I’ve just got back from our annual girls weekend away. This was our 30th trip – 5 of the 11 of us have been every time -we’ve gained and lost some friends over the years. We eat, laugh, dance, sing, walk, play games and usually drink – a lot. Last year I couldn’t have imagined doing this weekend without alcohol. This year I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.
I had two different thought processes going on beforehand in preparation for the weekend. I knew it wouldn’t work if I didn’t do some planning. The first was really thinking about the past weekends and the role of alcohol in them. The last few years I’ve been so drunk I’ve passed out relatively early; or not wanted to go on a walk the next day. My weekend was centred around drinking but for others that’s just a part of it. I used to manage the alcohol and all the other fun too – I’ve never been one for staying in bed even after the heaviest nights; but alcohol had been quietly stealing more and more from me in recent years. I thought about my friends. In my mind everyone gets pissed all weekend long. I reminded myself that not everyone drinks like I used to. I anticipated more conversations with my more sober friends and joining in more other stuff. I concluded that I had enjoyed the recent holidays less because I drank too much, and I would enjoy the majority of the holiday more this year without alcohol.
However my parallel thought process involved imagining myself feeling isolated and bored whilst everyone else was enjoying themselves; going to bed and getting woken up and getting angry. Getting irritated by someone’s comments and leaving abruptly or worse still arguing with them and leaving after a big fall out. Fears that my sobriety would somehow break the weekend and with it the bonds of friendship that have formed over 30 years. At no point did I imagine having a drink though.
Friday afternoon we all started to arrive. A drink and some food at the pub before the house. All ok. The on line shopping arrived and I started to have a bit of a wobble as I couldn’t find the Seedlip I’d asked for amongst all the wine and there was no San Pelligrino mineral water. (Can you imagine the hardship!) Stroppy words were coming out of my mouth – the enactment of ‘Mrs sorry for herself, I’m not going to have fun, it’s not fair”. I went upstairs and took a few minutes. Had a word with myself and asked what I really wanted? To spoil everyone else’s fun because of my resentment or to give it a go? Just as I decided on the latter I heard someone shout upstairs ‘found the Seedlip’.
I came down and joined in. Singing and dancing round the kitchen table as we all helped cook. For various reasons it wasn’t as mental a Friday night as it can be and I really had fun. I was pretty stoned but I didn’t drink and I was buzzing from the revelation that I could have this kind of fun without alcohol.
Saturday morning hangover free – that feeling never gets old does it? Most of us went on a walk and the day passed pleasantly. So far so good. Sat night caught me by surprise and off guard after Friday though. There was quite a lot of drinking before dinner and everyone got in the zone except me. Dancing, really into the music, loads of energy and laughing hysterically at pretty much anything. It was amusing for a while but that wore off. I danced a bit but I was tired, my hip was sore and I was probably too stoned. Conversations were brief, repetitive and dull. One friend wanted to talk about her drinking and wanting to stop herself; a conversation I’d happily have with her but not when she’s drunk ideally. I wanted to go to bed but didn’t want anyone to drunkenly try to make me stay up as I knew that would flip me into angry mode. Eventually I did and left them to it.
Sunday I was up hours before anyone else. I did some yoga and drank tea. I wanted to leave. I felt weird; separate and other. A lot of the talk all day was inevitably about the evening before and I wasn’t part of it. I didn’t go on the walk as it looked like rain. I was worrying about the pub lunch; would they all get drunk and repeat last night? I said I might go home later and kept my options open.
I ended up staying. Only a couple of people got drunk Sunday night. Everyone else toned it down a lot. They probably have every year but I’ve never noticed before! We played cards, sang along to old songs and had a lovely time.
So what have I learnt? Most importantly I have amazing friends and I genuinely enjoy their company. I was right that the rest of the weekend was better without alcohol and without a hangover. I was also right that really drunk people are not much fun even if you love them a lot unless you’re drunk too. Maybe this will change? Part of how I felt was grief for party animal me. I won’t be that person again and actually she did have lots of really good times. Paid a price but good times none the less. It’s not honest to say alcohol is never fun. I was missing out on Saturday and I did mind. Would it have been worth drinking to join in? No. I also don’t think being stoned really helped at all. It’s not a sociable drug really and I think I may have been better completely sober.
The best lesson learnt is that if I can do that weekend without alcohol I can do pretty much anything I want to! The key is ‘want to’. I actually think my partying days are probably over. I don’t want to be around people when their main purpose is to get shitfaced unless it’s something like this weekend when it’s a small part of a great time with people I really love.