New year’s Eve is always such a big deal. Everyone plans and plans, and sets their expectations high, and spends money on ridiculous outfits and shoes and hair and make-up (don’t get me wrong, dressing up is lovely sometimes, but NYE tends to be a little over-the-top), and we make prestigious dinner reservations, and buy bougie party tickets, and overpriced drinks, and pay for Ubers (or, unfortunately, DUIs)….and the list goes on. And often, in my experience, we do all of this just to be let down, probably end up too drunk, and then wake up on the first day of a new year discouraged, hungover, and not quite as optimistic as we hoped we’d be.
The last four years I have had to work, being in the service industry, working on NYE was not negotiable. So I’d often go out afterward, which was hell on earth. Playing catch-up and drinking a night’s worth of booze after midnight is never a recipe for fun — many times turning quickly into an all-night-into-the-next-day bender, lost or broken phones. Drunk dials. Fights with friends. Decisions fueled by insecurities and false confidence and pressures and expectations. Putting my trust in complete strangers to after-parties promising the cure to The Void. And once it ended, always wanting to curl up and die as I tried to knit my unraveling life back together.
This year, I had just put in my two weeks’ notice at my serving job (to focus on starting my own Health Coaching biz, more on this later!) and wasn’t scheduled to work. By coincidence, my boyfriend, also in the industry, wasn’t scheduled to work either. We decided to stay in and cook with some friends, build a fire, and play boardgames to ring in the new year. It was supposed to be freezing, and I knew I didn’t want to go to any parties or bars, so it seemed like a perfect (and safe) New year’s Eve for newly sober me. However, I knew everyone would be drinking, my roommate drinks quite a bit and they had invited a handful of friends over for the small gathering. I was aware that in theory I could remove myself at any time (I do live there after all) and retreat into my room, so I planned ahead: I bought Martinelli’s sparking cider for the toast and set up my electric tea kettle and assortment of herbal teas in the living room so I could have unlimited hot beverages while the champagne, bourbon, and gin flowed like water for everyone else. It snowed (in Texas! Pretty magical I must say) while we cozied up to the fire and ate delicious home-cooked food. I had a genuinely good time for about two hours.
One person at our party had been living in Columbia teaching English for some time and explained a Columbian tradition on New year’s Eve: we wrote down anything we wanted to let go of and free ourselves from in 2017 on little pieces of paper, shared them aloud, and then threw them into the fire with such gusto as if to literally blow our disappointments into oblivion. We went around the circle, some were funny, some were wise, some were touching and emotional. When it was my turn to share, I almost changed my mind and skipped my third ‘thing’, but then I took a deep breath and said out loud; “Procrastination, [trailing off…] because I do that too much. Self-doubt, because I also do that too much. Slip-ups..from-uh-alcohol [squishing my words together so fast because I hoped no one would hear me], and SERVING! because I just quit my day job!” I was filled with embarrassment, anger, excitement, and glee all at the same time as I balled up the paper tightly in my fist and flung it into the flames. I didn’t even watch if it burned because I was horrified I would now have to talk about my sobriety with a bunch of people drinking heavily. Then a friend (we aren’t very close, all my close friends are very aware of my sobriety) said, “Wait, like you aren’t drinking often or you’re not drinking at all anymore?” “None. Zip. Zero alcohol.” ….silence. My boyfriend reached for my hand, squeezed it tight, gazed into my eyes, & sincerely and ever-so-dreamily (my heart collapsed into my stomach I shit you not) said, “I love you, I am so proud of you” quietly so only I could hear him, and then he declared, “Well shit, I want to change mine now! I don’t think I took this seriously enough!” Everyone laughed, and the pressure of me declaring my sobriety moved on to the next person in the circle. *phew*
A few hours later I was visibly frustrated. Everyone had gotten just a tad bit louder and more obnoxious (you don’t notice it as much when your senses are dulled, too). As much as I’ve been trying to follow the “don’t do anything you don’t feel like doing” principle, I felt obligated to stay and play a game that I didn’t find interesting or fun, because I never see this group of people, because they’d care if I left, because I felt trapped. We counted down to midnight, I cheers’d with my Martinelli’s sparkling cider while everyone talked over each other and bumped into one another, and I kissed my boyfriend. He walked over to change the music and I followed him. He hugged me, and I felt it coming on, I tried to resist but I couldn’t…a wave washed over me as my eyes welled up with tears and I blurted out, “This game sucks! Am I the only person not having any fun??”…he looked at me, shocked, sad, but compassionate. “Let’s go.” He walked me into our room and we laid down on the bed. He kissed my forehead and tears streamed down my cheeks as I said, “I don’t even know why I’m crying” and he demanded, “We are not doing this right now — do not let it win. You cannot cry, you are so strong! You have spent NYE sober, who else can even say that?! We are going to be strong!” He went on about how I am not obligated to anyone and I can leave any situation the second I stop having fun. I don’t have to explain myself or rationalize it. I don’t have to feel obligated or like I owe anyone my time. I explained to him how frustrated I felt, how bored I was at the scene, how pointless prolonged socializing (especially with drunk people) seems to be during early stages of sobriety. How much I flash back to the countless hours I’ve lost to alcohol. How much I want to fit in and be around alcohol without any feelings of resentment or judgement, but I can’t help it. He listened. He hugged me. He made me laugh.
At one point he got upset, shook his head and said, “This is ridiculous, I’m giving you advice on being sober and I’ve been drinking, how dumb is that” — we had a good laugh about it, and I assured him his advice meant the world to me regardless of his consumption. After I calmed down, I cuddled up in my bed and watched Planet Earth II on Netflix until I fell asleep. I didn’t go back out and say goodbye to anyone or wish them a Happy New Year. I didn’t explain why I had left without saying goodnight or apologize for being “lame”. I just owned my truth and allowed myself to be happy doing it.
Honestly, learning my boundaries and acting on keeping them was the best way to spend the New Year that I could ever imagine. I will never forgot the arrival of 2018.
…oh, and waking up with no hangover was pretty amazing, too. ❤
Love + Light,