Last week, I had coffee with a friend, Jenna, who had recently undergone...wait for it...a party. It was the Friday night kind. It was more harrowing, even, than your typical party, because people were drinking a lot. It wasn’t the type of drinking where you realize, Wow, other people are so moderate compared to me. There weren’t half-finished drinks strewn about, as people mysteriously took interest in things other than alcohol. Nope, this was the let-loose type of party, attended in part by people who could benefit from giving up booze themselves.
Jenna is in recovery. Once she and her boyfriend had left, he turned to her and said: “That one girl really doesn’t like you.” Apparently, another party attendee, and someone Jenna considered a friend, had repeatedly rolled her eyes at Jenna, the sober one out. She was a goody-two-shoes, a buzzkill.
Very rarely can we actually guess what people are thinking, and even less frequently are we right. And yet, the fear of being considered boring is what prevents a lot of people, alcoholic or not, from giving up booze. When I first heard that story, I of course didn’t think for a second that Jenna was actually being boring at the party. Please. She’s delightful. She’s energetic, engaging, and empathetic. My first thought, rather, was that the person who found her boring must have a problem with alcohol herself. Often, the people who want you to drink more are those who can’t comfortably drink less.
I had to revise this immediate judgment, however. It’s possible Jenna's friend has a problem with alcohol. It’s also possible she has a different story entirely. What others are thinking is seldom the point. The point is what we are thinking, and why, and consequently how we are treating ourselves. Jenna felt understandably shaken after the party, and wondered for a second if it were true: Now that I’m sober, do I bore people?
When I first quit drinking, I wasn’t afraid of being boring. At least, not to myself. Even while I was actively drinking, I knew my thoughts were just a bit duller, less extravagant, less explorative. I can remember twice specifically in my last year of drinking where I took three or four days off. Almost immediately, I became more interesting to myself. Letters to friends and lovers were drafted and never sent, entire life overhauls were planned and never executed. In sober moments, I was not boring.
I did kind of expect to bore others, however. Honestly, I still expect that. I occasionally feel a bit self-conscious or apologetic when I suggest to a friend that we get coffee on a weekend, go shopping, or spend the night in. Oops. It’s not a bar. Other times, I’m fully confident in that same decision. (In fact, I’ve been quite irritating lately about the merits of reading paperbacks at bedtime.)
Regardless of who’s winning the internal war, I’m glad that my friends know what to expect of me. It’s comforting. If they want to go out, get tipsy, and hit on guys, I am not their girl. But if they want to rigorously psychoanalyze those same guys from the comfort of their own home - on the couch, with snacks - there is literally no one better. I got an actual Master’s in what's wrong with people.
That original fear - will I be boring if I quit? - is, in part, merited. I’m sure I bore some people sober. In truth, however, I bored myself as a drunk. On my best days sober, I am the life of my own party. And given that this is one of those rare parties that can last upwards of 80 years - and leaving early is, for once, not particularly appealing - mine is the only party that matters.