Many people have recently asked when, in their sober life, the feeling of 'missing out' changes to one of 'reaping the benefits' and truly believing in them. There is no set point in time, the change is a gradual one and while you may not know when it will come, you will certainly know when it has arrived.
Last weekend, almost 14 months AF, I knew it had definitely arrived when I went to a colleague's retirement party. I had been to an identical event, in the same venue, 4 years previously, and the experience was very different.
Big dilemma. Retirement party on Friday night. Chap from work I did not know well and was not friendly with but everyone was going and it would be booze-a-plenty and a 'right laugh' so not to be missed. However I had a friends wedding on the Saturday. It was an early start, and would be a long day of continual 'celebrating' and 'toasting'. Definitely not to be missed. I could do both I thought. I wouldn't drink too much on the Friday and Saturday would be the main event.
I asked everyone I knew, about transport to and from the retirement do (it was forty miles away so a taxi was out) but all the usual non-drinkers were not going. I became increasingly desperate as I realised I was going to have to drive. I had made such a big deal about getting there I couldn't not go! Of course, driving made sense; it would ensure I didn't drink too much, I could get home easily and in good time for the next day BUT..
Well, you know don't you? I was annoyed, disappointed, frustrated, angry, that I had to pass on such a party opportunity.
On the night I became anxious getting ready: my hair didn't 'go' right, I couldn't decide what to wear, was I too casual? Too trendy? Too fat? What would people think?
When I arrived I had my gin and tonic straight away and probably had a second. My topic of conversation was mostly bemoaning the fact I was driving. I was dis-interested, thought the food was rubbish, the speeches boring, and the dance floor too empty to go near.
I went home having had a rubbish night, glad of the big boozy wedding the next day.
A woman at work whom I have known for a long time is retiring and the party was last weekend. Same venue. Same catering. Same disco.
I was looking forward to it, to be part of her 'send off' and to see her enjoy all the well-wishing and congratulations and the happy end to a long career.
I did not know what to wear; having recently gained weight, my preferred clothes were not flattering so I had to make do without a dazzling outfit but so what? It was not about me. No-one would be looking at me much anyway and those who were know who I am and what I am, and that does not depend on what I wear. I don't change my opinion of others because they are wearing something I would never have chosen. I got some perspective and got real.
I went in conservative black trousers and a top. I was, in younger parlance, so over it.
On arrival I buzzed around those I hadn't seen for a while or don't get a chance to have anything more than small talk with at work and really enjoyed my conversations.
At the speeches and presentations I felt so happy for my colleague. She was glowing and truly deserving of the praise and compliments she received, I felt quite emotional!
After a few not v.g.sandwiches (no change there. See? Being sober doesn't solve all your problems!) and sufficiently wired by large diet cokes, the girls and I populated the dance floor to all the usual favourite tunes. I was relaxed and had a good time (wishing it was indeed Raining Men!).
Come 10pm I'd had enough. The caffeine buzz was going, I was tired, all the important parts had happened and now it was going to be more of the same for the next three hours. I didn't need anymore, in a good way, I had had enough and the evening was over.
I left for my car noting on the way out tables heaving with wine bottles, pint glasses full of kitty money, ties loosened, shoes thrown off, loud laughter and a couple of arguments.
I could not help feeling smug: I'd had a good night, had not spent a fortune, and would not have a hangover the next day.