The following is an extract from Jill’s book ‘High Sobriety’, a memoir of Jill’s experiences taking 12 months off alcohol. ‘High Sobriety’ is available for purchase here.
Habit is a peculiar beast: she’s not easily tamed, and she’s not afraid of a dare. My body might be learning that I don’t need alcohol to feel good, but my brain is following a more familiar script.
As I attempt to order a lime and soda in a bar with friends one night, I’m shocked to hear the words ‘vodka, lime, and soda’ come out of my mouth, nearly sabotaging my booze ban just weeks after it’s started. When I correct myself, the barman asks why I’m not drinking.
‘A social experiment,’ I reply.
He looks at me quizzically. ‘Why on earth would you want to do that?’
Five minutes later, he approaches our table, sets down a shot glass, and says, ‘We’ve just got this new vodka in. It’s beautiful, really smooth, goes perfectly with lime and soda. I’ll just leave that with you.’ Smirking, he walks off, leaving us staring in bemusement at this strange offering.
Twenty years on the piss and all I had to do to get free alcohol was renounce drinking?
He returns ten minutes later, taking the untouched vodka shot with him. ‘Well done — you’ve passed the challenge.’
I didn’t realise I was being tested.
It’s the first of many occasions where my decision not to drink is taken as an open invitation to try to knock me off the wagon. I’d like to think that my personality hasn’t been muted because I’m not drinking booze, and that I can still crack a joke and hold up my end of a conversation, but some people are intent on proving me wrong. ‘When can you drink again?’ they ask with panicked voices, as if my life is on hold and any endearing character traits have abandoned me.
Sometimes I wonder if people would be more relaxed if I were holding a beer bottle. Even if it were filled with water, I suspect that the illusion would be enough to ease their tension. I’m starting to realise that even if I don’t need alcohol to enjoy social situations, sometimes it makes other people more comfortable if I act as if I do.