Category Archives: Social Life

Lies About Cocktails

I got to the bar first, so I ordered a glass of tonic with a splash of grapefruit and a drop of bitters.  (Yes, I know bitters has alcohol in it.  I am not worried about a single drop once a month or so, and the bitterness keeps me from feeling depressed about drinking a too-sweet kid drink.)  The others arrived shortly thereafter, and when they asked what I was having, I for some reason answered, “It’s like a gin and tonic, but with a splash of grapefruit and bitters.”  So, that was a lie.  It wasn’t at all like a gin and tonic, because it had no gin.

Anyway, I congratulated myself and was having a decent time catching up with these folks, old classmates of mine.  And then the waitress came by to take our orders for the second round.  Now, I had ordered my drink at the bar, but I figured this could still work out.  (Apparently I’m new at life.)  I told the waitress that the bartender would know what I was drinking — “the weird thing with grapefruit juice and bitters.”  She nodded.  And then, HORROR OF HORRORS, someone else at the table said, “I’ll have one of those, too.”

So I was left with a few terrible options.  I could admit that I had misled them about my drink which – of course – is a really strange thing to do.  I could try to sneak over to the bartender to correct the order, but then surely the waitress would bring the drinks and say, “here’s the one with the gin,” or something like that.  Or, I could just sit tight and, I don’t know, feel awkward and wait for something truly embarrassing to happen.  I choice route C.

It was actually sort of okay, at least for a little while.  The drinks came.  My old classmate tasted the drink and said, “It’s good!”  Vainly hoping to cover my tracks or something, I said, “There’s a lot more juice in it this time.”  (I’m the worst.)  Anyway, we sipped.  And all was well . . . until the bill came.  There were the other folks’ drinks, in the $10-12 price range, and then there was an entry for two $2 7-ups (which I guess is how he charged the mostly-tonic drink).  DAMN.  I just sort of acted confused (I’m a bad actor), and so did the other guy (his confusion was genuine), and then we paid the bill.  I made a lame joke like, “Maybe that’s why it tasted like orange juice.”  And he laughed.  And then I went home, sober.  And feeling foolish.

Why?  Why did I lie, and why did I compulsively dig myself further in?  Just to avoid admitting that I wasn’t drinking?  Ugh.  How very, very strange.  What a totally, truly weird way to be.

Anyway, it was a good lesson.  Much better to just deal with the fact that I’m not drinking than try to hide it.  Shared tabs, picking up rounds . . . there’s just no way.  Whoever said it would work to just order a soda with lime to “trick” people into thinking you’re drinking clearly never went out socially the way people do in my circle — that is, sharing bottles of wine with dinner, picking up rounds for other people, offering to hit the bar for others, etc.  I just have to suck it up.  I’ll give an update on how that whole plan is working out after I survive the wedding I’m attending next weekend.

Hilda

Our Past Selves

Someone from this AA meeting I go to once a week sent me a Facebook friend request.  When I was scoping out his page, I was struck by how the person represented there — the person he seemed to be before his recent sobriety — seemed like a lot of fun.  Seemed carefree, and funny, with a wide social network.  Seemed like a much more compelling, attractive person than the introspective, almost timid newly sober person I’d seen at the meetings.  I caught myself thinking, man, it doesn’t seem worth it.  If you had to trade that irreverent, funny, up-for-anything, doesn’t give a fuck dude for this new, painfully self-aware, vulnerable, navel-gazing version, maybe just drink instead.

There are (at least) two things wrong with that reaction, of course: First, the life that Facebook tells people we lead is never very close to the truth, so that fun-loving, social guy probably wasn’t really who he was.  I know, from having heard his stories, how miserable he was.  So when I get nostalgic for him over the fun times he’s missing, I’m surely projecting – it comes from my own sense of loss.  And second, the version of him that I see in meetings is almost certainly not who he is now, either.  Those meetings are all about getting vulnerable.  All about exploring feelings, and stuff like that.  So probably the dude is still funny and irreverent sober.

