“Isn’t it hard, especially at this time of year? How do you do it? There are so many parties…”
Another day, another arduous conversation about not drinking at Christmas. Question after bewildered question peppered with furrowed brows and head tilts of utter confusion guaranteed to make this non-drinker feel like an outsider.
Right now, most people are trying to pace their festive frolicking through December to give themselves a day in between each event to recover; that’s no longer a concern for me.
This will be my second Christmas with no booze and it brings a sense of peace and relief that’s a giddy novelty to a reformed daily drinker. Surviving the office party is plain-sailing now. I’ve cracked it. I can accept invitations, stand in packed rooms making fizzy chit-chat with a coke in my hand (diet) and not eye up the bar as if it’s a hot guy. When everyone starts to get glassy-eyed messy and the hair tossing dancing that spells R-E-G-R-E-T rather than YMCA begins, it’s time to flit away into the night. I wake up without the banging headache or horrifying flashbacks. Plus, I haven’t left my credit card behind the bar. Ahh, the bona fide Christmas bonus.
Truth is, not drinking at Christmas is easy. It’s just a day with a different label on it. The real struggle is airports.
Early next year I’m going home to England on an exciting adventure that includes a wedding, Christening and weaving European train trip. On arrival I will be greeted with warm hugs from friends and family with cold noses and squeezes so hard that only year-long separation brews. The trip will be amazing – when I arrive. The journey, not so much.
I’ve done the long haul trek once since I stopped drinking and it totally blind-sided me. I’ve psyched myself up for being sober at social events, passing on wine at dinner parties and got my explanation for why I quit down-pat, but the airport endeavour I was not prepared for.
I sat in the airport lounge not knowing what to do with myself. I wandered around shops not wanting to spend any money; that took about 8 minutes. I sat and read for a while but was too distracted to focus. I looked up into one of 604 bars and saw a chattering, laughing ease I’ve left behind. In my past life, I would perch at the bar and sip on a cold chardonnay. Perhaps a Pinot Grigio. I’d smile at the barman and make effortless conversation with other people who were also travelling alone. I’ve done so many long-haul journeys I didn’t realise airport drinking had become as much a part of my trip as checking in my luggage. Minutes dragged for hours. Drinking really is the unparalleled way to pass time.