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Socialising when sober

Updated: Jul 10

It's been a while since my last drink and some time since the days of me going to pubs to listen to live music. It's just not my scene any more, for obvious reasons.

I had just accepted that for a sober life, I needed to stay away from certain places and people. Hanging out with a bunch of full-on drinkers in a pub wasn't exactly condusive to a safe environment for me for a long time. Sober socialising as a sober person just seemed too hard.

Keeping safe in early sobriety

For a few years being around alcohol itself, whether in a pub, restaurant or even in someone's home, was too much for me, even once my cravings for it reduced. It just made me nervous and so on-edge that it was easier not to go at all.

Gradually, I was able to relax a little around people drinking and was able to enjoy restaurants and other social functions, provided they were pretty tame and that I had a way to exit if I felt the need.

But anything super-loud and boistrous? Not on my radar. Boring but necessary.

Time to step out

Recently, a friend of mine who I hadn't seen for some time invited me as her plus-one to a fancy party held at a vineyard restaurant. It was a fund-raising event for one of her friends who had cancer, and there would nice food and music. Perfect, I thought. A swanky event where the people would be on their best behaviour in a pretty posh place.

When we got to the venue, I expected a jazz singer in the corner with people quietly quaffing a few wines while eating gourmet food.

It wasn't quite like that.

two women dancing in silhouette
Dancing when you're sober is fun when you get used to it

Rock and roll will never die

A well-dressed, middle-aged crowd was rocking out to a very loud band. Like the pub gigs of my youth, there was a group of excitable women leaping about the front of the stage, throwing their shoes off and yelling out the choruses.

In the middle was a more sedate group of mainly women swaying to the sounds on the spot, drink in hand.

Around the edges and back of the crowd were the guys, also holding drinks and looking slightly uncomfortable at the prospect of dancing.

Diet Coke in hand, I joined the middle group and listened to the awesome band (Shane Cortese and 'The 8-track band' - go see 'em for a full-on boogie) and started a shuffly type of bop on the spot. At first, I felt awkward, glancing around looking at a few other dorky-looking mum and dad types.

A sober party girl

After a warm-up, the 80s and 90s Kiwi and Aussie rock anthems started coming thick and fast. Transported back to my youth, I threw my head back and started singing at the top of my lungs. My shuffling progressed into more of a boogie as all self-consciousness left me.

With my friend and I grabbing each other and shouting, 'I love this song!', I was singing to the banger hits of my pub days and having a fantastic time.

Even the guys were doing some pretty impressive dad dancing and a couple were playing air guitar.

The best thing was that I was one hundred per cent, stone-cold sober. That awareness brought tears to my eyes as I was stomping about and roaring to Split Enz hits. I knew we all probably looked a bit stupid (if our kids saw us they would have run away cringing) but I didn't give a hoot.

When it was over I had a post-gig sore throat from shouty singing and my ears were ringing. I was high as a kite - on feel-good hormones, not booze. The buzz lasted for hours and I couldn't keep the smile off my face.

No hangover, remorse or guilt

I can't wait to go to my next live music gig and feel so happy and grateful that an old, joyful part of my life has returned in a safe way for me and better than ever. It is easy to glorify 'the good old days' of partying without remembering that I was usually drunk out of my mind and I'd end up vomiting, not remembering most of the night and sometimes passing out. This time, there was no crippling hangover the next morning – I was free to get on with my day, feeling good about myself and the great time that I'd had without remorse or guilt.

Now, life as a sober woman doesn't have to mean staying at home every night, watching the world pass me by. After building a solid foundation of sobriety, I realise that I am increasingly more free than I ever was when I had a glass of wine in my hand.

If you're worried about your drinking or that of someone you love, call Elaine on 027 573 7744 for a confidential and compassionate chat. You're never alone.

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