There's a question I'm asked every now and then from people who want to know what it's like not drinking at parties:
"Is it hard for you?"
The answer, finally, is No.
It wasn't always this way. This summer, my third sober summer, is the first time I can honestly say that not drinking wasn't hard, most of the time.
At parties I would stare at people drinking, fixate on them as they raised their wineglass to their lips. I was jealous of them; it was like watching an ex-boyfriend dance with another woman at a party. Even though I knew the ex-boyfriend was bad for me, and I was mostly glad to be rid of him, it still hurt to see.
I monitored everyone's drinking. Look at her, she's walking away from a half-full glass of wine. I think that is his fourth drink, maybe he has a problem?
We had a busy Labor Day weekend. We went to two parties, one with friends from town and another with old friends we hadn't seen in a while. It didn't occur to me until the weekend had passed that the old jealousy was gone. As I dashed around to get ready for a party on Saturday night, slipping into my new little black dress and putting makeup on, all I thought about was how fun it would be to reconnect with friends, have a evening out with my husband.
I almost forgot to be grateful.
But later in the evening on Saturday I felt the atmosphere of the party shift, and I remembered: Oh yeah, I'm not drinking. I can practically set my watch to it, this shift, and it happens around 10:30pm every time. Conversations get louder. And less interesting. People start repeating themselves, get a little slurry, a little sloppy, and I know it's my cue to leave.
When I was drinking I would have been so fixated on having more to drink that I would cut conversations off in order to go to the bar. I would hover near the alcohol all night, and the next day I wouldn't remember names of the people I had met, or what we talked about. I would have a pit in my stomach, wondering: Did I make a fool of myself? Could people tell I had too many?
There are difficult moments, of course. But they pass quickly, because all I have to do is remember all the gifts I have received in sobriety. I can be present in my life all the time. Drinking felt like a prison; I could never let go, be myself, because my mind was constantly tugged toward the need for more.
Now? Now I am free.