Since becoming sober, I have found socialising difficult. It was something I had thought about but not appreciated how hard it was going to be.
Before soberdom, I was a social animal. I never said no. If there was a party, I was there. Until the bitter end. I rarely went out 'for a couple'. 'One' definitely meant a bottle. The truth was it was more like two. I never 'just went out for dinner'. I'd have pre drinks alone at home, then dinner, then drinks after then go back to someone's house. The night was always young, even at 3am.
The bits I think I miss about a drinking night out are, having a drink while I get ready, the anticipation of the night building the more pissed I got, the fun of choosing a good wine, cocktails, shots, late nights.
The reality is that alcohol is expensive. I don't like shots. Shots make me sick. I'm always disappointed by cocktails. Wine goes down far too quickly. Wine makes me sick. I would often forget massive chunks of the evening beyond about 10.30pm as I'd started too early. I'd probably cry at some point. I'd wake up ill with a feeling of dread.
But the one thing I thought alcohol did give me was confidence. I believed that I was better with it. Once I'd started, I felt sexy, worthy. All my insecurities became slowly pickled. I didn't care I was fat, unhappy, stressed. I was invincible. My cloak of Sauvignon masking the truth.
So without it, I feel a little bare. Raw. I have to deal with the reality of myself. And trust that I am good enough. Which is hard after decades of wearing a protective cloak.
Over the last few months, I have attended large social events but if I'm honest, not really enjoyed them. My preferred evening now is an early dinner and home by 10.00pm. But I don't want to be like this forever. So I have decided I need to practice socialising sober, to learn how to party with confidence.
The first step in my 'get confident sober' plan was to visit my friend in London and go for a night out that we would've had drinking. We decided to go for dinner and perhaps a few drinks afterwards. My friend has been completely supportive in my decision to become sober and was up for the challenge.
We went for a cosy meal for two first. There were some lovely mocktails on offer, something I have found lacking where I live, and they had Elderflower. What more does a girl need? And we talked, properly, without slurring and I can remember every word.
There was a cocktail bar opposite the restaurant, that I'd been recommended go to, and as the night went on, it started to fill to capacity. People were rammed on the small platform outside smoking. My desire to go for drinks afterwards started to wane. Perhaps it wasn't confidence that I was lacking but that these places are just not that great in the sober light of day.
Beneath the restaurant was a bar. At about 11.00pm, they cranked the music up. In my drinking days, it probably would've inspired a quick one or five downstairs but instead, it was loud and obnoxious, and made me want to leave. We decided we'd had a lovely evening and it was time to go.
As we left the restaurant, my friend needed the cashpoint. As we joined the queue outside a takeaway chicken place, we noticed paramedics treating a woman lying on the floor inside. A drunk woman in front of us started rambling, saying that the collapsed woman was totally out of it, that she had possibly been spiked, that her friends had left her, that boys had been filming her collapsed on the floor. The whole scene was disturbing & sad.
Inside I started panicking .. I could smell alcohol on the woman telling the story & the man behind us lit a cigarette, the smoke going down my throat. The situation was tense, and very real. If I had been drinking, I just know I would've got involved in the drama but sober I wanted to run. It was so surreal.
Eventually, we broke away from the scene, our night slightly dampened. Sober feels like going out with new glasses on; everything is clear and memorable. The vision of the girl collapsed on the floor is not easy to forget. A chilling reminder of the life I've left behind.
On the plus side, I went out. Out into the world. Beyond 11.00pm. A breakthrough indeed. They say that 'practice makes perfect' and whilst I know I'll never be perfect, it was a massive step in the right direction to getting social me back.