂

  9. teetotal April 28, 2014 at 10:16 am Reply

    Networking events can be fun! Remember strangers are just potential new friends and allies; and it can be interesting finding out about other people and their lives ( even if they are boring! You’re a writer, think of all the material and character sketches you could be accumulating.)

    Once you’ve overcome the social anxiety that you used to deal with with alcohol you might start enjoying them. In the meantime you could look at them as an opportunity to find out about yourself: What are the negative emotions and thought patterns that come up when you are anticipating them or at them? What tools (other than alcohol) could you use to deal with that? Those emotions might be painful or uncomfortable but you know what they say: no pain no gain. It’s an opportunity to add to you database of solutions, and better more skilful solutions than alcohol.

    And acting is a real skill, go for it, fake it till you make it! You are not going to a boring networking event you are going to an brilliant acting class! Eventually you will find that you are a really strong (you are already stronger than all those there who needed alcohol), confident person and you are not acting.

  10. Anonymous April 28, 2014 at 2:22 pm Reply

    I really enjoyed your blog today. it is very encouraging! You express yourself so very well! Thanks for sharing and have a great day!!

  11. Anonymous April 29, 2014 at 12:47 am Reply

    Newly sober here, really enjoy your posts. Gives me some insight on how to handle things. Also nice to see someone who has been there and done that.

    • Annie April 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm Reply

      I too am newly sober and would welcome any advice. Days 1 and 2 were fine, but at Day 3 I can hear the seductive voice calling me, trying to persuade me that some wine tonight would be fine and that I don’t need to go down the recovery path. But I do need to! I really do! The Sober Journalist blog really inspires me, as do Mrs D, Unpickled and The Bubble Hour. Think I may now be addicted to sober blogs…

      • soberjournalist April 30, 2014 at 9:11 am

        An addiction to sobriety blogs is ok I think! Have you tried the Jason Vale book, kick the drink? It’s good at getting you in the right frame of mind – plus reading it will keep you busy in these important early days. Good luck x

  12. soberandawkward April 30, 2014 at 9:22 pm Reply

    I’m almost at a year sober, and I’m grateful that the alcoholic way of thinking is starting to phase out a tad. 🙂 Dealing with really difficult events/feelings, my brain still wants booze to deal. However, my thoughts do not automatically bring up booze just because it’s the weekend. Does that make sense? Though now that it’s nicer out…I get random “Ooh! Daydrinking on a patio!” thoughts. Oh brain, shut up already… 😉

  13. Crispy April 30, 2014 at 9:33 pm Reply

    Really loved this post. Founded myself nodding along a lot! I’ve just gone past 100 days sober, and going for Team 180, and was talking to an old friend about it last night. I was sharing about all the great stuff when I realised actually there are still moments that are really tough and full of negative emotions. Where I can doubt everything about me, those around me and life in general. But that by getting through these moments without numbing out with booze is making me more me. It was a revelation to me, and him actually.

    Also, your bit on ‘faking it’ reminded me of this Ted Talk I watched a few days ago: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are It’s well worth a watch, especially the last five mins – this is where it’s really powerful. Maybe it’s not faking, maybe it’s more you?!

    Finally, want to say a big thanks for your blogging. This is my first post on here, but I’ve read a lot and it was the BBC article in Jan that you were featured in that led me to this amazing online sober community. It’s been the difference in my success compared to previous attempts at sobriety. So, thanks!

  14. Duncan May 1, 2014 at 10:29 am Reply

    Liked the cravings vs thought pattern comment
    EVERY meal I go to with work I have to find an explanation as to why I’m not drinking. You don’t realise how different it makes you till you do it
    Love the blog
    DW

  15. Hugh Byrne May 1, 2014 at 3:03 pm Reply

    fair play to you buddy, I can really relate to what you’r saying. I’m not alcaholic, I think but I drink too much. Wine in the evenings, tired in the mornings…It does good to share your thoughts because they’re the thoughts of so many and its a comfort to know we’re not on our own.

  16. Natalia May 2, 2014 at 12:35 am Reply

    This is exsactly why I currently hate bars. It’s hard. I love your blog, I have a similar blog hope to see you check it out 🙂 http://smalltownnatalia.blogspot.ca/

  17. Lucy R May 2, 2014 at 7:35 pm Reply

    Hello. I’m so glad to have found your blog. I love your writing and I identify with so much of what you say.

