Yesterday, in the Parisian suburbs on cloudless blue-sky afternoon, I attended a BBQ thrown by some dear friends. It was your typical BBQ get-together; the unmistakeable aroma of cooking meat that is enough to make passers-by salivate with jealousy, the laughter and sharing of stories, the clinking of glasses and both the literal and figurative warmth these occasions yield. My son played table-tennis in the garden with various people as my daughter ran up and down the patio steps with a giant purple gym-ball, the sound of chattering folks in the background like a soothing symphony to my ears. Good times.
For whatever reason – and it has never happened at any post-drinking BBQ's before, and there have been many – I found myself in a trance reflecting on all the pre-sobriety BBQ's I'd attended in my not-so-illustrious career as an alcoholic. Boy, did I wince. I remembered (kind of) many a time where I would drink three times what anyone else at the gathering would consume, or covertly finding a bottle of whisky in the hosts liquor cabinet and downing a quarter of it by the neck and discreetly slipping it back into place, all the while thinking Gotcha! All of the times I fell over and made an idiot out of myself and my friends or family, the countless blurs I tried to piece together the morning after the night before. Texting or emailing people to apologise for the Herculean ass I'd made of myself and so on. Is it because I am hitting the two-and-a-half-year sobriety mark? Don't know. I do know this, looking at the days of the drunk, I see things very clearly now.
In the early stages of my sobriety the thoughts of being around that many people and not being loaded was enough to induce a panic attack. Lots of people talking and moving and eating and drinking. Overload. I used to think that I was the life and soul of the party and that if I gave up the magic ingredient to my affability, the booze, I would lose my Samson-like social fire-power. The beer was Samson’s hair. And I wasn't getting no haircut. Being drunk at a gathering is like this: you feel nothing. This can be good and bad, mostly bad though. I was like a satellite in a crowd, I would orbit the groups picking up bits of conversations and inject some humour before blasting off again on a trajectory unknown. Being loaded makes one great at talking, problem is you end up talking at folks instead of to them. As for being a listener, well, that's not part of the program at all. I'm the alcoholic, I'm the selfish one, who cares what's up with you. This may all sound very cynical but it is a certain measure of the truth. The greatest fear is thinking that without being lit I cannot participate in this social group at all, truth be known I was missing out on life. I read an interview with the author Mary Karr recently, no stranger to the high-life herself, and she ended it by saying ~
When I got sober, I thought giving up was saying goodbye to all the fun and all the sparkle, and it turned out to be just the opposite. That’s when the sparkle started for me.