A few weeks ago I had quite the obstacle course of drinking temptations, starting with my first sober wedding on a Saturday. That was followed up by a bachelorette party on Wednesday, a Welcome Party on Thursday, a drinking work event on Friday, a rehearsal dinner on Friday, culminating in another wedding on Saturday night. Peppered with all kinds of people I did not know, folks I’ve known for years, and one of the most terrifying incidents in the entire world: close range acoustic guitar playing.
As I’ve learned in many of these first sober times before – I leaned on alcohol A LOT to facilitate normal human interaction when I was drinking. You may not know it to talk to me, but it legit feels like my skin has turned inside out and my nerves are on the outside to be sober at these damn things. Where is my personality? What am I going to talk about? Will they like me? Who am I and why am I not more interesting? I really should have paid more attention in Art History so I would have something interesting to talk about… My brain goes into overdrive and I start having an internal battle of epic proportions that could surely end up with me in a corner rocking back and forth, hands over my ears, and eyes shut tight. But that would be weird so I don’t do that. I paint a smile on, laugh nervously, and contain the mini-war all inside my brain.
Honestly this type of anxiety is one of the main reasons I started drinking in the first place. Sober Brantley was scared shitless, never said the right thing, and was about as awkward as a baby giraffe. However, drunk Brantley was not only charming and full of interesting things to talk about (so I thought), but man is she FUN and she does not give a fuck! Stowing your “giveafuck” away in your purse can be great for a little bit, but that can be very dangerous. Giving a fuck is kind of important so you don’t, oh I don’t know, end up in the trunk of someone’s car (not a true story) or laugh so hard you fall ass up over a couch in front of your boss (true story).
The first wedding went truly, honestly great! I think the fact that I didn’t really know that many people helped a lot, so there really just wasn’t a lot of peer pressure to join in the boozing and stay until the very end. And as I have noticed time and again, everyone really was too worried with themselves to really notice I wasn’t drinking…. Except one snotty bartender who hassled me when I ordered a Ginger Ale, straight up:
Bartender: “JUST Ginger Ale?”
In my head: “Did I stutter? Yes, JUST Ginger Ale, you jackass. Come at me, bro!”
Out loud with sheepish expression: “Yes, please.” *slinks away feeling lame*
Side rant: Why do bartenders drink shame in the first place? It’s not like I asked for a very specific ginger ale with exactly 3 half-inch slices of pineapple, one tablespoon of grenadine, and an origami straw – bartender’s choice. I swear, getting sober would be so easy if other people wouldn’t be so judgy. I remember during my first few weeks of being alcohol-free, I ordered Ginger Ale in a champagne glass when I was out with my sister and some friends. The millennials I was with were in respectful awe of my decision not to drink (my shenanigans are legendary around those kids), but these bartenders were making fun of me almost to my face for my request. Which was not even that special and they were not even crowded. Why does it piss them off so bad?? Is it that natural inclination to make fun of the thing you wish you could do? Does it bother them that it’s a cheap drink? I paid for it and would have left a 300% tip if they weren’t such assholes. I wonder how many people turn away from the thing that could save their lives because other people shame them into not doing it.
But I digress…
The following week brought two parties for a dear friend that has been in my husband’s life since they were kids and it was crazy how not a big deal it was that I was not drinking. A lot of friends who I had not seen in a hot minute have been following along via my posts and told me how genuinely proud they were and happy for me. There were a few little awkward moments where people who were drinking felt like they had to explain themselves and I assured them that my decision is about me and they were free to do whatever they wanted, free of my judgment.
The best part of the whole thing was that I actually went to the parties and saw these dear friends, rather than nixing my attendance altogether because I knew I would inevitably drink too much, end up hungover as shit the next day and either call in sick or smell like a bar floor the next day at work. I legitimately used to just decline social obligations altogether in anticipation of my hangover – that. is. banana pants. Rather than spend time with people I care about, I would pre-emptively remove myself because I knew I would have to drink to excess because I was unable to stop. That was an epiphany in itself!
The work event went swimmingly and I didn’t have to slink into work on Monday, praying everyone else was as drunk as I was and didn’t remember anything ridiculous I did that might possibly end up in a pink slip. As with all of these, I had the momentary twinges where I missed being able to drink up some faux confidence and I did have to dodge a few obnoxious questions about the seltzer I was drinking (even though I have made it very clear I don’t drink anymore), but I acknowledged them and sent them on their way. Another epiphany dawned on me as well that the amount of time and energy I wasted being, well, wasted and dreading the consequences of my actions (that I felt were completely beyond my control) could have saved the world a couple of times over or at least invented some kind of thigh-slimming cream.
At wedding #2, there was an array of AF options lined up just like the liquor, to which I was incredibly grateful. Just order from the glorious lineup like everyone else! And I got to see, with clear eyes, one of my husband’s best friends marry his sweetheart. I appreciated the gravity of the commitment they were making and remembered my own commitment I made during our vows. I was able to more acutely observe the people around me. How much love surrounds a wedding and really think about what the two people getting married are committing to. My energy was that of genuine love and joy for the couple and not a genuine race with myself to see how many vodka sodas I could drink before the bar closed up
So as I wrap up, a few things became very clear to me: drinking added so much more anxiety around these unavoidable social events than was ever ever ever necessary. Taking it away was like experiencing things for the first time in a wonderful way. I am picking up time left and right by kicking the booze to the curb.
Highlights: picking up a badass hippie patchwork skirt at a place in Dahlonega, great car ride with the hubs where we talked about things that would only come up on a 5-hour car ride, catching up with old friends and sharing in the joy with our favorites, Rush’s milkshakes and French fries on the way home.
Pros: Good sleep, actually experiencing and recognizing the moments in someone’s wedding, having real conversations with people you don’t see all the time, better pictures (no tongue out or sloppy eyes), no hangover or regret because of what you may have said to Uncle Dave, spent less money on Uber, you get to make sure your loved ones get home safe, you don’t miss any of the funny/special/happy moments (you remember everything!), didn’t have to coordinate driving arrangements, not not attending because I knew I would be hungover the next day, zero stopping to puke on the drive home
Cons: About 15 minutes of discomfort getting your lay of the land, being ready to call it a night before anyone else, the bartender who drink shames you, dealing with drunk people
And a little advice: Communicating with drunk people after a certain time is frustrating and a battle you just can’t win, so it is useless to try. Just pack your patience and remember they’re hammered, so you are the one in charge of you and you can leave any time you want!
All in all – I highly recommend sober social events. They are going to be awkward as ass at first, but once you embrace the clarity and all the hassle you’re saving yourself – it’s going to be awesome. As with all of the sober firsts – just be prepared so you don’t have to panic in any situation. Know what you’re going to say if someone asks you about drinking, have an idea of what you’ll order at the bar, and drive yourself so that if you start feeling icky, you can flee to the comfort of stretchy pants and Netflix.
And most of all – remember that you are a badass for tackling these things sober. So many people wouldn’t even dream of doing a wedding sober and you are all up in it, doing it on purpose! If I can do it – anyone can do it… just please don’t play your guitar too close to me and make eye contact. That will send me running for the hills!