    I only have 9 days but the two times I have gone out and ordered non-alcoholic drinks I’ve been shocked at the shitty treatment. One time I ordered cranberry juice and it arrived in a short, wet, warm glass, no ice (I’m in the US, you never, ever serve a drink without ice!), no lime garnish, nothing to make it appear to have come from the bar and indicate that it was celebratory just like all the other drinks at the table. The other time I ordered grapefruit juice and I was just told they didn’t have any juice of any sort and basically given a look like “I’m not going to make any money off of you am I?”. Nice! Wonderful challenges everywhere, aren’t we lucky?

    Congratulations on your one year soberversary! That is incredible.

  18. Lee Davy May 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm Reply

    Hi Kate,

    I used to hate networking events, and still do I guess.

    I suppose the trick for the sober amongst us is to learn to find a way to enjoy them, because, let’s face it, they are quite important events, especially if it involves your business.

    I don’t know how you feel about being a non-drinker, but I am immensely proud. I don’t worry when people ask me why I am not drinking, instead I welcome it.

    I find that people are really interested in it, and this is because there are so many people who are annoyed with themselves for drinking, and when they see someone bucking the trend their interest is piqued.

    So next time someone gives you a drink with a straw in it, ask them to jam some fruit in it while they are at it.

    Lee

  19. 6yearhangover May 7, 2014 at 8:58 pm Reply

    I’m dreading having to do these types of things someday in the near future. It seems impossible. And then I realize how utterly ridiculous that sounds. What is so impossible about walking around a room speaking without dumping vodka down my throat?

  20. Anonymous May 9, 2014 at 10:04 am Reply

    tumblers with straws, ice and garnish look like gin and tonics though, which is plenty grown up 🙂

  21. drinkmocktails (@drinkmocktails) May 22, 2014 at 3:04 pm Reply

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  22. thesobergarden May 22, 2014 at 10:32 pm Reply

    How grateful I am to have found your blog! I love your writing. I’ve been sober for a week and have started my own blog and am feeling…spun out really. So as I said, I’m very grateful to have found you, fabulous Sober Journalist!

  23. luvpink333 May 27, 2014 at 7:21 am Reply

    So awesome to feel that way….I just did this myself today…went to a gathering and made it thru without drinking….I have read thru your whole blog and have very much enjoyed it. I decided 8 days ago I was breaking up with my 22 year relationship with booze. I turned to blogs for support. You made me laugh and realize there is someone out there like me. I started to blog about my own journey with no vino! Thank you!

  24. Vida005 June 5, 2014 at 10:11 pm Reply

    I look forward to your post but you’ve not blogged for a while?? Usually your more prolific.. any particular reason?

  25. Annie June 8, 2014 at 10:20 am Reply

    I also look forward to your posts, and hope you’re ok. Annie x

  26. Vida005 June 10, 2014 at 9:38 pm Reply

    Ah just noticed you answered a post at the end of May – glad you doing good and are just to busy to blog.. enjoy whatever it is your doing – you deserve it – you’ve really put the effort in. You reap what you sow.

  27. Bottomsup June 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm Reply

    Great post. Read if you like drinking and laughing. Just for fun

  28. Tadhg Broderick June 24, 2014 at 7:18 am Reply

    Just started reading your blog. I read Jason Vales book, got myself into a great frame of mind and ditched alcohol for seven months. For some dumb reason( felt I was missing something ) I decided to go back to drinking in March. Like cigarettes it does not take long to ramp up to your old bad level.

    I decided to quit again and just came across your blogs. I hope that these help me to stay focused.

    Well done

  29. Lauren July 6, 2014 at 4:59 pm Reply

    Wow, Finally a blog that is exactly what I have been looking for to stop the same secret self destructive behaviour. It’s practical reminders about how I am actually making my life harder by using alcohol to shut my brain down at the end of every day. I am tired all the time. I know it is taking a toll.

    I used to run religiously and work out . . . I just need to get back to that. Isolation took over and alcohol just became the fix. You make me feel like I can do this.

    Just wanted to say thank you so much! Enjoying every bit of it, including the evaluation of the career and living environment, I’m thinking the same.

  30. Anonymous July 8, 2014 at 8:11 am Reply

    Hey Kate.
    Liver your posts. It’s been awhile since we have got an update from you. How are you doing these past few weeks/ months?

  31. Anonymous July 12, 2014 at 11:02 pm Reply

    I miss your posts. You’re an inspiration to me.

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