Equipping a Sober Shield

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.

drink-drunk-exoen-funny-home-Favim.com-361597These 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.

12 thoughts on “Equipping a Sober Shield

  • I have a glass of wine every night, and love it. I absolutely adore having a drink, but I can’t understand why people don’t know ‘the one that’s one too many’. My husband is a non drinker and it is nothing but an advantage for me as he is always the driver. I never considered it odd that he didn’t drink, although he is very much in the minority.
    I don’t think I drink too much as we don’t go out drinking at the weekends so my weekly tally is within health limits, but it is something I keep and eye on as it would be very easy to slip to drinking more and more.
    Are you staying sober?

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    • I’m a non-drinker also and like you, my husband likes having a drink each night. Just one. It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t impair him. I can totally see why you enjoy your one glass a night. It’s pleasurable, but not addictive.

      Nancy

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it sounds like you have a nice balance there Tric which is what it’s all about at the end of the day. I typically only drink at the weekends anyway, but usually to the point of drunkenness which I need to cut back on. Too many wasted weekends by going to excess and that’s what I need to control better.

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  • As someone who has spent most of my life being out of step with everyone else, being called weird is merely a signal to re-evaluate how important that friendship is. Or in the case of your sister-in-law, someone to avoid. Presumably she doesn’t feel like that anymore (marriage and kids tend to change that thought).

    I think for you the big thing is it’s making you feel better. You have to decide that’s a good reason to stick with the detox. Relying on the people around you isn’t.

    My 25 cents, nothing more.

    Nancy

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  • Hi Aiden,
    Interesting post! As I’ve got older, I’ve increasingly been on nights out where either I’ve not drank, or have had very little to drink. When this has happened, it is usually enlightening to see how perfectly normal, sober people completely transform when fueled by alcohol. Thank you.

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  • Interesting post. I think there are two things going on – possibly three. Our dysfunctional relationship with drink as a nation; our individual relationship with drink; and the bravado and subtle social pressures when it comes to being male in Ireland.

    With regard to the last one, it’s why I have a huge respect for writer Michael Harding and comedian Tommy Tiernan, in particular. They brutally square up to much around masculinity in Ireland and peel away the complexities with a refreshing honest and maturity. Declan Lynch also writes very powerfully on Ireland’s relationship with drink. All worth checking out.

    I drank heavily for many years. In one way it was a great tour-guide of the soul at the right time and place. I had a lot of fun. In other ways it a destructive form of self-medicating that was curbing long-term happiness.

    The lack of dispassionate discussion around drink in Ireland is disappointing, as is the portrayal of non-drinkers as party-pooping bores. Wearing the projected insecurities of others gets a bit wearing at times.

    As for my own habits now.. I might break through to the other-side in a spontaneous session once in a while. I associate drink with social bonhomie. And whilst there are always risks attached to that, it’s personally preferable to cultivating a habit at home. I couldn’t be arsed with that. Simple as that.

    Continued good luck with your personal insights. Good to read.

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    • Tenderness thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I wasn’t aware of Lynch and Harding but have since googled them and read their own story with interest. Thanks for the pointers.

      Neither was I aware that Tommy Tiernan had given up alcohol. On the comedy circuit I knew of Des Bishop and his high profile critique of our drinking habits which was featured in an RTE documentary which was very disturbing. Having travelled extensively around the America’s and Europe, we definitely have a drinking problem on our hands as a nation, and like you said it’s getting harder to buck the trend in a society where alcohol is intrinsically linked with our very culture and identity.

      Great to see you’ve got a handle on things now. Given my own creative ambitions and the need to dedicate more time to my writing, I can’t afford hungover weekends anymore.

      Great to hear from other like minded people who strengthen my resolve to think bigger picture.

      Aidan

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