I can’t imagine ever having the confidence to shout about my sobriety but the other night I made some progress. I went out for dinner with a friend from university. I lived with R for several years and she’s one of the few people I’ve kept in touch with since graduating. I only live a short train ride from the city we studied in, but for some reason I don’t go back there very often.
I arrived a bit early so had time to wander round on my own first. It was nice, walking around in the sunshine past all our old haunts; the cheap bars, the pubs … the dodgy clubs.
I tend to look back fondly on my student days, which is odd as they weren’t always that great. I spent a lot of time feeling like I didn’t quite fit in. I remember wondering if I’d picked the right subject or chosen the wrong university because something wasn’t right, but I could never put my finger on it. A few days after I graduated I bumped into a girl from my course and she told me she wished she’d got to know me better. It pretty much summed up my time there: I wished I’d done it better, got more involved, been more present.
At uni I considered my drinking to be fairly normal, carefree even. I was surrounded by people who liked going out and drinking a lot (hardly surprising, but whilst they would grow out of it, I would not). Even then I was always the one who could drink the most and I would often drink alone before we went out. I kept bottles of gin in my laundry basket, but thought nothing of it.
Anyway – back to the other night. The first thing R said to me was “I need a glass of wine – it’s been that kind of day”. I felt a pang of sadness. We’d been great drinking buddies. As students we drank cheap shots and pints of lager and blackcurrant (classy stuff). A decade later we’d moved on to nice wine and fancy cocktails. The alcohol was more expensive but the principal was the same: booze = good times.
As she dithered over whether to get wine, or a cocktail, or maybe a beer I found myself saying, “Well I’m not drinking at the moment so I’ll probably just have a diet coke but you go ahead and have some wine … ” That was new territory for me. The last few times I’ve been in that kind of situation I’ve mumbled something about being on a diet or having a headache or something.
I could see R was surprised, but she was totally fine about it. I mean, totally fine. That threw me a bit and I volunteered a lot of information that I probably didn’t need to. I’d been so prepared for the “WHAT do you mean you’re not drinking?!” response that I’d had from other people that I kept rambling on, saying things like, “I just felt I was drinking too much… it’s very easy to do that when you live on your own… It was making me feel so depressed and I feel so much better now …. I’m not sure how long I’m going to keep it up for but I don’t really have an end date in mind…”
So I missed out the gory details but it was much, much more than I’d told anyone else. Later in the conversation we even got talking about the reaction other people have to teetotalers and how some people think you’re boring if you don’t drink. I thought R might say something like, “well I’m not surprised you’ve stopped because I always thought you drank a lot” but even if she was thinking that she is far too nice to say such a thing. I have a vivid memory of her coming into my room one night in our final year and spotting two bottles of red wine by my bed. I remember her saying something like “when have you been drinking those?” and being really baffled as to why I’d drink red wine in my room.
Her reaction was a nice surprise because some people haven’t been so tolerant. It’s been a while since I’ve got any real grief over not drinking (partly because I’ve been avoiding those kind of situations) and I think I’d started to blow things all out of proportion in my head. It’s nice to know that not everyone is going to be a total jerk about it. Maybe I have changed too? I feel more comfortable being sober. I’m secretly really proud of it … so I am not prepared to take any shit from anyone who has a problem with it …