I still go to bars, alone, often late at night.
Usually, I talk only to the bartender because, even though I don’t drink anymore, I choose to sit at the bar. I order food, and I never drink anything stronger than Sprite.
Sometimes, a stranger will say something to me about a sporting event or how spicy my buffalo wings look and smell or that they like my shirt or my shoes, and I occasionally respond, but most of the time I don’t.
They almost always repeat what they just said a little louder than the first time, thinking I didn’t hear them, but I probably did. I just wasn’t interested in anything they were saying and instead of being honest about that verbally, I sit in silence, eyes fixed on a TV or the menu or my phone.
This is rude behavior, and I know that, but I don’t care. It occurs to me now that that kind of carelessness could be perceived as another form of rudeness, but I would honestly rather have the “he’s not a nice person” label attached to me than engage in some painfully boring conversation about football or a person’s job or god forbid, their family.
Getting sober has helped shine a light on what makes me tick and I’ve learned positive and negative things about myself that were buried under persistent drunkenness for decades, but my general misanthropy has been brought into perhaps the starkest relief.
Quitting drinking improved my life immeasurably. It did not make me all of a sudden play nice with others, and for the first time, I’m beginning to worry about the isolation that accompanies loners like me, and what happens if or when I stop enjoying it.
Chances are good that nobody has ever described me as outgoing.
Meeting new people sounds like a chore, not an opportunity, to me and when I replied to a friend on Twitter the other day that “getting to know people is stupid and a waste of time,” I think I meant it.
I felt that way when I was a practicing alcoholic, but since I stopped putting dangerous amounts of alcohol into my body every single night, I’ve had a tougher time ignoring how lonely I am while knowing full well that I’ve chosen the loneliness.
Most days, I’m pleased with that choice, but lately, whether I’m in a restaurant eating another solo lunch or dinner or spending a day off without talking to another person aside from my nightly phone call to grandma’s, I wonder how this mostly solitary existence affects me and the few relationships I’ve been able to sustain.
If sobriety has opened my eyes to how much disdain I harbor for a large section of the human population, I can’t deny that it helped me realize how much I love the handful of people who are close to me too.
Those dear friends are busy with careers and families though, and I can’t expect them to communicate with me more than they do. I’m not sure I even want that, given my nature.
Some of you might be screaming at your screen “start dating again!” and I’m screaming back “I have!” but nothing has lasted longer than a couple of dates, which is fine. I’m sure I saw on some “Intervention” episodes, or maybe it was “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew,” that recovering alcoholics are supposed to avoid romantic relationships until they get through 12 months of sobriety.
I’m at six months, 10 days and that’s why I’m not dating. It isn’t because I’ve experienced little more than a few drunken hookups since my last serious relationship ended in 2005. That almost total lack of intimacy for so long isn’t the reason. Seriously, stop thinking that’s the reason because it’s not the reason. It’s the staying sober thing I mentioned. That’s why.
Maybe I’m tempting fate with those late-night trips to the bar, but so far, I haven’t had more than an occasional fleeting thought of drinking again.
My justification for walking back into the buildings where I’ve wasted countless hours getting wasted is that I work a few nights during the week, I often skip taking a dinner break and when my shift is over, I’m hungry. I’m not going to prepare a meal at home when it’s that late and I eschew almost all fast food, which leaves only a couple of options and getting food delivered from the same couple of places several times a week to my one-person home is a level of sad my puny brain doesn’t want to comprehend.
However, some part of that same puny brain also believes that going to bars and not drinking is a challenge, and there is enough competitiveness left in me to accept it. I’m certain this is a wildly inadvisable way to stay sober, but it’s working for me so I see no reason to stop.
Plus, it gets me out of the house, and other people are there. It feels almost normal.