I was there to prove a point to myself: I can have fun without drinking.
It didn't work.
I made it through, but not happily. I froze a smile onto my face, hugged and chatted with people, talked about how great I felt. But it was a lie. I felt like an alien, a freak, and very, very alone.
At one point someone I hadn't seen in twenty years came back from the bar with two glasses of wine in his hand. "I noticed you needed a drink, so I got you one," he said.
My stomach rolled with longing and dread. "Thanks, but I don't drink anymore."
"Don't drink anymore at ALL?" he asked, his mouth agape.
"Nope. I quit."
He stared at me wide-eyed for a few moments, and then said, "Wow. That must SUCK."
Yes. Yes, it does, I thought.
Towards the end of the night everyone hit the dance floor, and I wandered outside for some fresh air. I looked up at the stars and thought: I'll never have fun at something like this again. It's over.
When I was about a year and a half sober my husband and I were sitting on the couch on a Saturday night, watching a movie.
He let out a long sigh, and I asked him what was wrong.
I looked down at the floor. I didn't apologize; by then I had worked on myself enough that his words didn't hit me in the gut. I knew he was simply telling his own truth.
"You know what I think?" I said. "I think one day I'll get there. I will be able to go out with friends - to a party, a club or for dinner and it won't be hard." He looked over at me, a mixture of sadness and love in his eyes.
"I'm just not there yet. But I believe it will happen. And if it doesn't? I'm okay with that, too."
He put his arm around my shoulder and said, "one day at at time, right?"
At 11:55pm this past New Year's Eve I was on the dance floor.
All around me the room pulsed with energy; hundreds of people dancing and partying at a a huge New Year's Eve Party at a large hotel in Boston. I was swinging my hips and waving my hands over my head, belting out the lyrics to Katy Perry's 'Firework':
You don't have to feel like a waste of space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow
Maybe you're reason why all the doors are closed
So you can open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow
And when it's time, you'll know
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
Steve was dancing next to me, his New Year's party hat slightly askew, grinning like a Cheshire cat. We were surrounded by friends who were all laughing, dancing and singing like a bunch of teenagers.
As the countdown hit midnight, I leaned over and gave Steve a kiss. "Happy New Year," I beamed.
He smiled back, and it hit me: I'm healing. I'm here at a party on New Year's Eve, surrounded by friends and party goers, and what do I feel? I feel complete, fully present, grateful and happy.
I was free.