We held a housewarming yesterday, with great success. Because so many of our friends have, like us, very young children, it was a mid afternoon affair rather than an evening one as of old. Here, in lazy list form, are some observations.
1. How on earth did I ever have time to drink while hosting parties? My fitbit tells me that I racked up well over 10,000 steps yesterday, most of which were while fetching drinks and food for other people. Early on I poured myself a Diet Coke with ice; by the time I drank it it was not only iceless but completely flat. I can’t imagine trying to fit in drinking around that.
2. Buying the booze at the bottle shop, I was tempted to tell the clerk that I was having a party and that nine bottles of wine and a carton of lager were not in fact for me. I stopped myself only because it’s such an alcoholic cliche, even though it was also true. I’ve bought more wine at a time before, I’m sure, but this time it really felt like a lot.
3. There was no difference in how much fun was had by the non drinkers and the drinkers, except that the drinkers stayed a lot later.
4. Here are some drinking stats: Including me, there were 20 adults. At least five of us are complete non-drinkers, and at least another three were sticking to beer. Which means nine bottles of wine were consumed amongst twelve people. Is that quite a lot? Maybe not.
5. Whether a lot or not, I really did notice the different drinking behaviours involved. One couple arguing about who was going to drive home this time, another bloke topping himself up in the kitchen at least twice, and a good friend of mine, well, I’m going to talk about him in the next item down.
6. Is it only when one gives up drinking that it becomes obvious who else has a drinking problem? It’s so clear that I don’t know how I overlooked it. Except I do, because he has been a drinking partner in crime for years, and we’ve enabled one another. But because I knew he’d given up entirely for a few months earlier this year, which was spun to me as a weight loss thing, I’d thought at the time – oh, well, maybe he doesn’t have a dependency after all.
I didn’t think anything of it the first time he topped up everyone’s drinks; because I’d poured everyone a first glass and then promptly forgotten about the whole thing, I was grateful. But then I noticed he was topping everyone up a couple more times, which tells me that he was always finishing his glass first.
A couple of hours later, he wasn’t even topping up anymore. He literally had a bottle of wine beside him, and was just drinking and refilling. When he stood up to get a new bottle, his wife stopped him, and I’m glad she did because he was noticeably slurred by then. An hour later he made a testing-the-waters ‘joke’ about opening a bottle of red and letting her go home while he settled into the night, at which point I told him to go home already, because we’re friends enough that I could do that without being considered rude. Have I never noticed this before because I was drinking like that as well? How mortifying if that’s true.
And all of a sudden I’m thinking about all of those other years. We used to work together, and on an occasional Friday would go out to lunch together and share a bottle of wine and then a liqueur. And then go back to work! That’s really not normal. I remember another anecdote he used to relate quite often, about a time when his wife was on medication and told not to drink heavily lest it react, and he asked the doctor what heavy drinking would constitute. The doctor apparently replied “Well, you know. I mean two bottles a night is obviously heavy”. And my friend relates this anecdote regularly, in the context of If you’re not drinking two bottles a night you’re fine. Which is…somehow not what I think the doctor intended him to take from the conversation.
So that’s another person I intend to be really open with next time we have lunch alone.
6. This is nothing to do with the party, but while I’m on the subject, I have now had three or four private conversations with friends who do know why I stopped drinking, each of which either has a drinking issue themselves or an intimate family member who does, and who are asking for my advice. I’m a million miles from experienced, of course, but it’s really bringing home to me the power of honesty around this stuff, and just how many of us it affects.
7. If you do have a party, you need to drink something. Diet Coke and coffee may seem like good substitutes for alcohol, but at 2am when you’re lying in bed awake, you may revisit that decision. Just so you know.