I've written a lot about the 'Thens and Nows' of life before and after removing alcohol from it. As my length of sobriety approaches 18 months I am realising that the stark changes I noticed at first are not over and done with, they were not flick of a switch type black and white changes.
As time goes on, the feelings, thoughts and perceptions surrounding all those 'First Time Withouts' continue to evolve as the same events come round and round again.
Firstly the book club. Tonight it is book club with the neighbours. At first I dreaded the whole event being sober, taking cover next to a pregnant lady. The next couple I feigned work commitments and early starts to explain away my not drinking, but tonight will be different again.
I put a bottle of fizz in the fridge to chill for the host and thought immediately how strange it looked there. It looked out of place yet I know that not so long ago, more than one bottle would be lined up chilling at the start of a weekend. That was my first thought! That is to say, I had no thoughts of want nor pangs of regret. This indeed is progress.
When I go there tonight I will be not drinking and am not bothered about very much. If anyone asks I am now confident enough to say 'I don't drink now', (although I may act surprised they didn't know and throw in a nonchalant 'oh it's been ages now, well over a year'.) The need for reasons and excuses has gone.
Here is what really happened.
20.45: I arrived and was met at the door by the host. After the greetings she asked if ‘I would join them with a glass of prosecco?’ to which I replied
‘Can I have something soft?’
‘Of course: diet coke, sparkling water, orange juice or appletise?’
I chose diet coke.
No issue. No questions. No surprise. No explanations required.
Throughout the night I noticed little things that bothered me much less than usual. When speaking, I kept being unable to find the exact words I wanted. I was glad there was no question of it being due to drunkenness. Same as I wobbled to the loo in my high heels. I wasn’t embarrassed by wobbling away because I wasn’t drunk. Best of all I could drink my diet coke at whatever rate I wanted; no trying to make it last, but more importantly, no shame in guzzling it down quickly.
Even although I was the only one sober I found myself become more and more silly and giggly along with everyone else and you know what? It wasn’t forced. I wasn’t trying to have a good time despite being sober. I was having a good time and, by the way, wasn’t drinking alcohol.
2330: I had a really great evening with lots of chat and gossip (and of course some discussion about the book). I had 2 small slices of pizza and a few crisps. No hoovering the snacks. When I was offered yet another top up of diet coke I asked for a cup of tea, having spied a bowl of chocolates on offer. This is my perfect combination.
0100: I knew I had enjoyed myself as I stayed so late (and was only the second person to leave). I walked around the corner to my home, smiling to myself, remembering the funny conversations. I felt elated that I was out, late, having fun, yet would have no price to pay tomorrow.
At home I sat at the kitchen table drinking more tea, suddenly feeling awake and excited.
For the first time ever I felt like I had not missed out on any part of the evening. I truly believe that it would not have been any better had I been drinking and I am astounded that I am able to think that and write it down.
When others further down the path than me said things would get better and better without alcohol, I didn’t really believe it. I had accepted I couldn’t and wouldn’t drink and that I would continue to make the most of life, despite this.
I never thought I would reach a stage where I.Truly.Did.Not.Miss.Wine and was not just pretending to myself that everything was fine without it.
If I can do this, and get to this stage, anyone can.