In the UK, where I grew up, the three-letter question of “Pub?” is probably being asked at least once every five seconds. This means that you manage to amass a large collection of drinking buddies and pub pals.
Sometimes the pub was stressful, as I was always trying to conceal that I was drinking more than they were, wanting them to keep pace with me, or agonising over the fact that they seemed to be able to stop before they were tearfully calling their ex in the bathroom.
And it was also brilliant, because I got to hang out with people I drank with, and I loved drinking.
It took me a while to fully recognise that I didn’t drink like the people in my pub team, and that my drinking wasn’t anything to do with theirs. The fact was that I had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and getting rid of alcohol illuminated my unhealthy relationship with some of them. I remained friends with them because it kept me in the alcohol environment, I didn’t have to suffer the vulnerability of them getting to know me properly, and having alcohol as a buffer I could be whoever I wanted for them. It worked, until it didn’t, and I was left with myself at the end of the night.
Some of my pub pals resented me stopping drinking, because they took it as a reflection on them, or they didn’t believe it was possible. They put all sorts of judgement and stakes on it, that came solely from a place of their own discomfort. It was not, and never will be, my place to process that for them.
Some of my pub pals are still my pals – we just don’t drink together. We found other common ground where I actually get to be who I am, as opposed to hiding behind alcohol. We go for coffee dates, find new ways to hang out, or choose pubs where there are good snacks and alcohol-free options. I lost the friends I needed losing, and got deeper connections with the ones I kept.
My final drinking buddy was the first one I lost and hardest one to live without at first. Alcohol was my best and closest drinking buddy. It was my friend in a hostile world. It was my protector, and it really worked. Until it didn’t, and for my own safety I had to leave.
Social situations/pubs/mixers/galas/drunk people are unavoidable. What is your escape plan? Mine is to always have my own transport arranged, a firm boundary that I can leave at any time I feel uncomfortable, someone I can call or text if it gets tricky, and if we’re able to we make sure we choose somewhere with amazing snack/alcohol free options.
Two tiny things:
- Experiment with non-alcoholic fizzy drinks. I thought I had to punish myself with tap water, because I was a bad, sinful alcoholic who forfeited all rights to tasty beverages. Now I have passionate opinions about my favourite La Croix flavours.
- Call a parent/guardian/parental figure and tell them something truthful.