Years ago in my first year out of college I declared Sober September and committed to 30 days free of alcohol. At the time, a friend of mine was giving Alcoholics Anonymous a second go. While I had absolutely no delusions about the affect my silly little voluntary 30-day challenge would have on a vicious disease the cure for which depends on professional intervention and abstinence forever, I did think it’d at least be helpful for her to have one go-to friend who wouldn’t invite her to happy hour.
I remember her showing me her silver chip, an AA token that denotes a participant’s first 30 days of sobriety. It was a proud but vulnerable moment, a milestone that could be stripped away with one sip, and it has stuck with me ever since.
We’re not in contact anymore but I always think about her around this time and hope she has a whole big stash of those tokens piled up today. Every few years, for no reason in particular, I declare another Sober September. This was one of those years.
I’m not a big drinker (I have maybe two drinks per week, maximum) so this isn’t a huge ordeal to me. What was surprising, though, was how many times I found myself in situations where I had to decline a drink (and also how much it seems to offend people when I do). It seems Charlotte’s entire social world (or at least my entire social world) revolves around “Hey, let’s grab drinks”. Never has that been more apparent to me than over the last 30 days.
Days I was offered drinks in September
1: Offered a drink from the concession stand at the #WTFwevote Mayoral Forum. Bought a huge bottle of water at Starbucks across the street instead. Tweeted many a “Drink if a candidate says _____” commands but all the while was just drinking water myself.
2: Happy hour sales meeting with Ted and potential partners at Nan & Byron’s. Order sparkling water. Everyone else has cocktails.
4: Agenda team bonding at 300 East with Ted and Andrew. I haven’t announced I’m not drinking so I order off the mocktail menu so my drink will at least look like a real cocktail. Server comes back to confirm, “So you don’t want vodka in that?” The guys think I’m pregnant.
5: Beer at the Charlotte Independence game. Bought a red, white and blue Independence popsicle instead.
6: Impromptu trip to Lenny Boy Brewing with friends. Jackpot. Not drinking alcohol is not abnormal here. Got a kombucha. Others got beer.
7: Labor Day. Everyone everywhere is drinking. Nick and I go play tennis instead. We suck.
8: Agenda writers’ meeting. Beer and pizza. I just fill up my water bottle.
11: Happy hour meeting with Ted at RuRu’s. Sparkling water again for me. He drinks margaritas. Elsa Fine + wine party at my sister’s later that night. I bring kombucha and tell her I’m not drinking. “Why are you always doing weird things?” she asks. Story of my life.
12: My boyfriend and I go to Windy Hill Orchard. He gets the hard cider flight and I (gasp) take a couple sips. It’s good.
15: McColl Center exhibition preview. Offered wine but declined. Bar Method grand opening party. Lots of wine and champagne. I grab a fruit skewer instead and jet out early.
17: Drinks with friends before #WeLoveCLT. Sparkling water again. Pass on the beer at the event (as always, not a beer drinker). HSM Core Release the Beast party. I post a picture of all the endless wine but drink none of it.
18: Girls Day Away Golf Tournament. There are different drinks offered at each hole. I’ve never golfed before, I’m a lefty borrowing right-handed clubs and I’m dressed like an idiot so to hell with it… I have a margarita. Just one.
19: Backyardapalooza at a friend’s house. Kegs and what appears to be some really killer sangria but I pass since I already cheated yesterday.
25: Game over. Team bonding with Ted and Andrew at Workman’s Friend. It’s a celebration so I have two cocktails and call it a month.
29: VisitNC Media Mixer at Nascar Hall of Fame. The new mixologist from 5Church is on site serving fancy cocktails. I pass in an attempt to reverse last week’s failure.
Let me make it abundantly clear that me playing the No Drinking game for a month-ish is in no way comparable to someone with alcoholism choosing sobriety. But making a commitment like Sober September and having to say no to alcohol over and over and over again makes me more keenly aware of how pervasive it is in my social circle and how tricky that could be to navigate for those like my friend who have a lot more riding on “No thanks, I’m not drinking” than a silly 30-day challenge.