For a blog which began to document my attempts to not drink alcohol for a year, it strikes me that I’ve not posted much about the new year when technically I could drink if I wanted. And well, that’s because I haven’t actually wanted a drink yet. There’s been no lack of opportunity. I’ve been to several pub lunches, a couple of post-work dinners, some colleagues’ leaving drinks and several club nights. Not only have I not drunk alcohol at any of them, but it didn’t even occur to me to do so. Not drinking has just sort of naturally segued from “look at me, I am not drinking for a year, I am crazy badass” via “Meh. Alcohol is a rubbish drug. I can’t be bothered” to “Lime and soda please. Oh, no thanks, I don’t drink” without me even noticing.
As I’ve set out to each of these events the thought of having a drink there has been oddly secondary. Occasionally tertiary. I went out dancing last night, and on my way I vaguely considered having some sort of energy drink for larks, but I was still on a sustained endorphin high from a particularly cold swim earlier that day and thus decided I was probably wired enough already. The music was fantastic, but the dancefloor a little slow to get going. After failing to get anyone to dance to Daisy Chainsaw with me so I just went “fuck it” and danced by myself. Stone cold sober. Would I have done that before last year? Sure, I’d have danced by myself; but I would have wanted to have been drunk first so that if anyone was like “look at that saddo dancing by herself” I would have a drunkscuse. Not for the first time I pondered how strangely freeing it is to do something because you want to and not to feel the need to be hammered to justify it.
After my energetic solo dancing I found myself thirsty and headed to the bar, offering to buy a drink for my friend celebrating his birthday at the club. “Brilliant, yes! I’ll come to the bar with you because you’re drinking again now, aren’t you? We can have a drink together!” Um. Well, technically, we could. Because I am not not drinking. Technically. But, well, I don’t want one. He shrugged and said “Fair enough. Seems reasonable.” And, well, it does, doesn’t it?
As I sipped my ginger beer I wondered about this sense of just not really wanting a drink. Put like that, it clearly makes reasonable sense to not start drinking again just for the sake of it – just because my year of abstinence is up. Why would you have an alcoholic drink if you don’t really feel like having one? Put like that, it does actually seem perfectly reasonable to say “I’ll have one when I want one”. But save for that one mulled wine on New Year’s Day, I haven’t actually wanted one.
I didn’t even want a drink when I hit my favourite bar (and according to the proprietor my “second home”) which sells home-made liqueurs; somewhere I’d planned to have drinks at some point when I was drinking again, since my first visit while half way through my no-alcohol 2014. It was odd to look through their cocktail list and know that there was nothing actually stopping me from ordering, and drinking, any of the delicious looking options other than, well, I didn’t want one.
What is it I don’t want? Is it that I don’t want to spend the money? I’ve got so used to spending no more than £5 total on an average night on limes and sodas or the occasional ginger beer or a pot of tea. Perhaps part of me is rebelling at spending more than that on one drink. Is it that I don’t want to be drunk? Perhaps. I’ve spent a whole year being more or less in total control of myself of a night out (a few nights with one too many Monster Rehabs notwithstanding), and an entire year without hangovers has been enough to make me reticent to every have one ever again. Or is it that being a Not Drinker became a powerful symbol of change; became part of who I am in an undefinable way? Is it that I am enjoying being that girl who doesn’t drink but is still fun, and I don’t want to – am not ready to – give that up just yet?
It’s strange for me to have been a binge drinker since the age of (if I am honest here, and sorry Mum) 15 to have been able to so completely remove something from my life that I considered absolutely pivotal to my enjoyment of my social life. It makes me question so much about my past – all of those amazing hilarious drunken nights with friends; would they – could they – have been just as awesome without the ‘drunk’ if my own self esteem and confidence were better? If I’d been able at the age of 15 or 19 or 25 or even 30 to just go and dance on my own like I didn’t actually give a shit what people thought? What about my friends, I wonder. How many of them sometimes really want to do something but feel they need to be drunk to do it? Is this just me, and my own long term anxiety issues, or have we sort of built up a culture around what sort of behaviour is ‘ok when you’re drunk but a bit weird when you’re sober’?
I don’t have any answers to any of the questions I am raising here. The only thing I know for sure is that I don’t want a drink. And more importantly, I don’t need one. Not to get myself revved up to go out. Not to quell going-out-anxiety demons. Not to be the only one on the dancefloor. And until I want one, I am not going to have one. If I find myself needing one, then I am definitely not going to have one.