january 13, 2020—a night on the town AF(af?)

day 13 observations from the weekend…disclaimer—feel free to skip over this one y’all, it’s ridiculously long and not particularly insightful or anything, more for my own purpose, to document some observations from the weekend…

I’ve been hesitant to tell my significant other (quick aside—can someone pleeeeease come up with a better term than that??!! For the love of God and all things holy, humans been together since God was a kid, but “significant other” is the best we modern humans can do??!! I utterly despise the term—so sterile and cold—but at 52, “boyfriend” is equally repelling, “partner” sounds like we’re in business together…we joke that we’re going to start introducing each other as “my lover,” making everyone awkwardly uncomfortable while we gaze ravenously at each other and say, “This is Joe, my loooovaaaahhh”…😅 I tease Joe that he’s my PMC—preferred male companion, and he says, “I’m thrilled and honored to be your preferred anything!” STILL. Any and all suggestions are welcomed and will be considered!) anyhow, I digress…

I’ve been hesitant to tell my loooovaaaaah about my AF experiment right now for a number of reasons: 1. because this state of being is still so fresh for me. I’m still learning the language, getting used to the customs, wanting to feel a little less awkward and unsure in this new home before I invite others in…

2. We don’t live in the same city (Relationship Success Tip of the Day. You’re welcome!), and I wanted to discuss this in person with him, not over the phone or in an email or text, because this state of being, day by day, is becoming nearer and dearer to me. I entertain the idea of it being my default mode, my first nature, not just a “30 day challenge” kind of deal after which I can wipe my brow in relief and walk away from at the end of the month, only to resume old behaviors. Still, I don’t want to come out, guns a-blazin’, spewing my new AF-AF!!! status like some kind of nutso-buttso zealot hell-bent on converting/hazing/brain-washing/strong-arming/guilt-tripping others to my new religion, because let’s be real, these early days are still tenuous, at best. I’m still growing my AF legs, I still feel very unsteady and vulnerable. I’ve not been more than 30 days w/o alcohol in years; day by day is all I can manage right now…living in the present is pretty damned mind-blowing, I’m discovering…but still.

3. I have no track record to go by as far as the AF lifestyle choice goes, and am fearful of putting myself out there, only to have everyone scrutinizing and judging my every move—is that really club soda and a lime in that glass or did she cave/fail/fallofthewagon/slip/fall/fail…who cares< i *know*, but knowing and feeling ar two different things; feeling confident enough to confront or not care about ol’ skool AA/12-step language/concepts and adopting the “progress, not perfect” is going to take time.

3. My looooovaaahhhh (cringing yet?😬) is a musician and writer and lives the life—late nights, lots of drinking (lots and lots and LOTS of drinking…) whether or not its a weekend; more nights than not revolve around booze in his world—playing gigs, going to watch friends play, meeting fellow musicians/other artists out all call for drinks, lots of ’em. He lives in a small city, is well-known in the area and is everyone’s favorite drinking buddy, even the mayor’s! I’m envious of him—he’s a “lucky” one—his personality doesn’t change dramatically when he’s drinking; instead of demonic personalities showing up uninvited, his good qualities only seem to become enhanced…As his PFC, I’ve gotten somewhat wrapped up in the lifestyle, and I’m not gonna lie—we’ve had tremendous fun in boozy states, and we are never “that couple” who ends the night in a knock-down-drag-out liquor-fueled frenzy capped off by something like me whipping a stilletto at his head (and missing), then stubbornly stumbling home on one shoe. We don’t even argue (unless you count that “one” time I got so pissed at him for making fun of how cold I keep my house in winter. His oh-so-hilarious, “Could you throw another log on the furnace,” comment just about ended it for us.) Still. We have fun when we’re together, it just happens to involve a lot of alcohol, not the other way around. While I don’t blame him for my increased intake in booze, it’s also kind of expected in his world and frankly, as an extroverted introvert (there really is such a thing!) in the past, I’ve believed I “need” booze to deal with the sensory overload of the bar scene, the seemingly overabundant divas and divos (<–ha, just made that word up) in his circle, to keep up with the ultra-talented people he knows… I no longer cling to those beliefs as gospel truth (honest to god, it’s the work here that’s helping me shift perspective), but I also still believe that my introverted tendencies are going to be significantly challenged in his world (because, I haven’t yet found myself back in that setting, since beginning this experiment)…how am I gonna deal besides avoid it, if I’m AF?

3. He’s also a kind, thoughtful, intelligent, funny and generous-hearted person and he has been and will be respectful of anything I do, I know this with all my heart. Still. My AF status means an enormous shift in the dynamics/foundation of our relationship—literally everything we do together involves booze. Fear of the unknown can be quite powerful. I mean, *I* know I’m far funnier, smarter, sexier, more relaxed, and basically a better person (AND a wildcat in the sack when I’m not fucked up—just ask me! 😅), but maybe my fucked up persona is what he’s come to know as “normal” and he’ll decide he wants someone like HER as a drinking/partner, not some sanctimonious, envious AF-AF effer evil-eyeing that whisky moving closer to his lips, no matter how good in bed she now thinks she is (jesus…thanks for just letting me roll a while here, y’all…let’s call it therapy).

