For the majority of my adult life, I haven’t been a “weekend” kinda gal. Sure, not going to work is often preferable to going, but the notion of getting “turnt up” has always been intimidating and unattractive to me -- sober or not. When I first moved to Madison, WI, and realized that a “weekend” meant everyone drinking on their lawn (and later, in a bar; and still later, somehow back on the lawn), I felt like a total alien. And let me remind you: this wasn’t me looking down from my sober high horse, the way I do now. The reckless, gleeful abandon with which people approached weekends terrified and perturbed me while I was still drinking.
I'm not so different now than I was in high school. In high school, my weekends looked liked this: my friends and I would bake cookies, drink mochas, and play Settlers of Catan at a local coffee shop. (Well, there’s one difference: these days it’s Starbucks or bust, if for no other reason than to irritate hipsters.) Or, I’d find a friend to join me on a run, or go to the gym, or go aqua jogging when one of us was injured. (Incidentally, the injured person was never me. I’ve always suspected that people who get sports injuries have one underlying thing in common, which is that they try harder.)
I have a good habit of keeping journals. On July 29th, 2011 - the summer before I began college - here’s what I wrote in mine:
“I'm worried there will be marijuana and drinking at [college]
and I'll either lose it or be a tight ass.”
Yes. Yes, on all counts. There was, indeed, marijuana and drinking. I did, indeed, completely lose it and remain a bit of a tight-ass. I guess you could say I’m a both/and kinda gal.
At my tiny college, weekends were scary. The school used to pride itself (perhaps it still does) on throwing crazy and creative parties. Long after graduation, I’ve realized that the word “creative” isn’t even mildly true; every school has the equivalent of a Foam Party or Robots and Sluts. (I mean, at some schools it’s a square dance, or even a feminist square dance, but the intentionality is the same.) No matter how ironic and self-aware the names, I always saw these parties for the only value they would provide me, personally: an opportunity to drink. The only problem was that the cookie-baking, aqua-jogging high schooler in me was still intimidated: I’d have to drink just to pick out an outfit.
When I happened to be in a relationship, that provided a cushion. When two people make a habit of emotional honesty and sleeping with only each other, one important truth quickly emerges: neither of us really want to climb around half-naked in a sea of germy, disease-ridden bubbles. Foam parties are out. We drank in small groups or with only each other while watching stupid TV, which was more my speed. My speed is slow.
I wasn’t even in Madison for a full year before I got sober, but my hatred of weekends followed me there. I remember standing in the kitchen with an ex the summer I got here; he had offered up the tiresome idea of going to a friend’s lawn to drink, and I had remarked with too-little self awareness that I could force myself to drink with them but I’d have to drink first. He gave me an uncomfortable, knowing look. The indisputable fact of my social anxiety poorly concealed (and maintained) by alcoholism was like a specter in the room, looking on mildly from one of the kitchen barstools. Huh. This is interesting.
After I quit drinking, the problem of weekends slowly but surely resolved itself. (Slowly as in slowly. Over the course of two years. I told you: that’s my speed.) I no longer had to turn down invitations to drink or party on a Friday, because those invitations stopped coming. The people I drank with stopped texting, and people who liked me sober proposed alternative plans. The anxiety, however, was not as quick to disappear; even though I was ambivalent when it came to going places and seeing people, the prospect of having nowhere to go and no one to see was unforgivable. “Having plans” was symbolic of being worthwhile. What if they didn’t come through?
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I don’t like to propose stark contrasts between how it was then and how it is now. Other than the obvious and abrupt behavioral changes, I wouldn’t say that anything about my drinking self has been completely extinguished. A psychic change is not as stark as the flip of a switch. But here’s something psychic which is also indisputably different: I no longer have any anxiety heading into weekends. I don’t worry about whether I will have plans, or who will text, or whether it will all be good enough. I sometimes worry that I won’t get enough writing done, or I won’t make my recovery meetings, or it will all go too fast.
That’s a miracle. Alcohol was a strategy for making the world speed up, of making the present disappear, of making the future more tolerable. When I drank, I drank to fill the time. In sobriety, I get to worry that I won’t have quite enough of it.