Saturday, 30 April 2016

What a Difference a Year Makes

A year ago, when I was exactly two months sober, I wrote this post - Tartan and Tiaras - about a huge Scottish society ball that Mr and SM and I went to.

Seven hundred dancers, from the age of eighteen to eighty, dressed in clan tartan and doing traditional Scottish reels.

Well, last night we went again.

This event has remained pretty much unchanged for over one hundred and fifty years. It's all floor length dresses, dance cards, bagpipes, diamonds and sporrans.

The only thing that changes is the other guests get younger and younger.

When I first went, more then twenty years ago, I was part of the fast, young set. Now, I find myself a grande dame (or old bag, depending on which way you look at it). How did that happen?

I always get a bit nervous leading up to the ball.

Yesterday I was in a panic about several things. Would I manage to get the children fed, bathed, and ready for bed, whilst also getting dolled up myself, before the babysitter arrived at 7pm? Would I remember all the steps? Could I make it through to 3am without keeling over?

Then it struck me. One thing that hadn't bothered me at all, was the idea of doing it all sober. In fact, just the thought of doing all of that while drunk gave me the heebie jeebies. How on earth did I manage it?

The thing about these annual events, these fixed points of stability and consistency in a fast changing world, is that they give you an unnerving perspective on time.

For years the ball gave me a sense of time slipping through my fingers. To paraphrase John Lennon, another year over, and what have we done?

I didn't feel like that last night. I looked back on the year that had passed since I last twirled my way through the Reel of the Fifty First Highland Division and felt....proud.

I'd lost the drink, found myself, and dealt with cancer. It wasn't the best of years, but at least I'd grabbed it by the sweaty bollocks, not just let it pass me by, unnoticed.

At about 2am, I looked around our group of fifty friends, and realised, yet again, that hardly anyone was drunk. And the ones that were stood out like sore thumbs.

I'd assumed for years that most people drank the way I did. I thought that if, by the end of an evening, I was a little unsteady, repetitive and slurry no-one would pay much attention, because they would be in the same state.

Now I cringe at the thought that none of it would have gone unnoticed.

So, this morning I've woken up exhausted after only four hours sleep, and aching all over.

In a way it reminds me of waking up with a hangover. You do that sort of inventory of how you feel, and use it to piece together the night before.

But, rather than my aches and pains reminding me of embarrassments and misdemeanours, they bring back memories of a magical night, celebrating another year passed with great friends, music and dance.

There are much better ways to get high than drinking.

Love SM x

(To follow my story from Day One, click here)


  1. It was about this time last year that I decided to stop. After a big family party I dropped out of a family whatsapp group as was drunk and leery and they were 'annoying' me. I don't remember doing it and had to cringingly ask to rejoin as i need to be on it for family arrangements. I'm 46 years old!!! A week after that I stopped drinking. Very suddenly and with no planning. I read an article about soberistas then found your blog and that was it. I think your comment about assuming everyone else was as drunk as you is so true. And pretty embarrassing really. Your Highland fling ball sounds fun and I bet you burnt off a few hundred calories with all that dancing x

  2. Congratulations on everything! How wonderful to truly be able to enjoy and rem miner what sounds like a magical night!


  3. I'm going to throw something out there and suggest that more people were probably in the same, drunken state as you (in the old days) than you would estimate.
    I think to some degree or other alcohol and it's hold is in most people's minds. I know for myself I was thinking about it 10 years or more before I actually gave it up. So most people will be on that road in some shape or form.
    I remember a few months ago when I told the school mums I had given up and the reasons why. 90% of them looked guilty, shifty and said they could identify.
    There's the stigma attached with talking about alcohol and it's influence that stops the true picture being visible. Wouldn't it be great if we could take the discussion and support out of the online Soberverse and into a face to face one without fear of judgement and repercussions....A long way off I fear xxxx

  4. I agree with Scous Mous on your terrific post. I thought the same thing about the others at your event. I know so many women our age who are having to rethink their alcohol intake. Most because of conflicting issues with menopause but when I watch them describe why they have cut down or quit, there is something behind their eyes.

  5. Sounds like a wonderful night SM! I think you're right in that as the years pass, most people I know drink less and less. They can't cope with the hangovers. whatever. I have been aware for some time that on my girls lunches, etc. they all tapered off and then asked for coffee when I felt I was just getting going! It has helped me stop, and it's not a big deal at all to them that I have stopped, although they would prefer I have the odd drink now and then. That won't be happening... (I hope!). Day 50 for me - yahoo! Thanks SM for all your support through this blog. Enjoy your weekend!

  6. I know, huh? Sounds magical indeed, can you get me an invite for next year?

  7. Did go read last year's report. This line, I loved:

    'And, in case you're wondering, it's true. A proper Scot never wears anything under his kilt.'

    Sounds like a bit of twirling goes with all those tartans and tiaras, eh? So another good morning laugh! Thanks for that, SM!

    Love the whole idea of the evening - sounds sooo grand!

  8. You've come a long way baby!!! You did fail to mention that you probably had to get a new gown because you are 20 lbs. thinner!!! That's a biggie too! It is interesting to think of the things we are now doing sober that we used to do whilst drinking and wonder how in the hell we accomplished it! Talk about high functioning!!! And NW1996 posts cracked me up! I remember reading that too...and wondering....