If you follow me on twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been venturing out with a few mum friends I know. Once a month, we go to the little community cinema and catch a film, and then head out for a drink and catch up. Sometimes we grab a bite to eat before hand, and it’s really lovely.
This may sound very usual, and basic socialising, but for me it’s been a big deal. The first time I went, was the first time I ever headed out sober without my husband. It was the first time I walked into a pub alone, in the evening hours. And the first time I went to meet and socialise with friends I was still getting to know, all without the comforting buzzy blanket of alcohol.
**Now, let me be clear and say I only took these steps because I felt confident in the company I was with, where I was going, and I had planned escape routes. Ie, I made it work for me without feeling I was compromising my sobriety, or opening it up to tests or vulnerabilities. Please do not do this if you feel it will be triggering in any way – sobriety first, always. Do what works for you.**
So. I’ve done this a few times, and always have been sure to have a taxi booked home an hour after the film finishes – gives me enough time to join them for a (soft) drink after, and I can leave before another bottle of wine is suggested, or before anyone starts getting a little tipsy. I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s been my monthly moment of sanity with friends. I am me, not mummy.
And I’ve realised that I’m learning it all again, as a sober person, and it’s tricky at times. I’m learning how to socialise, how to make and instigate conversation, how to just be. I’m not always confident on what to say, or what an appropriate reaction is. Even body language is hard for me to sometimes read and offer appropriately, because I’ve always been too buzzed to really worry or pay attention previously. Or made sure I’m with people way drunker than I, who wouldn’t notice or care whatever I said or did. I feel like a teenager again, all awkward and learning how to navigate social niceties and friendships. Because I care deeply about getting it right; I like these women, I don’t want to cock it up in some way.
Anyway, my main mum friend (whose first name is actually the name of a festive liquor, I shit you not – Alanis would have a field day with that, I’m sure) came over on Friday and it was so great to see her, and have the kids play together. We got chatting and I decided to tell her, shaking and stuttering over my words. Why I don’t drink, why I leave at 10:30 on the dot like Cinderella, why I must seem a bit weird about it all when gently questioned.
She was wonderfully kind, and supportive, and gave me a huge hug. Then said ‘I wish you hadn’t worried about this – it’s not a big deal. We are here for you whenever you need’. It’s not a big deal. Because it isn’t, to anyone that matters. I build it up in my head to be something that’s huge, and a deal breaker (and it IS huge in my world, rightly so) when in reality to her it was as though I’d explained I get bad PMT, or ingrowing toenails. Because she cares about me, my well being, my happiness, and understands that comes without alcohol – but there is no issue for her at all. It’s a path she will gladly hold my hand as I walk it, and support in any way, but it doesn’t alter her perception of me, or her judgement in choosing me as a friend.
More and more I’m finding that by being open about it, the response is far different to what I anticipated. I’ve people quietly championing my corner, and supporting me by just being alongside me as I trudge on. Never questioning, never judging, just unwaveringly rooting for me. And while they’ll never understand like my recovery angels, they are trying to, and offering what little they can to help. I feel very lucky, and full of gratitude. Sometimes, experiences in recovery have opened my eyes to how beautiful and accepting people can be, and that in itself is a huge blessing.