It’s Friday night and I am planning on a happy hour with co-workers. We’ll go to a swank Loop bar with Laguintas on tap and an updated version of an Old Fashion. The place will be so loud we’ll barely be able to hear each other. Men in jeans and button up shirts stand over women in leggings and boots. They are here for only a drink (or three) before heading off to a dinner of small plates in Logan Square, or maybe pizza in Lakeview.
I’ll be hungry by the time we part and I head back north. I’ll be too smashed to cook anything, so we’ll have to figure something out easy and quick. A book and early bed time sounds good, but that never happens when I am drinking. Instead, I’ll pick up a six-pack on the way home and will watch old reruns of “The Office” until I am solidly intoxicated and pass out.
Oh, I hope that’s not one of those happy hours that extend into the late evening, I worry before it’s even noon. I always say it will just be one, but it is never just one.
And then I remember that I am not drinking. I won’t spend more than $8 and I won’t need to purchase a fried appetizer to coat my stomach. I’ll remember the entire train ride home and I’ll have the consciousness to edit my manuscript or grocery shop. My sleep will be restful, rather waking up at 3 a.m. throbbing with guilt.
I keep forgetting that I am sober. My thoughts are engrained into thinking how to pick up the pieces from my drunkness, and it takes a moment to remember that I don’t do that anymore. Several times I won’t remember pieces of a conversation or a show I watched and I will think, I must have been drunk. No, I must have a poor memory.
Four months into sobriety and there are a few things I haven’t quite figured out, like that going out with friends won’t result into me being a drunk pile. Another struggle I still have is explaining this decision. “Oh, it’s just something I decided on doing.” I feel like I need a clear cut this-is-why-I-stopped reason and there just isn’t one. So, I waffle as I explain why I am ordering lemonade and not a beer.
I also don’t know what to drink. Last night at the happy hour I ordered two lemonades and I felt worse than if I had had four beers. Too much sugar. I also don’t really like soda or juice, so that leaves few options when at bar and socializing. I do not be want to the one who only orders water because, well, that person sucks. I have ordered non-alcoholic beer before with mixed reviews. The first time, at a hip arcade bar, the first few sips tasted like some of my favorite beers and it felt familiar, like an old favorite sweater. By the fifth swallow, it was skunky. Most places don’t have NA beers, nor La Croix (my favorite non-water drink). I’ve come to really like kombucha, but again not really a bar menu kind of drink. I once ordered tea while my friends drank two bottles of wine. I felt 95.
It’s been a long time since my last drink, or at least it feels like it, and yet sobriety still feels new. I wonder if it will ever become my normal.
Hardest part of sobriety this week: Looking at a beer menu and knowing that I could order a beer and it would not hurt anyone.
Best part of sobriety this week: The confidence that sprouts from self-restraint and not ordering that beer.