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What Came First, the Drinking or the Friends?

What Came First, the Drinking or the Friends?

By: Yasmine Dalloul

This is my first sober journey in a long time. I’ve never had much of an issue with alcohol, as I only drink socially. And like a true Millennial, how social am I really? I never think about alcohol when I’m curled up on the couch watching reruns of Jenji Kohan’s Weeds or making a midweek dump dinner. I never think about alcohol after a long, hard day at work - no, I’m thinking about marching to the Italian deli down the street and getting myself a personal pizza. Carbohydrates, dairy, and charcuterie have always been more an addiction to me than spirits, beers, and wine.

But, when the party starts, it’s hard to want it to stop. Especially when said party consists of nobody but the people you like best: your friends. Does this mean your friends are your vice? I was about to find out because one week into my Dry January journey, I decided to put my newfound sobriety to the test. I was going to hang out with my friends on a Saturday night.

This particular group of friends happens to be my main crew, and we LOVE drinking together. That being said, that isn’t all we do: we also enjoy meals, spill tea, read tarot cards, go for walks, dance, laugh, go on cottage trips, and frolic together while sharing news - both global and menial - every day across several different social media and communications platforms. But a lot of the time, we do these things with several bottles of wine in hand, especially on a weekend night, during a holiday, or in the summer. But they knew what my January was looking like, and I’ve seen glimpses of support they had towards our other friends who attempted dry Januaries, Februaries or Novembers in the past. I was not the first to do this, nor would I be the last. They insisted it would be fine, and I knew I had to find the balance between learning how to hang out with my friends sober and accepting the fact that they can totally drink!

I was nervous, going into it with jokes: “I’m over January already, guys. I can’t believe I have to be sober for a whole month.” I wasn’t sure I actually meant this, but the smell of full-bodied reds spilling out of the bottle and into large-bowled wine glasses was enough to make me about ready to ditch my self-proclaimed challenge and a new search for a better life and curl up with a glass of wine with my two pals. I wanted to laugh with them and gossip and be part of what our triad had always embodied.

“Oh, babe, I brought you this juniper berry tonic. It looks really good!” One of them told me as we walked into our host for the evening’s apartment. On top of that, our host greeted me with an array of sparkling water in his fri

dge, telling me he could make me an alcohol-free cocktail. I was touched, needless to say.

And when a fourth friend popped in after having journeyed from across town in the deep freeze of the Canadian winter toting several cans of refreshing alcohol-free mocktail mixes, I was ready to burst with gratitude. My friends were so supportive, and I knew that it made no difference to them whether I would drink or not. And it didn’t - we laughed till we cried, frolicked, ate delicious snacks, made fun of an old 90s movie we had playing in the background, did tarot readings, and hung out like normal and it was still just as fun. And, i felt the added warmth of their support, knowing that we can always have a good time like always even if I’m not actually drinking.

But the most interesting part of it all? I always heard this would happen: when you’re hanging out with people who are drinking while you’re forgoing the alcohol, you notice the difference. The initial sensorial invitations of wine being opened, poured into a glass, the sound of glasses clinking, the second and third bottles of wine opening turn into stained lips and slurred words, increased vocal pitches, and a stench of sale alcohol lingering through the air. You don’t take note of this in a judgmental sense, at least I didn’t, but, almost like an out-of-body experience, it was more taking note of how I knew exactly how they were feeling, and I was not feeling the same way. When I decided to call it a night at a very respectable time - 11:30 pm (we got there at 6:30. Remember: this is my crew, we know how to chill) I walked my sober butt home and was able to perform a mindful ritual before going to bed, sans dizziness, sans slurry words, sans the stench of alcohol, the late night snacks (I mean, I didn’t snack at home. I definitely did at my friend’s place I’m not Superwoman, you know.) the smell of regrets in my hair - none of it. I drifted off to sleep and thought of the power of sobriety. And though I have a hard time getting up in the morning, sober or not, this was the first Sunday morning in a very long time that I woke up without a hangover and didn’t have to sleep on and off until 3 in the afternoon.

I always heard a rumour that quitting alcohol may make your dreams come true, or at least make your life better than you ever thought it was. I’m not sure I’m at liberty to back up that claim as yet, since I don’t think alcohol gets in the way of my everyday life and I have much bigger daemons, but I really liked waking up hangover-free and accomplishing so much on a Sunday.

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