SO. This past weekend was my weekend of reckoning. Up to this point, I’ve been gratefully, safely, unrealistically (let’s be real), ensconced in my own home, my own life, without the typical alcohol triggers confronting me (kind of ironic, now that I think about it, as much of my drinking of late has been done alone…and, for the record, being alone hasn’t triggered anything—I’ve not been even so much as tempted or experienced cravings, yet). Funny, thought, how I’ve avoided going down to visit Joe because of the lifestyle we’d become accustomed to…but, I can’t avoid it forever.

SO. I took a road trip down to where he lives this weekend (just an hour and a half from me; a lot of my family lives near him, too). Often, if he’s not playing, our time together begin with dinner at his place, finishing a bottle of wine together, then proceeding to a bar where a friend’s band is playing, or some variation on that theme, with our drinking continuing. Eventually, we make our way home (yes, often driving after drinking; the thought sickens me, we’ve been sooooo goddamned lucky—the v.e.r.y fine line between us and someone else’s “rock-bottom”), collapse into bed, wake up (first time, around 3 am in a detoxing anxiety-attack, then never really falling back to sleep after that), make breakfast, try to eat something, feel nauseous and anxious all day, maybe watch a movie, maybe try to nap, all of it, hung over, just trying to get through the day until I can go to bed for real). In other words, essentially, spend an entire day wasted, then waste another day recovering from being wasted…I’m beyond tired of that scene, as “fun” as it’s been (and yes, i’ve done the accompanying work that addresses this, and I no longer—have I actually ever?—believe this to be true) but it has become such a norm, and what do I have to offer as an alternative?

When I arrived, I had a can of sparkling water in my hand, a preemptive strike to the typical greeting, “Hey, wanna beer/glass of wine/Jameson?” Curiously, Joe was drinking a sparking Bubly, too. “hmm,” I thought. Highly unusual, as by this time of day—mid afternoon on a Saturday, he very likely would have a beer cracked (maybe would had already downed a couple before I arrived). We haven’t seen each other in a few weeks, so we began catching up, talking as comfortably and easily as we would while drinking. Again, “hmmm…” Inevitably, eventually, the dreaded question arose, “Hey, wanna beer or anything?” I took a deep breath and said, “Nooooo…” then, the floodgates opened, I couldn’t stop myself as I launched headlong into my TAE experience of the past 11 days. He sat, listening intently. Almost too intently, it seemed. When I stopped to catch my breath, Joe said, “you know, it’s such funny timing that you’ve brought this up,” and begins to tell me how many people he knows in his world who are either doing Dry January, or some variation on a self-exploration with alcohol, and how he himself has been concerned about his own increased drinking, and how unsettling it’s been for him, and that he thinks he should do something about it.

“I really like this idea of experimenting for 30 days,” he said. “What’s the name of the program you said?” He wrote it down on a scrap of paper from his wallet (I know he’ll see it again—it’s his tried’n’true filing “system”—works for him!) and we continued to talk about TAE, for a good couple of hours, sans alcohol, most of it him asking so many thoughtful questions, me not at all proselytizing. Again, “hmmm…”

We were planning to go downtown to hear a few bands playing at a local joint after dinner. We still made it downtown, missed the first act because we’d talked so long, but stayed through the last one. Funny—the lead singer of the last band announced that they were doing Dry January, so “have a drink for us,” he said before launching into their last song. another “hmmm….” I didn’t drink; Joe had one Jameson on the rocks. I actually listened to the music, curiously observed the people around us, didn’t compete the band with inane shouting-matches thinly disguised as “conversation,” as would often happen in such a setting. In other words, actually enjoyed the night, didn’t feel particularly anxious at any point. After the music, we chatted with a few people, bid our adieus, drove home (sober), climbed into bed (true fact: AF people DO stay up after midnight!), woke up the next day (only once, at 7 am) and the first thing Joe said when he opened his eyes was, “My GOD does it feel good to wake up not hungover!” We proceeded to have such a fun rest of our day…I was going to cross the inappropriate line and and say that I earned my “wildcat” badge this weekend, but didn’t want to offend, then I saw what today’s video topic is, and dammit, I’m gonna wear that badge proudly. THAT is as important to our health and well-being as our Day 13 pics, as our good sleep, as our better eating, water intake….I’m not saying he’s 100% on board, but damned, our weekend couldn’t have been much sweeter. More evidence, that I can literally do every. damned. thing. I did while drinking, even better, when I’m not drinking. EVERYthing. Me-OOW.

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