It's the day after Christmas and I'm on a plane to Spain to meet up with old friends from Colombia.
These are dear friends and I can't wait to see them. But they are the good friends during the 4-years of my heaviest drinking, and they were there drinking with me. I'll be curious to see if they drink as much as I remember them drinking....as much as me, or if I assumed they were pacing with me or was I setting the pace? I'm never sure looking back.
These are the friends where we stayed for 3 hours at a bottomless champaign brunch because they kept pouring. We had spilt drinks, a crier, and ended up tipping with a counterfeit bill.
They were drinking with me the day before I woke up drunk for work filled with anxiety. I woke up Husband to reassure me I was ok, I felt like I was in a nightmare. I went to work and realized there I couldn't hold a conversation and couldn't function in the real world. I think JT called that state dreamscaping. It was the first time I called in sick to work because of drinking.
They were there when we overstayed our welcome at our favorite Mexican restaurant where one of us was drunk enough to lose his wallet then blame the waiter for stealing it.
They drank road sodas in taxis with me. They always brought two bottles of wine each for a dinner party, because "who are we kidding?"
We cooked feasts together, laughed and laughed at our own expense and of course others' expenses. We kept a warm fire blazing during the cold damp Sundays and drank and ate away the dread of Monday morning.
We rented fincas in the Colombian countryside to cook and drink poolside. There was beer pong but with whiskey. There were morning appropriate drinking with brunch, beers or crisp white wines during the hot day by the pool, cocktails before dinner and more wine with dinner, and any range or repeat of drinks after dinner until some sort of craziness said it was time for bed.
Great memories, yes. Great friends, yes. Great drinkers, yes!
I'm not nervous about being not drinking around them. I'm not worried that I won't have fun. I'm not concerned about our friendships. I am bracing for seeing the disappointment in their faces that I no longer drink. I fear that my sober state will act as a damper to their fun. They are reflective, sensitive and emphatic friends. I don't want them to overcompensate on my behalf.
I'm probably overthinking all of this as usual. Hence while I capture and release my reminders of history and my fears so I won't be caught off guard in the moment and out of my element.
I'm going to Spain to see my friends in a new place. I will eat delicious food, see beautiful sights and art, laugh at my friends' ridiculous stories, make precious memories and most importantly-remember all the details, have no regrets and no hangovers to ruin a day in Madrid.
I can't believe that I'm almost to a year without drinking. I'm back to thinking that I don't like the word sober - I just don't drink. "None for me, thanks!" In many ways my life hasn't changed all that much, on the surface I do still have the same friends, go to parties, sit around shooting the shit and have people bring me soda waters as they buy rounds. I'm social and sociable.
Even this month a new teacher was really surprise when I said I didn't drink when he offered me something. He swore he remembered me drinking a beer back in August as proof that I did indeed drink. But I didn't have that beer, but I like that I'm not remembered as the sober one, I don't have a scarlet "S" hanging around my neck. I take this as evidence that I have remained myself throughout this process. My fears of being labeled as self-righteous, boring, outside, different just haven't happened. I bet it helps that I don't make a thing about it, don't get offended or remind people that I don't drink when they offer me a drink. Again that is because I don't need help with saying no, I don't rely on others knowing to hold me in place. THAT is the liberty of my mindset, others can be theirselves around me and that allows me to be myself. I can't explain why I am able to be that way. I can pour drinks for others, buy it, talk about it fondly. But it doesn't cause me to have internal struggles or to spiral out of control.
On the inside, I continue to feel stable, balanced, energized and healthy. By now I've lost over 20 pounds even with my increased ice cream intake. My skin keeps getting better and better. Sleep is a joy not a source of anxiety. I have energy enough for work, my husband, dog, social life and personal care and growth. I have started volunteering at a dog shelter, finally! I brought 17 students on a week-end to walk dogs and learn about the shelter. It was powerful and heart-warming and wrenching at the same time. I still might reach my goal of my 39 hours of volunteer work by my 40th birthday after all.
Not drinking has not be in the forefront of my mind in the last few months, which I guess means it has become normal for me. But I do recognize that I don't feel and call up the gratitude that I used to my first few months into sobriety. I am grateful, but it isn't as prominent or emotional. I need to make a point of that more. Even writing this long over due blog post is a reminder of how grateful I am for this life, this 11th month anniversary, this time off of work to recharge. Thank you.
I still wonder if this is a forever state of being. I'm not so confident that can claim forever forever. There are still moments when a drink seems a perfect compliment for the memory of the moment, or to share the bond of friends over the rare scotch. But those moments are rare and fleeting right now. I'm thankful for that too.
I'll close by saying thank you again to all the higher powers. One of my yoga instructors closes the class with this: "the very highest and brightest in me bows down and recognizes the very highest and brightest in you. Namaste"
I used to drink with the best of them, but I don't anymore. My life is so much better for it.
-Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp