My last post was all about how I didn't need Living Sober because of my iron clad certainty that I never want to drink again. Now less than a week later I miss logging into Living Sober to chat with my sober pals (don't be surprised if I slink back in through the ranch slider door in a day or two as if my dramatic exit never happened). And I'm a whole big fat bunch of uncertain about everything. I've just turned 40, but I feel like such a child. I feel like I've gained a lifetime's worth of insight and clarity during my sober journey, but experienced hand Gerry is right (see the previous post). I'm only a few months in and I realise now how vulnerable I am and how I'm really just a scared boy, more alone than ever, cast adrift from the world of drinkers and not knowing where I fit in with my sober cohorts.
I went on my step-mother-in-law's 60th birthday lunch at a beautiful vineyard restaurant, set overlooking a stunning North Canterbury valley. Our 20-strong family group were taken about an hour north of Christchurch to Black Estate by bus, the perfect scenario for a few sneaky wines (see some photos of Black Estate HERE & HERE & HERE). We sat outside at a long table and made stimulating and relaxed conversation over some truly magnificent food. My table neighbour made a few references to the delicious Rose, and how easy it was going down. Every time she or anyone else mentioned the wine I found myself taking a big gulp of water. It was an involuntary action. every time I did it I wondered to myself why I was doing it and if I wanted to draw attention to the fact I wasn't drinking? Was I feeling subconsciously self conscious about it? Eventually she asked after another obvious water gulp from me if I "don't drink or just not today?" to which I replied I had given up four months ago. We chatted about the not drinking thing for a bit and it was no biggie.
Later I found myself catching up with another of my step mother's family members, whom I like a lot. She's a literary person and often asks how the writing is going. I found myself blurting out I was a sobriety blogger. We had a fairly intense discussion about the benefits of not drinking and she told me about some of her experiences of being sober at dinners out with a bunch of big boozers and resenting sharing the bill equally with them. She was supportive and I didn't mind talking about it. But later it hit me how hard it will be to avoid those intense discussions, especially if I can't keep my big mouth shut. Maybe it's dawning on me now how much sober living cuts against the societal norm of drinking at just about every one of life's special occasions. I know I'm happier and healthier and better off without alcohol, but am I happy to be the outcast forever? I already anticipate feeling like a big loser at my family reunion in December, because my cuzzies like a drink or two. How will they react to me? Will they feel criticised by my non drinking?
Later back at my father-in-law's house (he of the nice wines) we prepared an early dinner for the kids and everyone had a few more drinks. I was tired from the day, in a wee grumpy patch about a minor disagreement with my wife that was my fault and for which I swiftly apologised, and another family member I don't know very well appeared from nowhere, said hello and gestured to chink my beer bottle with his. It was an awkward moment mainly because I didn't have anything in my hands let alone a bottle of beer, a total air shot. Like when you go to high five someone and you both miss and end up looking and feeling like total dorks. He asked if I was having one and I said "no not today". I was short with him. Because I was grumpy, but I was also pissed off he assumed I was drinking. I soon realised it wasn't his fault. He didn't know about the sober thing. He didn't mean to make me feel like a freak, and I should have just brushed off his awkward attempt to say g'day and chatted with him.
Is that what it's going to be like? I haven't been all that bothered about navigating the social situations sober till now. But at the vineyard I seemed to feel uncomfortable when little was made of my sobriety, and equally uncomfortable when a big deal was made of it. Am I going to get sick of explaining my non drinking for the rest of my life, or will I just get better at avoiding having to? Why should I have to explain it? Why can't I just live in a world when it's just not that big a deal?
Lately I've been thinking more about when my sober year is up, and if I will go back to drinking -because in some ways it's just easier, less of an effort, just what everyone does. Will apathy be the reason I drink again. The family member I revealed my blog to at the vineyard said she did six months sober, but just really loves to have one or two wines now and again. I would love to be able to do that. Just occasionally have one or two lovely pinot noirs. Relax and take the edge off. Let my mind drift slightly from the stresses of the physical world.
This is becoming harder than I thought.