Sober Thoughts.

Sober Thoughts

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.

Image: Kevin Trotman