One of the areas of sober life that I'm still getting to grips with is socialising.
I still find parties a bit odd. Funnily enough, I don't find myself drawn like a magnet to the bar. I'm happy with a diet coke. Deliriously so if they serve a virgin mojito. But I do feel a bit 'scratchy'. Like I'm on the outside looking in.
On the upside, I always get to drive home. I don't have to worry about slurring, accidentally insulting anyone, constantly having to queue for the loo, or banging into furniture. I don't wake up the next morning feeling like death and dredging the memory banks to see what I have to hate myself for.
And parties are getting easier, but they're still a work in progress.
This was a big concern of mine in the early days. Back on day 13 I wrote a post called Will I Lose All My Friends? (click here). I was worried that, without the drink, people would find me unbelievably dull, and would gradually drift away.
I realise now that the mistake I made was to assume that most socialising has to happen at parties, or, at least, in the evening.
Looking at my diary this week, I have a social event every single day. At least one. But I only have one drinks party. The rest are mid week lunches with girlfriends, coffee and cake dates and long rambling dog walks. And - you know what? This type of 'socialising' is completely transforming my friendships.
When I relied on parties to catch up with friends, I found that you would only ever chat to one person for fifteen minutes. Tops. And you'd only cover the basics. Plus, once I'd had a few drinks it was all about me, me, me. Even if someone did give me some details about their own lives I'd forget them.
Party conversations in my neck of the woods revolve around the same general topics:
(1) Children and schools. Especially the 11+ and Common Entrance exams. To tutor, or not to tutor? Which/how many after school activities to arrange. Gripes about the nanny/au pair.
(2) House prices and home improvements. The problems with builders. The next door neighbour's triple decker basement dig out. Side returns. (Never heard of a side return? Count yourself lucky...).
(3) Where you're going on holiday. Also an opportunity to boast about the second home, and the children's prowess at skiing/French/scuba diving.
The other big conversational topic is gossip. I was a big fan. There's nothing that we people with dark, festering secrets love more than hearing about the imperfections of other people's lives. I especially loved tales of anyone deemed to have an addiction issue. Yay! I'd think. See - I'm not that bad. And even if I am, at least I'm not the only one....
But this endless, mindless chitter chatter, one upmanship and gossip is bad for the soul. And it doesn't nourish friendships.
I remember when I was a teenager, and in my early twenties, I used to spend hours with girlfriends discussing the meaning of life. We knew each other inside out and back to front. We'd exchange hopes, dreams and fears ad infinitum.
Then, for the last decade or so, we'd just meet up at parties and spend ten minutes talking about whose au pair was shagging their husband, and whether it made more sense to do a basement conversion or develop the attic.
But now, I might not be so brilliant at parties, but almost every day I spend an hour with a good friend. We talk about stuff that matters. I listen. I remember. I send them a text wishing them luck on the day of a big job interview. I take round flowers when they're not feeling well. I'm starting to be a good friend again.
I'd completely forgotten the truth that, with friendships, as with life, you get back what you put in. If you see your friendships as merely a source of idle gossip, then you can't rant and rave when it transpires that that's all you are to them.
The question I really should have asked myself isn't 'Will I lose all my friends?' but 'How on earth do I have any friends left?'
Love to you all,