In the restaurant, the tables shimmered under the lighting. It was just the kind of lightening, I knew, that after a few drinks would take on a shadowy glow. But here I was: sober and meeting a couple with bright smiles and even brighter careers. After some time, they asked, “Shall we order a bottle of wine?” “No thanks, I don’t drink,” I said apologetically, certain I had just denounced the possibility of a good time. Which is why my next words were: “But don’t worry, I’m still fun!”
I had given up alcohol just six months earlier but still felt viscerally close to the life I led as a drinker. I was also aware of my own feeling towards people who didn’t drink: all totally vanilla, uptight squares.
Drinking had made me the life of every party I wafted into, happily singing or dancing like life was meant only for such pursuits. So now that I was sober, I blurted out things like, “Don’t worry, I’m still fun!” even though what I was really thinking was: “Don’t even for a minute think I’m vanilla because the truth is I am so hard core I had to quit. I’m like a rock star compared with you. In fact, maybe you should just call me Sid Vicious from now on. You should look at me with a touch of fear because you would quiver to think about the amount of rotgut I’ve ingested over the years. So step off.”
So, there at the restaurant table, the words “But don’t worry, I’m still fun!” rushed out in a chirpy adolescent squawk. But my new pal, the pretty woman, did the unthinkable; without pausing to consider the crazy fact of my sobriety, without even a nanosecond of hesitation, she winked — winked! — and said, “Oh good!” She was thrilled, it seemed, that I was “still fun”; nothing pleased her more. She was just glad it was all working out for me.
It was a good ten minutes before I could rejoin the conversation. I watched the restaurant in slow-motion while diners passed the bread, bantered with the salty waitress and guffawed at tales of office hijinks. They were all really enjoying themselves. Apparently, no one else in the restaurant cared whether I drank or not either. Certainly my companions didn’t; they seemed more interested in what I brought to the table than whether I put a glass of wine on it.
So I bid a silent goodbye to the internal rock-star speech, promised to stop defining myself by who I used to be, and scooted my chair closer to the table. Adieu, Sid Vicious! It was time to make new friends.
New York Times