As my new found sobriety crawls on, I’ve had some interesting developments. Mostly this involves the reactions of people when I inform them that I am no longer slave to the drink. They suddenly treat me like a widower, like I’ve lost something significant in my life and need to be pitied. The other end of the spectrum is the drunkard that takes my sobriety as a slight against them; as if my new outlook is somehow about them and I am now judging their drinking. I am not…well, not entirely. I can’t help but judge in a small way when I try to remove myself from every new aimless drunken conversation and hopefully onto something with a bit more bite, intellectually speaking.
I was about to leave work on Friday and get into my car when I received a phone call from an old work colleague. We hadn’t spoken in a couple of months, and the last time we did was at a bar over a few drinks. I recorded the conversation (as I do with most of my phone calls these days) and present it verbatim:
FRIEND: Hey [name removed], it’s [name removed]. How’s it going?
ME: [name removed]! Not bad mate, and you?
FRIEND: Eh, same old man, same old. What are you up to?
ME: Not a lot. Just finished work and was about to get in the car and head home.
FRIEND: Cool. I’m just heading to [undisclosed drinking establishment], meeting up with [name removed], [name removed] and possibly [name removed]. And I think a few others might join later on. You keen?
ME: Sure. I have to tell you though, I’ve actually stopped drinking.
ME: Are you there?
FRIEND: Yeah. So you’re not drinking now?
ME: That’s right.
FRIEND: When did this happen?
ME: About three weeks ago.
FRIEND: Oh. Okay.
ME: I’m happy to come in and catch up with you guys though. It’s been a while.
FRIEND: Yeah, definitely. Listen mate, something’s just come up. Can I give you a call straight back?
FRIEND: Two minutes.
He never called back. I called him about ten minutes later and it went straight to his voicemail. Now I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but I think that might be the first friend I’ve lost to sobriety. He and I bonded over alcohol and I thought we had a steady friendship, but it appears as though once that bonding device is removed the friendship can no longer survive. Maybe it isn’t a bad thing that I lose access to certain people because of my new outlook. Perhaps it just shows that we were never truly friends to begin with, we were all just miserable and drunk together. In the grand scheme of things, maybe it really is for the best.
I had a wedding on Saturday. My day began with a text message from my brother. The caption: bet you’re glad you aren’t on facebook? Above that was a photo of the best man (a very loose term, I find) taking a shot of himself into a bathroom mirror whilst wearing no clothes. He covered the important bits, but other than that he was completely nude. I later came to understand that the bridal party had spent the Friday at the hotel in which the reception was to be on Saturday, and obviously they imbibed to excess; enough to disrobe and take Selfies.
The ceremony was delayed by an hour on a very hot day. People were getting restless. Children were becoming fidgety and unsettled. We eventually found the cause of the delay: flowers. Fucking flowers. Apparently one of bridesmaids was in charge of the floral arrangements and she forgot them. My daughter couldn’t sit still so we went outside and walked around the seminary grounds and tried to keep out of the sun. It was nice to walk around the gardens with my lovely daughter. She had a lot of questions and I answered them as best I could. The great thing about being an adult when asked about the world by a child is that you can give any answer and not be held accountable for its accuracy. I always endeavor to be as honest as possible when my daughter asks me something, and she was asking me all sorts of religious based questions, which is a topic I cannot claim to be an expert in.
There was a six-hour gap between the ceremony and the reception, so I returned home, stripped to my underwear and turned on the air conditioner and watched my San Antonio Spurs lose to the Portland Trail Blazers, 109-100.
My wife and I went to the hotel for the reception at 6pm, and found our table and assigned seats. We were joined by people who I’ve known for years but are not especially close to. I can barely ever remember their names when we meet, and they appear to have the same problem. They’re pleasant enough folks, but they just aren’t my kind of people. I often wonder what constitutes “my kind of people” anyway. Maybe the kind that leave me alone. That works.
So I got stuck next a friends partner, a girl named Emily. I hate small talk at the best of times. Hate it. Wedding talk is miniscule talk. The conversation is literally a waste of time. I am almost certain that I will never interact with Emily ever again in my life. I’ve managed to come this far without having the pleasure of doing so, so I think my chances are good. So I ask her what she does, even though I really couldn’t give a shit what the answer is. Her response? “Such a boring question.”
Hmm. I wholeheartedly agree, but this is a wedding, and these are the rules. I could’ve asked her a much more interesting question. I have a whole army of them at my disposal. I could’ve asked if she prefers missionary or doggie style. She couldn’t deny that this is a much less boring question than being asked what she does for a living. I would’ve got a punch in the mouth from her partner/my friend, and probably a divorce from my wife, but at least I couldn’t be accused of being boring.
So she told me. She works for the taxation department. I currently owe them a sum of money. We became natural enemies from that point.
I came to a conclusion on this night. Drinking had become boring to me; it had stopped being fun. So I stopped. I was bored at the reception. In the past, I would have had a drink or two to relieve the boredom and mix socially with my fellow humans. And I noticed others having what appeared to me to be a wild time. Laughing, joking, flirting, enjoying each others company. I know these feelings. Trust me. I’ve been them, and not too long ago. Now though, with some clarity I think drinking just gives the illusion of fun. It allows you to forget your troubles temporarily and have a good time. I get that, and I think if you can make it work for you and not hurt anyone else I say more power to you. “Handle your high” as former filmmaker and current podcaster Kevin Smith advises.
The newlyweds looked happy and the groom made a lovely speech. He struggled to get through it at times. He was very emotional. My wife cried.
Then everyone got more drunk. There was a courtyard as big as the reception area, and there was a nice breeze so a lot people headed outside. I was a social butterfly, not because of the drink but due to the fact that I wanted to be part of an interesting conversation and was struggling to seek one out. I feel awful saying that because most of the people in attendance are my friends. At one point a friend approached and remarked that I looked too sober. I replied by saying that I hadn’t had a drink at all and he took that as his cue to chase down one of the wait staff and get me a beer. I protested but he insisted, saying that there was no way I wasn’t having a drink. He scurried off to fetch me a bottle and I legged it over to the other side of the courtyard, out of view behind some tall people.
My wife approached and asked if I was ready to go. It was nearing midnight. I said yes. The walk to our car from the hotel took roughly three minutes. In that time, we saw a couple having a drink-fueled, very heated argument, a young man urinating against the side of a building, and five or six person brawl that the police had just turned up to. When I drank I never had an argument with my wife, never pissed in public and I never got into a brawl. So while I can’t relate to that level of stupidity after a few drinks, I am now more confident than ever that leaving the drink behind might be the best decision I’ve made in years.