Reflections on a month of sobriety

No-vember is over. After 4.5 weeks of not drinking, I’m back on the booze train bound for Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve and, horrifyingly, my 25th birthday. Before the drinking begins in earnest, the time has come to reflect on the month that was. It was the longest I’ve gone without booze since I was in high school. I’ve never done a Febfast or an Ocsober, or a liver cleanse, or a well-intentioned booze-free New Year’s resolution. Hence I expected to be challenged by No-vember. I was, but not in the way I thought I would be.

I never realised how much I relied on alcohol as a social crutch. Beer usually does a wonderful job of quieting my inner dialogue but this month I found myself distracted from polite conversation by thoughts like “your laugh sounds so weird, tone it down” and “god, you’re so boring, say something funny”. I ran out of things to say quickly, I chastised myself for being boring and pathetic, and generally did not have a good time at large social functions. Disconcerted, I began analysing my use of alcohol in social situations. I didn’t really like what I was observing.

No-vember involved an unexpected trip back home to Australia. I expected that to be a challenge, particularly considering all the looming social commitments, but it really wasn’t. Admittedly, a beer would have been a delightful accompaniment to our surf club lunch overlooking the beach, but a Coke was fine. It turned out that friends and family were far more interested in the catching up part rather than how it was to take place. So there were meals and coffees instead of beers and pubs, and that was perfectly fine. No-vember was pushed to the back of my mind during my time in Oz, somewhat surprising for a country whose citizens spend four years of their lives with a hangover.

My social crutch theory took a slight battering following that trip. Maybe I wasn’t as socially inept and reliant on alcohol as I thought. That trip involved old friends though, new friends could potential tell a different story. So we attended a spectacular Thanksgiving dinner hosted by a couple we met not long after we arrived in Singapore. This would be more of a challenge, with new friends there are still the odd awkward silences, not to mention the other guests we were yet to meet. But it was lovely. I ate my weight in dinner and dessert, and everyone chatted away until after midnight. Alcohol didn’t cross my mind.

The final example was my highly anticipated (by me) return to drinking. Partner 2’s work Christmas party. It had all the makings of my nightmare: hundreds of people I didn’t know yet had to make polite and engaging conversation with for the good (or at least not to the detriment) of Partner 2’s career. That may be overdramatised but it gives you an idea about my stream of consciousness prior to these sort of events. But alcohol was by my side, and together we had a lovely time. I was reminded painfully though of the time we spent apart the next morning. Despite a relatively restrained night (especially considering the extravagant bar tab), I suffered through a throbbing headache until the following evening. A reminder of one of the many upsides to not drinking.

So this is the part where, I suppose, I talk about what I ‘learned’ and how I’ve ‘grown’. Unfortunately, I don’t think it was all that much. I already knew what was reinforced by No-vember. I don’t like big social situations, I don’t like meeting new people who I will most likely only see once or twice, I don’t like small talk and having the same conversation over and over again with different people. At the risk of sounding like a huge loser, I’d much prefer a small dinner with close friends than some raging party. Large social functions are, unfortunately in my case, an inevitable part of life. Perhaps I rely too heavily on alcohol to get through these situations but, until I find an alternative, it’s what works for me. No-vember has, though, made me more aware of incidental drinking. Beer won’t be a staple of our weekly grocery shop anymore and a movie and pizza night won’t always be accompanied by a drink. I’ll reinstate my ‘not during the week’ policy and try and be more considered when it comes to how much I’m drinking.

That said. We are headed into the festive season, and I’ve got a liver to fatten up.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Resilience

Today I wrote something depressing in a coffee shop and it went a little like this:

“Some years ago, I counted resilience among my key qualities. The moment I got knocked down, I was climbing to my feet and asking for more.

Now I’m not so certain.

As youth’s irrepressible confidence dissipates, I find myself vulnerable. Each failure, each rejection corrodes me.

Increasingly, I find myself too shy to speak up in class or even post here. It’s hard to engage in conversation without stuttering thoughts of self-doubt amassing.

Resilience is so important. Resilience and drive.

Now my resilience has faded, my drive seems to shrug and follow suit.

This is the worst part. Wanting something for so long. Working so hard. Then not wanting it anymore.”

Wow, I sound like a love-struck teenager. It’s funny how words hold so much meaning when they’re scrawled on the back of a pay slip in a dark coffee shop. Things look different in the light.

You know what? Resilience is feeling that way and still getting on with it. Resilience is going back for more despite rejection and failure. Resilience is almost breaking your nose and playing frisbee the next game. (See Shiners post.)

Screw you, payslip. I can take what you got.