A year has come and gone since I made my year without booze pledge. As I ponder the “so now what?” question, a particular night in July begs to take center stage in my conscious mind. 

As hubby, friends, and I make our way through the crowded streets of downtown Nashville on that scorching July evening, I find myself overwhelmed. Hundreds. Of. People. At least. Maybe thousands. Let’s just say swarms and leave it at that. Even armed with an I’m up for anything attitude and the fact that at this point it has been nearly 9 months since I’ve had a drop of alcohol, it appeared that I had sorely underestimated the  discomfort level I would experience in this particular type of social situation (i.e. the bar/going out scene) I truly could not have foreseen the level of difficulty that would be thrust upon me as the night wore on. Then again, how could I possibly foretell something I’d never allowed myself to experience? I’m not the sober girl in the group of partiers. I’m the parti-EST girl in the group of partiers. As the rest of my group enjoys a night out in a partying town hundreds of miles away from our homes, relieved of any type of driving responsibility due to the readily available Uber drivers, the booze flows easily and the night invites all the careless abandon that I once embraced. People, music, loudness, craziness, mayhem, drama- oh how I cherished that combination with a little whiskey under my belt. Or a couple of beers. Or on these trips-away-from-home special nights, a shot of tequila or two. Sure, I knew better, but that knowledge failed to stop me on many a festive occasion that always left me wanting more. But this time I was naked. As an empath, situations like this can become overwhelming to the point of hysteria. Without the cushion of alcohol to protect me, I was left feeling EVERYTHING. As we stood pressed tightly against other people in the various bars we visited and the streets we wandered down, I could feel the stifling heat emanating from their bodies and smell the stench of alcohol steaming through their pores. I struggled against the manic energy emitted in the throes of drunken drama. The conversations and raucous laughter became as blurred as the faces that looked through me as I searched frantically for a few inches of free space in which I could make my exit. I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. Must get air. I aggressively shoved my way out to an empty spot on the street, where I put my head down attempting to breathe deeply and not give in to the tears threatening to spill at any second. I listened as my options were presented to me.

You don’t have to do this, Lisa. You’ve made your point. You’ve gone 9 months without drinking and you can continue not to drink after this, but give yourself a break from feeling everything tonight and just let loose and join the party. A couple of drinks isn’t going to matter in the scheme of things. You’re out of town and that’s a rare occurrence! Just let yourself have some peace and drink up. You think it’s fun for everybody else to have to be around someone that’s sober as fuck? And then, the louder voice. The one that’s only recently dared to assert its power and speak out clearly:

And what about you and what would have made this a good time for you? Do you ever expect anybody else to take responsibility for that? Of course not! So why are you responsible for anybody else’s good time? What happens to YOU once the drinks have been consumed, the buzz has worn off and your magical coach has once again turned back into a pumpkin? NOTHING will have changed. And you’ll be one step further from taking the very measures that will see to it that it does.

Decision made, I look up to see hubby standing behind me with a look that is part bewilderment and concern with a side note of irritation. I have come to know this look well. I tell him that I have decided to take an Uber back to the hotel. As an early bird who is generally in bed before 9pm most nights and awake by 4 or 5am, being out at 1am, as we happen to be at this moment, doesn’t exactly align with my biorhythms, and next-day overtiredness is not a trait I have ever mastered with any type of aplomb. I encourage him to stay and enjoy himself with the others, but despite my assurance that I will be fine on my own, he is unconvinced, persuading me instead to head with our group to a bar located outside of town that his Nashville based business contact has just assured him will be minus the crowds but plus dart boards and a juke box. I could tell you that I complied because I’m a sucker for a jukebox and a game of darts and that would not be complete bullshit. But you’ve probably also guessed that it wouldn’t be the whole story.

So as far as the will I/won’t I drink again, I don’t believe I have a definite yes/no answer. The truth is, I happen to be looking for something that I have not yet found. To complicate matters even further, I can’t even tell you exactly what it is. All I can tell you is that I’m realizing that searching in places where I find nothing more than joyless distractions goes beyond being a matter of the distraction being right or wrong, or even smart or stupid. What it is is a matter of depleting my energy. And while I’ve been made well aware that energy is too precious to squander, as with everything, and everyone, it’s always an individual choice to make. I pray for the strength to make it mindfully, which, as you’ve probably already guessed, means one day at a time.

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