I was two solid weeks into sobriety when I started breaking the news to my girlfriends. They were shocked. Well, some of them were. Okay, not shocked. Surprised maybe. Well, one of them was. Okay, so maybe she wasn’t surprised. She was disappointed. And a bit sad. At first.
For years I had been a reliable drinking buddy. I could be counted on. It was understood. There would always be booze. Friday night, Saturday night or Wednesday afternoon. Cocktails were part of the friendship. It was understood. We spoke the same language.
And so my friend was understandably distraught when I told her it was over. She mulled over every possibility she could think of. Reasons why the drinking wasn’t working out so well for me. She considered it all. The nitrates. Red before white. White before red. Empty stomach. Full stomach. My hormones. The full moon. I painstakingly ruled out every suggestion my friend offered while she held out hope that maybe we could figure this thing out. That maybe I didn’t have to quit entirely. Just change things up a little. Drink better. Drink smarter. Drink different.
But I had already considered every possibility, I assured. For me, there was no more denying. The problem was me. The problem was booze. The problem was me and booze. There was no wiggle room. It was over. Me and booze weren’t working out anymore. It was over for sure.
“I’m gonna miss your drunk, happy ass,” she said, finally. “But I’m proud of ya. If it’s what you want, then I want it for you.”
And with that, always the hostess, she headed to the kitchen and created for me the most beautiful drink concoction she could come up with. Minus the booze.
We sat in her backyard as we’d done a hundred times before. The French doors wide open and the music cranked up. The melancholy voice of Norah Jones drifted out into the cool night air. Logs smoldered in the fire pit. Candles flickered on the patio table between us. Little white garden lights twinkled in the trees. My friend’s dogs, all three of them, stretched out lazily around the pool. The water was a thick winter green.
Me with my flamboyant faux cocktail. My friend with her scotch.
We soaked up the atmosphere and mourned the loss of me.
It was too soon yet to celebrate the new me. We weren’t even sure who that would be.
Not quite ten o’clock, it was uncharacteristically early when I decided to call it a night. There was no talk of sleeping over. No thoughts of calling home to ask my husband for a ride. No calculating how much wine I’d drunk in how many hours. We didn’t do the math. None of that was necessary. Not a drop.
As I drove home the sadness slipped away and I relished in the freedom of being able to simply get up and go. The freedom of sobriety.
In the weeks and months that followed I dropped by my friend’s house less often than usual. But when I did she and the rest of the girlfriends tripped over each other fixing me something pretty, fruity, fizzy, non-alcoholic in a grown up glass. It wasn’t necessary. It was awkward really. But it came from the heart. They wanted me to feel welcome and comfortable. They wanted me to succeed in my decision to quit. They cared.
I don’t see those girlfriends anymore (except Facebook, of course). My family moved from the area several years ago. I’m forever grateful though, for the way they rallied to support me in those early days.
Good friends are hard to come by. Yet, I’ve got a bunch of em. Cause I’m lucky like that, I guess.