Do you like Pina Colada?

I used to really quite enjoy a Pina Colada as well as getting caught in the rain – now its more just getting caught in the rain that I can enjoy!

Alcohol and I used to be friends – good friends.  We had some great times together; some not so great times and some times that neither of us can quite remember! Don’t get me wrong, life with alcohol wasn’t always easy and not all alcohol was nice to me.  Gin would make me quite arrogant; tequila would make me naughty and then usually fall over (especially if I hit the magic number of 7 shots) and Aftershock – well let’s not even go there.

But there were some alcohols that I really did enjoy.  Vodka was a good pal.  I could quite happily have a good night with vodka and be a very pleasant person to be with; wine with a meal was just superb and the occasional cocktail made me feel very sophisticated indeed.

Not only were alcohol and I social buddies, we were also work colleagues and I have spent the last 20 odd years serving and selling it to people enjoying themselves.  I’ve even been deemed a responsible person to hold a licence for alcohol by the police and the law of this land.  That’s how good a friend alcohol was to me – it made me happy and it made me a living.

Times have changed.  Since the introduction of ME to my life, alcohol has taken the huff and is no longer friends with me.  I tried a few times early on in my illness to engage alcohol with what was going on, but I would wake up after a couple of drinks feeling like I’d been out for the night binge drinking.  A vodka and lemonade would literally make me feel like I’d drunk at least 10.  I figured out pretty quickly that my good old friend no longer liked me.

I looked in to it further and discovered that ME and alcohol don’t mix well and that I now had an intolerance to it.  An intolerance! Me! The person who had always (well most of the time) respected alcohol!

So now, not only was my body changing how it could cope with life, it was also going to have to be alcohol free.  I had my last drink on New Year’s day 2017 and planned to give myself at least a year without it; hoping that it may help me see an improvement in my ME too. 

It was easier than I thought to walk away from my old friend.  I suppose it was because I wasn’t actually that big a drinker to begin with.  I was a social drinker who, I’ll admit it, went hard or went home – rarely did I just go home!  The other reason I think it was easy was because I wasn’t fit enough to go out as much any more any way.  I very much had started to enjoy a Friday night in front of the TV with a good film, than out and about in the pubs.  My energy levels could cope with this better.

One thing that wasn’t easy though was other people.  I was always known as someone who enjoyed a drink and would happily stay out to the wee small hours.  Now, all of a sudden, I wasn’t going out or leaving early after a coke or lemonade.  People found this weird.  

I remember meeting some friends one afternoon in a bar in town.  As I arrived one of my friends asked me what I’d like to drink (he’s always been one to get a drink as soon as you arrive – gent).  I said I’d like a ginger beer please.  He disappeared off to the bar and then came back to check – is that alcoholic or non-alcoholic?  His face when I said non-alcoholic was a picture!  When he came back with my drink, I explained the situation and he was very understanding, but it was a change from the girl he used to know.

Two years on and I don’t bat an eyelid about going out and not drinking alcohol.  Most of my friends know I don’t drink anymore and if people don’t, well who cares.  I’m not drinking due to my health, but at the end of the day, its a persons choice as to what type of beverage they partake in.  I no longer bother what people think and I’ll only explain if people ask and that’s ok.

I still don’t get out much to socialise, but when I do I still enjoy myself.  I’m getting good at knowing when it’s my time to leave (no-one likes a sober person around who will remember everything when they are half cut!) but I’m also more than comfortable to be around people who are getting more and more tipsy.  I’m fine with having the same conversation more than once with the same person!  I think that because my career has involved selling and serving people alcohol, I’m used to being with intoxicated people.  The difference now is that I’m able to enjoy their company more rather than working.

The soft drinks industry is doing some great softs nowadays and I really enjoy going to places and asking that awkward question of “what soft drinks do you have?” The reply usually starts with “Eerrrrmmmmm, we have…” I’m doing my best to keep caffeine and sugar to a minimum too so the bartenders  and I usually end up having quite a chat!  I love it when they say “let me make you a mocktail!”

I’m not embarrassed by my sober life and neither are my friends.  It’s actually a bonus for them as I can always be the designated driver!  So I challenge any of you who think that maybe a spell off the booze could do you good, to just do it!  Not just for January, but for a few months.  Search out those bar tenders who make great mocktails and find other softs to drink that aren’t the norm and see how it makes you feel.  You never know – you might like it!

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