Last July 4th, I was at my first sober wedding–I had 18 days, and it was the longest I had not drunk in like, a decade? (This was my “first” 18 days, btw, so a real first. I slipped at 60, then again about a month later, then again at almost six months this past March; I’m now in the double digits again, but I still consider my sober birthday to be last June 13th).
It was a struggle–and a BIG DEAL–mainly because I was at a wedding, and with a bunch of old friends. There was one guy who was going through a divorce, and he and I shared a room. I remember watching him get drunk all over the place, and I remember feeling for the first time that intoxicating (pun intended) mixture of relief and joy that can only come with those first outings sober-when-you-could-have-been-that-idiotic-blackout-drunk. You know that feeling? It was glorious: empowering beyond words.
I also remember noticing, for the first time really, how compulsive his drinking was. I mean, I had drunk with this guy for 15 years, and I was only now noticing that he was drinking too much? It’s not like he had a LOT to drink either, but he drank often: at brunch, then at lunch, then for an afternoon pick-me-up, then again at dinner. I kept thinking, Why does he need to drink now? And now? Is he that bored with my company?
Fast forward to THIS July 4th, and that small voice inside my head has morphed into a veritable chorus: It’s really…WEIRD…that people arrange their social lives around booze, isn’t it? I look to events now and think, Does it have to center around booze? More importantly, why aren’t people aware of the fact that they’re focusing their events around getting drunk? Are we all really that bored with each other? Afraid to socialize sober? Sadly, I think that the answer is yes, for a lot of people.
For this upcoming 4th weekend, one of our friends down here invited a group of us to a bash at his house in America. We’re not going, mostly because it’d be too expensive. And, you know what’s super-awesome, unicorn-parade, glitter-balls-all-around amazing? Instead of thinking, Aww, we don’t get to go and and drink all weekend, the first, second, and third thoughts I had were, Eh, it’s going to be a boozefest and I’d rather not; and, Well, it’s going to be a boozefest and no one’s really going to remember–or appreciate–our being there, so why bother? I’m not that much of a cynic, but in essence, that’s how these events turn out; I would often drink because I was bored of the company, too.
Yes, things have changed. I never thought I’d grow up, actually. And, I realize now that it’s not so much growing up as it is OWNING up–to not just my problem, but a pervasive social norm, which is getting drunk to avoid a shit-ton of scary things that for many people include socializing sober, spending quality time with others, enjoying life instead of escaping it through booze. Making real connections with real people.
I don’t want to sound too smug, though. Different strokes for different folks, I guess, and I would have been first in like with my empty cup getting off that plane–WHERE’S THE WINE, BITCHES?
This 4th? I’m looking forward to taking some days off, sitting on the beach with my boyfriend and dogs, reading, running, planning a (sober) volunteer trip. I love snorkeling; it’s so peaceful gliding through the underwater world, enveloped in silence, watching the schools of blue or silver fish catch the sun and reflect it back in one explosive glint. I love staring at the water, listening to it move and breathe. I can do these things now, tolerate them sober, enjoy them even! And, the idea, the mere thought, of going to an event that is centered around drinking? It doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It doesn’t even make SENSE to me anymore.
In case you didn’t notice, I updated my “big day is here” widget to mark September 14th as my 180-day milestone. Gulp.