My partner and I just took a bike trip to a pretty little island city I used to live in. We spent four sunny days away from work and school, biking and walking and eating in restaurants, hanging out in cafes and bookstores, visiting old friends. I'm back at work today, but I'm pretty darn relaxed.
This was my first sober vacation (other than a visit with my partner's family) since I quit drinking, and I'm amazed at how lovely it is to travel without drinking. I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but it's true! We went to some of my favourite restaurants, places I've gone for years and would never have imagined going without ordering wine, and I can honestly say the meals were better for not having wine with them. It's the same old story as other sober people tell, but it's still fresh and new to me: it's such a relief, not thinking about when we can have wine,obsessing about wine, wondering about having more wine.The only wine worry was remembering to reassure my partner to order some for himself! He's so considerate that he would probably just leave off if he thought it might bother me. I end up looking at wine menus with him, thinking about which wine would go with which food, and that's a big part of the fun anyway. I found myself really enjoying the meals, lingering over them just as we would have if we were drinking a bottle of wine. I ordered a bottle of sparkling water and a wine glass for the nice dinners, so I could keep refilling the glass, as the sipping and pouring seems to be part of the dining ritual I enjoy. After dinner we ordered espresso and dessert because it felt like a celebratory thing to do. I didn't used to be much of a dessert eater--I wonder whether desserts just don't taste as good when you're drinking--but I found myself enjoying the coffee and dessert as much as the main courses. And after dinner each night, we went for a long walk, enjoying the warm weather and clear nights.
I know none of this sounds exciting. But the trip wasn't about excitement. I wanted a break for a few days--just eat, read, walk, and bike--and that's exactly what we did. On the last evening, when we went for a long walk along the ocean, I felt like an old world I'd forgotten was coming back to me. I don't know when I started drinking too much, but walking at night used to be one of my great pleasures, and it was glorious to reclaim it. I was trying to think what we would have been doing if I were drinking, and maybe much of it would have been the same, but I would have been fuzzier, less able to enjoy those lovely moments.
While we were there, I told two old friends I'd quit drinking for good. One I'd talked to in December, when I'd quit for a few months and then started again, so she was a bit surprised, but very curious. I explained that I felt a lot better not drinking, and that I preferred being sober. But then when we talked more, I realized I'd either misrepresented myself or she'd misinterpreted, because she was saying it was interesting that I had started to feel "the pull" of being sober more than "the pull" of drinking. That didn't sound quite right to me--it made it seem like I was just longing to be sober, or that it had all been easy of unconflicted or something, so I tried to be more clear: I had been drinking too much, and it wasn't good for me, and it was hard to quit but I did and I felt better and I was glad I had done it. She wondered what was better, and that's kind of hard to explain: I said I liked being more clear, feeling more and being in the world more, though I admitted that was also the hard part. Then she wanted to know whether I missed that feeling you get when you drink just the right amount of wine, when you feel relaxed and creative (and she went on about that feeling for a while, but I won't go on about it here) and I realized, and said, that I really don't miss it, because I didn't really have it much lately. Eventually it had been too fleeting, that moment when I'd had enough to drink, and it had come at too high a cost to me. She's an old and very dear friend, and it was helpful to talk this all through with someone I know so well. After a bit we went back to the main group conversation, but not before she hugged me and said she was very proud of me. I'm surprised how much that meant to me.
The other conversation was on the phone with another old friend, when we were trying to figure out where to meet. A pub seemed the best option, but I didn't want it to be awkward once we arrived and I ordered soda water. (We have enjoyed many long conversations over much wine and beer over the years.) He just said, "Good for you. I do that once in a while but I never manage it for very long," or something like that. We had a brief, amusing conversation about drinking versus not, and then, next day at the pub, it turned out he'd forgotten about it for a moment. There was nothing awkward, just good friends enjoying each other's company, some drinking, some not.
It's starting to feel normal, this not drinking. I do all the same things, but they don't involve alcohol. It seems to me I feel more feelings and see colours more brightly. I'm so much more present moment to moment. Just looking at the green of the new leaves blows me away sometimes. It's like that. And it's all a lot harder sometimes, too, I guess because so many things are more intense and that can be exhausting. But you know what? I'll take it, harder or not, and when I'm exhausted, that's OK. Everyone gets tired sometimes. Then you just rest, and you feel better. It's just normal.
That's me this week. No big insights or crises, just lots of outdoors and old friends and enjoying the good life, sober. Hooray for that!
If you're still reading, many thanks. I appreciate your company. Peace and joy to you. I hope you're enjoying some good, normal, sober life, too!