One of my best sober friends (actually one of my best friends period) is Nick. We share the same fondness for trash culture and catty remarks, and have spent many a Sunday morning howling with laughter.
One such morning I remember him saying, almost wistfully, “God, you would have been SO much FUN to drink with.” I knew what he meant. There would have been a time when we could have held court at some bar like the bitchy queens we are, trading witty barbs and laughing at other people’s shoes. And it would have been fun. That is, it would have been fun until closing time, when we’d go home and be without our audience.
I found myself thinking about that kind of “fun” yesterday. These days, I very seldom get nostalgic for my drinking years. I’ve rewired my brain sufficiently that any kind of yearning I might feel is immediately short-circuited. But yesterday was our end-of-season staff barbeque and general blowing-off-steam get-together.
I am in a somewhat unique position in that I have worked at the same place for over 18 years. I was a drunken mess here, and I am now a sober responsible mess here. So I can stand in pretty much any one area of this building and recall being a drunken mess with virtually all the same scenery (literally and figuratively). And so it was at yesterday’s staff party.
We had grills going, we had trash barrels full of beer and soda, we set up a giant bouncy house in the middle of the scene shop. And the carpenters and electricians chipped in and got an ice luge. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a large block of ice with curving channels carved into it. From Wikipedia:
A determined quantity of liquid, typically liquor, is poured into a channel at the top of the luge. A few seconds later the drink is dispensed at the bottom of the channel at an ice cold temperature…directly into an open mouth of a participant.
It was a source of great amusement to the staff, many of whom took a turn at the bottom. My coworkers are good sports, the kind of people who can let loose once in a while – like, oh, what the hell, I’ll do this once, have a burger and then go home and have a good laugh about it.
I do not understand these people at all.
Also in attendance were most of the actors in the company we are playing host to for the next several weeks. They are here from England performing two of Shakespeare’s plays in repertory. Further, they love to have a good time.
I stood there with my Diet Coke and reflected on the whole scene. For my 23-year-old self, this would have been absolute heaven: virtually unlimited supplies of alcohol and English actors. Instead of trotting dutifully home at 6:30, I would have closed that sucker down. There would be laughter, mirth, several turns at the luge, and roundly inappropriate behavior with at least one of those English actors.
And that’s when I had to force myself to remember something that one of my early “sobriety mentors” told me. She was a fabulous woman named Gloria. Mobility issues had confined her to a wheelchair, but she cheerfully dispensed advice and was absolutely invaluable to me when I was sick, sad and scared. When I’d lament that drinking used to be SO MUCH FUN and why can’t it just be FUN again she’d say to me, “Honey, you have got to play the whole movie. What you’re doing is showing the trailer. You’re only seeing the good parts.”
And here I was, almost nine years later, doing the same thing. What I wasn’t playing in my head was the fact that the English actors would invariably go back to their rooms, begging off any further “fun” because of their grueling performance schedule. I would be left to manage to get myself home, drunk, smeary-eyed and vaguely embarrassed. I’d be hungover for about two full days. I would probably have had to avoid at least one of the English actors for the rest of the run.
I looked over at the clock hanging near the band saw. 6:15. I knew this party would go until at least midnight, but I finished my Diet Coke, grabbed one more burger, went home and had a good laugh about it.