The last lunch I had lunch with Adam a few months ago, despite my best intentions, ended up in a drunken sorry mess with tears and hangovers, regrets and self-loathing. (I often wondered how Adam could drink the amount that he does without it having any effect on him whereas, I just get drunk.)
As it looks like I am about to move next door to him in October, I text him to give him the news. He asked if I was free for lunch the following day and I told him I’d love to meet for lunch. I didn’t bother mentioning the fact that I don’t drink alcohol anymore.
At 1pm on Friday I went round to his and he said he had booked a table at the usual fancy restaurant we go to, The Casa Bianca. I love that restaurant. They do a lovely set menu which includes a drink from a specified list and the food is awesome. He asked me if I wanted to have a drink in his house before we went but I said no thanks. We walked the 20 minutes to the restaurant and thankfully, it was dry and sunny.
When we got into Casa Bianca, we were shown straight to our table. As we sat down I said to Adam “Oh by the way, I don’t drink alcohol anymore”. He just said fine and that was that. I had a look at the drinks section of the set menu.
It’s the first time I’ve realised that they actually have a couple of soft drink options. I’d never noticed before! I opted for the alcohol free cocktail (just orange juice really with something almost minty flavoured at the bottom and served in a fancy cocktail glass) and Adam went for the red wine. It was just a tiny amount in an oversized glass but you get what you pay for.
I enjoyed my drink and ordered my food. Adam asked me why I had stopped drinking alcohol. I told him I’d had enough of alcohol altogether and decided to make a major life choice. I told him I was happy with my choice and felt great for it. He told me he had been out the weekend before and had been dying with a hangover the day after and that as a result he hadn’t really had much to drink that week.
After our starters the waiter asked if we would like more drinks. I chose a bottle of sparkling mineral water and Adam, ordered another glass of red. “Large or small?” asked the waiter. Adam said with a smile “Hmmm, let’s see. It’s the start of the weekend and I’m not working till Monday. Make it a large”, as if the waiter had asked a stupid question.
We finished our lovely lunch and Adam took the bill as he always does. He said it was shocking how much they charged for a sparkling water and said I would have been better off having a pint of lager as it was cheaper!! (Maybe financially it was!)
When we left the restaurant I had planned to go straight home but I knew Adam would be out for a while more. It was absolutely pouring with rain so Adam suggested we go round to the local pub for one and then he would get us a taxi home. I didn’t fancy getting soaked and I was quite enjoying being out and about doing grown up stuff so I agreed.
I had an Appletise and he had a pint. After drinking sparkling water for the past 6 weeks I found the Appletise very sweet and sickening but I drank it anyway as it wasn‘t me who had paid for it.
Adam starting discussing alcohol, said he didn’t mind dining out without it but also couldn’t imagine ever socialising without it, at the same time stating he could stop drinking alcohol tomorrow if he wanted to!!
He said he wasn’t much of a drinker in the house (despite having a full sized fridge in his spare room with the sole purpose of housing his beer collection which gets topped up weekly).
I told him it was my personal choice not to drink and I had no interest or opinion on anyone else’s alcohol choices. I also respected everyone‘s choice to drink if they wanted to. I said it wasn’t a discussion, I was really planning on having with him because I had done my homework on the subject and by his own admission, he hadn’t ,so I didn’t feel the great alcohol debate would be well balanced.
The only time I questioned his attitude to drinking was when he told me about his first pint, at the end of the working week. He and a colleague finish their engineering job on a Friday lunchtime and have a pint in the old mans pub near the work. He told me it was a “Fact” that that first pint with his friend actually tasted nicer than any other pint he ever has in the week.
He enjoyed sitting with his friend and relaxing, having a non-work chat and chilling out to start the weekend, but it was the taste of the pint that he liked most. I asked him how that pint could taste different from any other pint from the same pub. He said he didn’t know but it did. I suggested it was chilling with his friend or starting his weekend that was enjoyable but he said that wasn’t it.
Now, Adam is a pain in the arse, but nice with it. He believes he knows just about everything there is to know about…well, everything really. I try not to have discussions with him about most things, at the best of times, so I was treading carefully here. I asked him, “Imagine you finished work and instead of going to the pub you walked into a white room, empty except for a white chair to sit on. The walls were white, the floor and ceiling were white.
There was nothing at all to see. Nothing to hear. Nothing to feel. No sensations at all.
I asked him if he thought his pint would taste as good. After actually stopping to think he said, no, he didn’t think it would. I asked, “Why not? it’s exactly the same pint, the contents haven’t changed at all.” At that point he said, “Yeah, maybe I just associate the end of the week and the company with the pint” I just said it was food for thought and smiled inside. I felt that was the moment when he realised that my decision not to drink alcohol was a real thought out decision and not just a whim.
Adam had another pint while I nursed my over sweetened drink. He was polite and respectful of my choice not to drink and I was pleased about that.
The rain stopped when we left the pub and we walked home after all. We met some neighbours and we had a chat and a laugh. I started to realise that the alcohol had in fact had an effect on Adam as he was starting to get a bit silly. I’ve never been more sober than Adam in all the time I’ve known him so this opened my eyes a bit.
As we finished our conversation, Adam’s friend Dave rang. He wanted to know if Adam wanted to go to the pub for a pint. Despite having just been back from the pub for 10 minutes he jumped at the chance and we walked round to meet him. Dave asked if I wanted to join them but I said no. Adam said it was because I was sick of Appletise but I told him I’d had a lovely lunch and it was time for me to go home. He then said I was welcome to sit and be a bore while they were drinking alcohol but I told him I was far from boring. I wished them a nice night and went home.
On reflection, I realised how quickly Adam’s attitude had changed as soon as a fellow drinker appeared. If I had been boring at lunch or in the pub, he certainly hadn’t let on. I thought it had been a good day but I realised that my drinking must have made him feel uncomfortable with his own so as soon as back up arrived in the form of Dave, Adam could relax and be in ‘good drinking company’ again.
I loved being out and not drinking. I loved the fact that I was the same person I was at the start of the afternoon as I was at the end. I loved that I could go home and see my kids and make the dinner. When I got home Sarah gave me a big hug but I sensed she was checking to see if I’d been drinking or not. I loved the fact that I hadn’t let her down. And I got a free lunch into the bargain!!
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Photo Courtesy of Cindee Y (cc $ flickr,com)