But yeah, the projection.  I know I sort of miss the person I (thought I) was, who was willing to live dangerously, who said yes, who was up for anything.  The life of the party, the most fun at weddings, the one who never said no to just one more.  Now, I’m this tea-drinking, early-morning-waking, ducking-out-early-from-social-events person.  I was just going to type that I don’t recognize myself, but that’s not true — I actually recognize myself, a past version of myself, closer to the version I was pre-booze.  But I still miss that drinking Hilda, that drinking version of me, that party girl.  Maybe that was never me, but it was nice to pretend.  It’s just a little sad to say goodbye.

Oysters and Champagne

It was a pretty intense meeting last week.  Some dude told a story about pawning all his relatives’ stuff, some other chick told a harrowing tale of living on skid row, doing heroin, and turning tricks to fund her habit.  And then it came to me, and what did I want to talk about?  How damn annoying it was that the manager of some fancy restaurant had the nerve to bring us complimentary glasses of champagne just because they were out of the oysters we ordered.  God, what an asshole I am.

And if you’re wondering whether I checked myself and saved my tale of woe — woe!  not only were they out of oysters, but also I had to face a glass of champagne! — for another time, the answer is no.  I mean, my struggles are my struggles, right?  Or, if my life is unmanageable for me, it’s unmanageable, right?  Yeah, I keep telling myself that.

But it really was sort of hard.  Dinners out are hard for me.  Of all the types of drinking, I romanticize them the most.  If I had quit drinking 10 years ago, I would have those pangs about bars and clubs, I’m sure.  But recently my favorite drinking, the drinking I think of wistfully, through rose-colored glasses, has occurred in restaurants.  A good bottle of wine, good food, good conversation with my love, or with friends.  That buzz.  The color of the wine, the smell.  The taste.  So for the first month or so after I quit, I avoided restaurants with wine lists.  Truthfully, I avoided restaurants, period.

Anyway, this particular night, we went to a favorite place.  Andrew and I had both been working like crazy, and we needed to reconnect.  I ignored the wine list, sucked it up, and ordered sparkling water.  He ordered a beer.  We settled in, food started coming, and all was well.  Until that damn champagne arrived.

Maybe I should have sent it back, I don’t know.  It was just a friendly little gesture from the manager, and I guess I was surprised by it.  So the glass just sat there.  I sipped my water and tried to ignore it.  Tried.  Tried being the operative word, here.

It just kept sparkling at me.  Those little bubbles rising charmingly to the surface.  The candle flickering behind it.  I kept it there in front of me because  I wanted to prove that I could ignore it, I guess.  That I would be okay with it sitting there.  And I mean, I guess I didn’t touch it.  But it was so incredibly distracting.  And it not only distracted me during dinner, but I kept thinking about it afterward.  I mentioned it on the way home, as a sort of celebration of the fact that I didn’t drink it.  (P.S. I enjoyed driving home.  Sober.  Fast.  Try to pull me over, copper.  Have I been drinking?  I fucking wish I’d been drinking.)

I guess all that’s to say that, look, okay.  Me facing down that dastardly glass of champagne isn’t the hardest, toughest shit I’ve ever done.  It just isn’t.  It’s also not exactly sleeping in a car on skid row, getting stabbed, spending time in jail, or any of the other shit that even the put-together-seeming folks in my weekly meeting have gotten themselves into.  And it’s not to say I haven’t had my rougher moments drinking, either.  But at this point in my sobriety, having quit at precisely this wine-sniffing, restaurant-fetishizing point in my drinking career, a glass of champagne is a challenge.  It is.  It’s a challenge that tests me.  And while one slip up would just lead to me having a glass of wine, I know that that tantalizing glass of champagne would lead me right back down to guzzling, and right back down to the depressed, helpless, hopeless state in which I found myself two months ago.  So I guess I take that stab wound and raise you a nice Barolo.  Happy 60 days sober to me.

Bachelorette Weekend

I got back last night from a trip to [insert name of party town] for a close friend’s bachelorette party.  This is a woman with whom I’ve put away countless bottles of wine.  Truly, for the past ten years, no evening-time meeting between us has come and gone without at least a bottle of wine between us (and sometimes more like 4).  Also along for the trip were our mutual friend who drinks just as much as we do (did), two normal, non-alcoholic women, and the guest of honor’s sister, who from what I had heard was probably also a bit of a drunk.

