I have a good friend visiting a nearby city this week. I spent the day with her yesterday. I kept rehearsing in my head how I would tell her I was now sober. Should I wait until lunch? Should I wait until she mentioned getting drinks? Should I say it right away? ‘Hey, great to see you! You look great! I quit drinking. How’s your husband?” How would she react? I expected her to be supportive because she has substance abuse in her family and lost a fiancée to addiction. But would she make jokes or tease me or want to avoid the topic altogether?
The Temptation of Saint Anthony
I have been worried about going to this city because it seemed swarming with temptation. Bars everywhere. I guess like most American cities. Is that why cities tend to have more AA meetings than the suburbs? A meeting available almost every hour of the day?
I had to wait a half hour for her. And her phone battery was almost dead so I had to be at the meeting point. I couldn’t change plans and wait in a coffee shop. Nor in that Irish bar that seemed to be waving it’s orange, white and green at me as an invitation. I am pretty sure I once drank there. I drank in many bars throughout this city.
As soon as she approached me, she pulled something out of her bag so not to forget to give it to me. It was a purple pashmina scarf. I bought it in India. I left it at her wedding. I wrote about what I remember of her wedding in Mistake #8. Getting this scarf was a nice reminder of stuff I have lost while drunk. Maybe I could wear it like a banner of sobriety?
We walked to a place for lunch. We were playing catch up. I am not sure what we were talking about, but I just blurted out “so I quit drinking.” She responded “I thought so. Something you posted on Facebook awhile ago made me think that.” I asked if it was what I posted St Patrick’s Day. (I posted this was the first St Patrick’s that I didn’t care that I am working and that made me happy that I didn’t care.) She said no, it was something a few weeks ago. I wonder how many other friends have guessed it. How many other friends know my “secret” but are not asking or offering support?
During lunch, as usual, our conversations were all over the place. One minute we would be talking about my job, then about her marriage, then about my family, then about her job, then about her honeymoon. She asked about my previous plans to move to one city and why that changed. I started to explain to her about the complications moving there and their relation to my drinking problem. Then I took it further back to last fall and added “oh by the way, sorry for my drunk behaviour at your wedding.”
“Oh no worries. Every wedding needs one of those.” Oh my god. I was “one of those.” I was the drunk, crazy chick at the wedding. I was the embarrassment. I was the one that everyone talked about afterwards. I apparently got mad at her friend and he had no idea what he did. I was screaming at him. She asked me what he did that was so awful. I have no memory of it. I told her I spent 20 minutes the next morning searching for my car before I realized I took a taxi from the reception.
The rest of the afternoon continued with our chattering non-stop. We went to a museum. We shopped for books. I would slip in little stories about my struggle. She would tell me about her dad and brother’s struggle. I told her about my blog. She recommended a book Easy Way to Stop Drinking by Allen Carr.
We bought tickets to see a show that night with her friend that was also visiting. Her friend had to work all day. She joined us later for dinner. When we met up with her at the hotel, the first thing she said was “I need a drink!” I was going to introduce myself but then I realized I recognized her. Yes, I met her at the wedding. She might have even sat at my table. I think there is a photo of the three of us at the wedding? But she didn’t say “Oh good to see you” or anything else that was welcoming. Did I say anything horrible to her back in September? I felt shame.
We took a taxi to a street near the theater. We walked up the street looking for a flavor of dinner that would please us all.We passed many Happy Hour signs. My friend is mostly vegan so we agreed on a vegetarian place. As we got the menus, she turned to me “are you okay if we drink?” I really appreciated that question. I told her confidently “no, go ahead. Enjoy!” I enjoyed Diet Coke. And honestly, I did not even crave their pinot grigio and syrah. Maybe the memories, or non-memories, of the wedding helped keep me strong. Or maybe knowing that Saturday will be 60 days sober was my weapon. Or that next week, I will surpass the LONGEST I have ever been sober in 20 years. Or, I really just did not desire it. I know where it leads.
We got to the theater in time for a quick stop at the concession stand. We all wanted a souvenir cups. They are plastic cups with the show’s name on the side. Large size. Not sure if this is a pint or not? Both of the other women ordered cups with wine. It had to hold about 2 or 3 normal size glasses of wine. I got Diet Coke again.
They wanted to get photos of the three of us before the show started. The curtain time lights were flickering. I patiently waited while two tipsy women kept trying to do selfies of the three of us. They both had trouble trying to figure out the flash. They stopped a few people to ask to take our photo but they could not get one with enough light. My phone was turned off to save the battery and I am clueless with Apple products. It was interesting to be the sober one observing the drunk performance. How many sober people looked at me with concern in my drinking days?
During intermission, they both discussed whether they would go out after the show. I debated whether I would join them. And it wasn’t that I was worried about being around people drinking. I was very tired. I wanted to go home and get under my covers.
By the end of the show, they sobered up enough to decided to go back to their hotel. We hugged. Said our goodbyes. I got on my train. I survived the night unwounded. And I felt stronger by facing the battle. I walked into a city that has always tempted me in so many ways to do bad and I left feeling good.
Mistake # 53- When I first met my friend from yesterday, she was on a three-month drinking break. She said she did it as a dare. We met on a camping trip. The trip ended just in time for Cinco De Mayo. Our camping group all planned to shower, change, and meet at a Mexican restaurant. She and I were both staying with a mutual friend and sharing the guest room. She sort of became my babysitter for the night.
I got trashed on margaritas and shots of tequilla that night. I thought I was doing good for most of the night. But I woke up in a daze in the guest room. The first thing she said to me was “do you know who you were trying to hook up with last night?” I said a name. She said “did you see how short he is?” Yes but he is cute and single. “Wow you have low standards when you are drunk!” I was lucky she was sober and sharing a room with me or never know who I would have brought back with me.
That started our friendship of talking about our “boy problems” over drinks whenever we met up. She was around for a few more of my mistakes. I never remember her getting trashed but then maybe I was always too drunk to notice. I am happy now to have her support in my sober circle.