It’s not like the old days when I could pop a cork or twist off a bottle top to celebrate. I can’t even have a cheeky glass of bubbly. The conga-line that I have been permanently attached to for the past 25 years has fizzled out. All that’s left is me, in a wonky paper hat tooting on a broken blower with the scent of exploded party poppers lingering on my feather boa.
I used to celebrate life with alcohol. Birthday. Booze. Christmas. Booze. After 5pm. Booze. It was my go-to, my reliable friend, my guarantee of what I called ‘A good night on the Razzle Dazzle’. But what do I do now there is no Raz? What is there if there is no party? How, as a sober person, do I celebrate?
My answer is easy. I have no fucking idea. How can you celebrate and not drink?
Drinking is so ingrained in me that (even after 846 days sans alcohol) celebrating doesn’t seem normal without a drink in hand. My brain is still wired to believe that all celebrations should coincide with a visit to the bottle shop and filling an esky with ice. Even though I don’t drink my drinking habits aren’t far from the surface.
I still invite neighbour’s round for a wine or a beer on the deck and I show an eager interest in girls’ weekends to Wineries. I click yes to a party invites on my Facebook page and I like memes of women from the 1950’s drinking gin. I can’t help it. I may have stopped the drinking, but the drinking culture is still soaked deep into my skin.
So deep that I’m struggling to find creative ways to celebrate. Celebrations seem almost pointless if I can’t get blotto. I mean, what the point in watching Eurovision without necking wines? And how could anyone have a girl’s night out without sinking shots?
I’ve tried eating more chocolate. But it’s just not the same. There’s no buzz, no relief. Even the moment a room temperature Lindt ball bursts it’s gooey loveliness into my mouth doesn’t fill me with the same joy as a Vodka lime and soda.
I suppose I could have celebratory sex with my husband. Bring in the New Year with a joyful shag. But as all mothers know that’s way too hard. I can’t be bothered. I’m too tired. I want to relax and watch Netflix, not get all sexy face. I want to wind down, put my feet up and wear baggy clothes. Some intense rubbing and overzealous wriggling doesn’t appeal after a day of dealing with shitty nappies and Spaghetti O’s.
Motherhood has interrupted my sexiness for now. (don’t worry husband- when the kids are gone, I’m all yours)
I’ve tried cracking open a bottle of Appletize or a sticking some mint in a virgin mojito to make me feel like I’m drinking but it’s no good. I just want wine. I just want that feeling of alcohol pumping through my veins. I want to embrace oblivion and let the good times roll.
Booze is clever like that. When I feel like a drink, I automatically remember the good bits. The bits when I’m laughing, flirting and being the life and soul of the party.
I've had to develop a technique. It’s very simple.
If I feel like drinking, I sit and I think about it.
I think of after the first one, past the second and far beyond the third.
I think hours into my bender, I go beyond the laughing and flirting. I head into the darkness and walk around in the fear.
I remember my panic and the day I ignored my crying child.
I move beyond the good and I feel the bad.
That’s how I get through. I remember what an awful drinker I am. It takes time and effort to bring these truths to the forefront of my brain. But I do it. I sit. I think and I wait. Like ghosts from my past I allow the feeling to go through me.
Remembering gives me strength. And I get to say no.
I go to bed early on New Year’s Eve. I jump on the bus before the stripper arrives and I sneak out of parties before the candles are lit. Culture screams stay but I’m on that bus flicking my middle finger out of the back window in cultures face! because life isn’t about following the crowd, it’s about finding the path that works for you. Sober works for me. Drinking doesn’t. Simple.
My sober life means more to me than a one-off celebratory moment. It means every moment in my life is now available. Every single day is a party, it’s a bit of a boring party involving tea and bad dancing to ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ but it’s my party and I’m there to bear witness to my joy rather than drown it out. I’m there to connect with friends rather than talk over them and I’m there for my children rather than ignoring them.
I’m there and I’m sober.
So, there may not be as many parties or conga lines or snapping of strippers thongs but that doesn’t mean my life is without fun. It’s just Sober fun and it feels, well.... better.
Note - People resist change because they focus on what they have to give up rather than what they have to gain. I see many people are doing dry July this month. I wonder if it will lead to lasting sobriety for some? I wonder if that little window will be enough to turn heads? I hope so. I hope they experience the benefits, the better sleep, the real connections, the lack of hangovers, the weight loss, the brightness and the light. I hope the get a glimpse of life beyond the bottle, focus on the gain and envisage change. It might take many dry Julys to quit but I cant but help have total respect those that are giving it a go.
Today I celebrate with strawberries!