Be prepared, they say. I’m a good Boy Scout: I like being mentally prepared, and have found the mental discipline of thinking through a potential drinking occasion in advance to be extremely useful. I run scenarios in my head: I’m at the bar, what’s my order? Lime and soda? Do they serve an AF beer? If they’ve run out, what do I have instead? I’m at a friend’s house, they offer me a glass of wine. What’s my line? No thanks, heading to the gym later? No thanks, I’ve laid off the booze for a bit. Can I have a coffee, though? The more I run the simulation, the more I feel confident that I can sail through and stick to my plan.
For example, at the weekend B. and I met up with his parents at a country pub for a nice catch-up over lunch. They already know that I’ve gone sober, so there was no pressure there – and when the bartender said they’d sold out of Becks Blue I already knew my response: “ah, never mind. I’ll have a sparkling mineral water, please, with lots of ice.” I felt very pleased with myself on Sunday evening, having steered through what would once have been a “Sunday lunch just isn’t the same without a huge glass of red” occasion. (“It makes the beef taste better,” whines the Booze Bitch. “Everyone else will be having a drink. You’ll look BORING. And UPTIGHT. Like someone who can’t enjoy a lovely roast because they have a PROBLEM.” Hush, Booze Bitch. I’ve got this. Try your Moaning Myrtle act on someone else.)
So far, so smug. But you can’t be prepared for the completely unexpected, and last night I was very nearly mugged by a sudden glass of surprise prosecco.
After work, there was a small event to mark the opening of a new wing of the building. Snacks provided, said the email. So far so good: I love me some new paint smell and finger food, so off I went with a spring in my step. And gosh, it was lovely. Sunlight streaming through huge new windows, handsome staircases, that slinky, new, virgin floor that still shone, unbesmirched by muddy boots and spiky heels. Colleagues happy and excited and chatty, and ooh yes, finger food. I was having a whale of a time, chatting away to a friend and admiring the new artwork.
“Fabulous, isn’t it?”
“Mmmmm, yes, they’ve done a brilliant job.”
“Little salmon nibble thing?”
“Don’t mind if I do. Hello, member of management team. This all looks great!”
“Isn’t it? On time and on budget, who’d have thought? Glad you could make it. Glass of fizz?”
I stood there, hand half-extended, as a few people moved away to reveal a full goddamn table loaded with bottles and glasses, sunlight shining through the big new windows onto rows and rows of sparkling wine. And the member of management was holding one of them inches away from me, and was rapidly beginning to wonder why on earth I wasn’t taking it.
I just absolutely had not expected the wine. And in that moment, just before my brain kicked in, I had completely forgotten that I had stopped drinking. In that moment, I wasn’t someone who used to drink too much and now wasn’t drinking at all. In fact, I was thinking about literally anything and everything else other than booze: my day, my project, my good friend who had just returned to work after maternity leave, the good architecture and the glorious weather…And habit kicked in first, ahead of brain. Glass of fizz? Don’t mind if I do.
Of course, I didn’t take it.
In the split second where time stopped and a hand was extending a shiny glass of prosecco towards me, my brain caught up with my default habits and I laughed it off, explained that I was going to the gym afterwards and sorry for the confusion, Sally, I’ll have a glass of juice though. Everything carried on around me and I sipped my orange juice and wondered what on earth I had just nearly done.
You can’t prepare for the unexpected, and you definitely can’t prepare for the sight of unexpected cheap Italian wine suddenly hoving into view.
It’s all experience, at the end of the day. Surprise wine happens. I walked out of the office, went home, hit the gym and had a great workout, which absolutely wouldn’t have happened if I’d been the old Andie. Old Andie would have knocked back the prosecco, taken the “woohoo, free wine” opportunity to slug back another one, sacked off the gym and bought another bottle of wine to take home with me, because who on earth stops drinking once the booze seal has been broken?
But I’m not Old Andie. Progress. Steady as she goes. The sober ship sails on.