15. You won’t find me sober in a sailor’s hat.

I am officially on the mend, and for the first time in seven months I find myself stepping into life as it was, except the landscape has changed and the terrain is trickier. As I joyfully attempt to navigate myself back to normality, I’m surprised by the greatest hurdle I’ve had to cross – a raging torrent of booze.

Once upon a time I heroically struggled to find two days in the week that I wasn’t drinking, with a diary precariously packed to the rafters. I’d be at your birthday, bar mitzvah or bun-fight with bells on, always with a drink in hand. And why? Simply because I just love a Really Good Time. For me, alcohol has never been medicinal; it’s not a crutch to lean upon or a faithful friend. I’ve never been one to drown any sorrows and I’m certainly not an introvert looking for truth serum to coax me from my shell. The simple truth is that I enjoy the heightened emotions that come with a tipple or two, which is nothing but a good thing when you’re in an excellent mood 98% of time.

White wine gives my wild side a wild side. Life is louder, the crowd congenial, everything is funnier and I can dance like Britney. No really. Just. Like. Britney. And I never knew my legs could bend like this, and listen to my hilarious story and have I ever told you that I love you? Because I really really do, and let’s start a limbo! I LOVE this song. Everyone come back to mine for a party!

The following morning hits, and I awake in a sailor’s hat but can’t entirely remember how I came to be wearing it. Like a pro, I equip myself with an emergency lifejacket of carbs to keep me afloat. By midday my heavy head begins to clear. By 7pm post-work whistles are wet to toast the day that’s done, and conversation free falls from discussions to debates, to heartfelt outpourings with strangers who feel like your very best friend. Life is louder, the crowd congenial, everything is funnier and I can dance like Britney. No really! Let’s start a limbo! I LOVE this song. Everyone come back to mine for a party! Etc Etc.

Not for a moment do I regret my collection of anecdotes and hangovers, surprise receipts and monotonous repeats. I drink with a reckless abandon because I’m FUN, and FUN people are never the responsible driver. FUN people are never clock watching in the corner. FUN people never call time at the bar. FUN people never say never. GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE! Until now…

The cocktail of drugs I’m on leave little room for cocktails with umbrellas and cherries. For seven months the safety of my sofa has shielded me from the social grenade that is abstinence, but with my health restoring it’s time to step back into the throng, and step back sober. I’m treading nervously into unchartered territories of Sunday pub lunches without red wine; dinners with friends and mocktails; boozy client lunches with no booze?!?! Having annually failed Dry Jan, I’ve been shocked by the ease of my ride on the wagon. Restraint is painless when you’ve no choice in the matter. But I’m also astounded at how incredibly different dry-life feels. Immeasurably different. Unrecognisable in fact.

Life is calmer. The pace is slower and somehow more considered. I’m sharper at work, brighter even. I lose fewer weekends to hangovers, phones to taxis and secrets to strangers. I’m storm free and I’m in control. The peaks and troughs are less extreme. The ride is mild; it doesn’t make me whoop with joy, or throw up. I leave before conversations get loud and make less sense. I wake up fog-free. Dialogue is more sincere, and insincere chat less bearable. I’ve learnt to listen, really listen and I no longer forget.

But I’m acutely aware of the piety that is projected onto people that exhibit such self-control; I’m aware because I don’t get invited to as many lunches. I’m self conscious of the label that’s attached to restraint, and find myself proclaiming how much I miss the good stuff, and that I can’t wait to get stuck in as soon as I’m able. But that’s a lie – I just don’t want people to think I’m boring. And here’s the secret – perhaps I am a little less fun and a little more boring, and I really don’t mind.

Since Lucian Lupus knocked on my door, my priorities have changed. I’m no longer seeking out the next deliciously debauched adventure; I’m simply happy to feel well and able to enjoy life again. I’m fulfilled without dancing a limbo. I’m satisfied without hangover carbs. I’m content just being me. I’m still fun loving, I just won’t be waking up in a daze and a sailors hat, not for a while.

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Behind a bar I wasn’t supposed to be behind.

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