My January detox has come and gone with relative ease and it is with an unfamiliar clarity of thought I sit down and write this on a Sunday morning, free from a hangover.
A deeper part of me has also awakened from its dormant state and prompted me to re-evaluate my relationship with alcohol which hasn’t really been under such scrutiny for a long time.
When I’ve drank alcohol in the past, I considered myself provocative but playful. Verbal jousting with friends was par for the course and all in good humour.
Another recent sober night out with drinking friends taught me just how close to the bone some of their comments could be. Dispatched with humour, these comments could be construed in an entirely different light by someone else.
I’ve found that by being around friends who drink, you really do need to take what they say with a pinch of salt. Sometimes they say certain things to get a rise out of you, or provoke a reaction. A sober man’s thoughts are a drunken man’s words, is the popular phrase. I don’t buy into that. A lot of what comes out of my friends mouth’s when drunk is illogical and downright nasty. But viewed in its proper context, with alcohol being a conduit for exaggerated and prejudiced speech, you really can’t take anything said as fact.
As Clint Eastwood once said
Opinions are like assholes. Everyone’s got one.
Even more so after a few drinks and the more outlandish, the better. Two particular memories underpin this idea.
I remember a conversation I had with my sister-in-law one evening, and she quizzed me on why I wasn’t drinking this particular night. My reply that I just wanted to build confidence speaking to strangers was met with considerable disdain.
She said that if someone had approached her sober when she was single, then she would have considered that person ‘weird’, carrying some hidden agenda.
That stuck with me for some time afterwards. Being a member of the opposite sex whose opinion I valued, I archived her observation in the heavily padded journal ‘More reasons to drink‘.
The second memory involved me imparting my worldly knowledge and advice to a friend of mine, who hadn’t been drinking. We were in a club and I was lamenting our failure in wooing two women at the bar. My enthusiasm and encouragement to approach another couple fell on deaf ears. When my sober friend conceded he wasn’t really interested in approaching women tonight, it was then that I asked matter of factly, ‘What’s wrong with you?‘ This off the cuff comment clearly pushed a button, and that was the last time I saw him for almost 2 years.
These two examples highlight the power drunken words have on people around you. Especially on sober people. On the receiving end of these comments, it is important not to put too much stock on what is said. Just as motoring skills are impaired with even one alcoholic beverage, so too are your skills of logic and deduction.
Shielding your sober self from barbed comments is essential if nights out involve drunken friends. The key is to see it for what it really is. Playful banter. Rather than react with hostility, I believe a better approach is to roll with the punches. Plenty of criticism has rolled my way over the past few weekends as I forego alcohol. Instead of engaging in debate, reacting negatively to their playful jibes, I smile in the knowledge that I am in full control of my mind and mouth.
That smile tends to widen even further as I greet them in work on a Monday morning as their sleep deprived, weary bodies shuffle around the office. And then, a little part of me feels vindicated that the decision to abstain at least for that night was a sound one.