We showed up around 3pm, and the owner of the house we rented met us to give a tour.  He offered beers, and everyone except me accepted.  It was early enough that I didn’t get any questions at that point.

After the tour, we headed out into town in search of a late lunch.  We found a pretty cheesy place right on the water (the hipster in me recoiled) and ordered our food.  They also ordered a bucket of beers, and then another bucket of beers, and then another.  Probably 3 apiece over the hour and a half we were there.  I had lemonade, like a nerd.  Convinced I was pregnant despite my assurances to the contrary, people cracked jokes about “the baby.”  I laughed and let them.   Good-natured ribbing I can handle.

Later in the evening, we made a trip to the grocery store where the guest of honor loaded the cart up with approximately 25 bottles of wine.  There were six of us, and we would be there three days.  But look, I don’t blame her; running out of booze is like a nightmare when you’re drinking.  Two months ago, I would have been relieved at the number of bottles and backup bottles we had.  As for me?  I bought lots of sparkling water, some fruit juice mixers, lots of limes, and a couple of San Pellegrino sodas.  I had also brought tea from home – sneaky.

The first night, we stayed at the house and just sat around the patio firepit, drinking our various poisons.  This is what I was nervous about — I love wasting an evening with wine and conversation.  But I had a nice surprise, as I was able to participate and enjoy myself.   I made sparkling beverages and, later, tea.  Around midnight, people got a little slurry and started repeating their stories, and I crept off to bed.  Most of the others lasted a bit longer, though they admitted the next day that they didn’t really remember the end of the night.  Anyway: One night down, one to go.

And then, dudes, this was the best part.  One of the things I kept promising myself in exchange for the wine I would otherwise have had was that I would get up early, before anyone else (such a luxury for this introvert in a house full of people), make coffee, and take my book out to the patio or pool.  And you know what?  I did.  I got up at 7 and had a good three hours to myself before anyone else stumbled groggily out of bed.

The second night was harder.  We went to a nice dinner, and the pretty courtyard, with its strings of lights adorning the trees, made the wine glasses beautiful.  I had sparkling water and was kind of bummed.  I wanted a glass of wine – just one.  But really only in the abstract.  I wasn’t willing to trade my sobriety for it.  But it wasn’t the siren call of my beloved red wine that made the dinner difficult; it was the absolute refusal of my friend’s sister to let go of the fact I wasn’t drinking.  She seriously would not let up.  In the guise of joking, she “brainstormed” other excuses I could use for not drinking.  Serious illness came up, as did a couple of other ones.  I laughed but kept trying to change the subject.  She wouldn’t budge.  As some point, I said something like, “Well, I don’t really need so many reasons, because most people don’t care.”  Still she persisted.  Finally, laughing, she said, “You could tell people you’re on your 12th step!”  Like it was the funniest thing in the world.  Like she thought the idea was so absurd that it fit in with a faked pregnancy and fake chemotherapy.  Earlier, I had given another woman there a bit more info — just that I had been drinking too much and was not drinking for awhile (and liked it).  Even she seemed uncomfortable when this woman refused to stop pestering me.  The guest of honor, who would have probably managed to get her sister under control, was sitting at the other end of the table and didn’t hear our exchange.

I guess the take-away from this dinner is that: a) 5 of the 6 people there, even the really, really heavy drinkers, were able to just accept the fact that I wasn’t drinking.  I mean, they thought it was really weird, but if they were disappointed, they kept it to themselves.  b) some people are annoying.  c) I need a better plan than simply saying I’m not drinking right now — maybe.

The rest of the night was hilarious — we basically revisited our college days at a serious of cheesy bars that would normally be my worst nightmare, and it was awesome.  I drank water and still managed to get into the bachelorette party spirit.  I did go home earlier than the others, but in all honesty, I would have done that anyway.  I am not afraid to be the first to leave a party.

And then, the next morning, another blissful, relaxing time again with my cup of coffee and my book.

I feel like if I can survive that — the bachelorette party of my best drinking buddy — I can probably at least white knuckle it through any other social situation, if i need to.  It sounds super self-help, but I’m proud (and relieved) to have made it back in one piece.  And I didn’t just survive, I enjoyed myself.  So, onward.