Many moons ago in the dark and distant drinking past I agreed to a trip with a bunch of girl friends. Not for one moment did I think that come September I would not be drinking. OK so in about April this year I agreed to a walking trip through WINE COUNTRY with 9 wine guzzling friends. It's a "slack packing" trip i.e. walking through wine estates and country roads and staying at a different guest house each night whilst your luggage gets transported there. YES, I have spent 4 days walking through the most beautiful countryside eating the loveliest of food with a bunch of the most fabulous women. BUT it was WINE country, the guest houses were WINE ESTATES and there were AT LEAST 3 if not 4 WINE TASTINGS per day.
And not a drop passed my lips, not a single drop.
I have been very anxious about this trip. I knew I would be able to prevent myself from drinking but I was really worried about how I would relate to others, how they would feel about me not drinking. As Mrs D said in her post today, its easy to give up drinking, its how to live sober that is difficult. How to do this trip sober, yes that was what worried me. Well its done, its in the past. I am over the hill and I think I still have all my mates intact.
Some of the friends knew I was not drinking, but through my own doing, they don't really GET IT that I have given it up. It's not really a temporary detox, its forever, its for real. But I have played that down, so their surprise that I was going to "be good" (in their words) on such a trip is hardly surprising really.
First night is the big reunion "go big" night. They all get pretty drunk and forget about me. I really did have a very long day getting to the starting venue so I say I am exhausted and go to bed, but not making a point early. Next morning there are hangovers and regrets and the swapping of pills. I know I shouldn't but I do love to see this. It validates my decision. It makes me so grateful to not be there. There is a point to not drinking. Its to not be there the morning after. Is this what they call schadenfreude?
We walk. Its a beautiful day, not too hot, not too cool. Its perfect. I am loving it. The scenery is spectacular. There are moans about the steepness, the heat. The childish call of "are we nearly there yet?" When I run and play golf, I am nearly always the weakest link. Among this bunch, most of whom are a bit younger than me, I am the strongest, the fittest. This is a truly novel experience for me.
The first stop. A beautiful estate squeezed in between 2 spectacular mountains. Lunch and wine tasting. I decide to be a part of it. I appear to listen attentively. I appear to take an interest. But I could not really care less. Once the wine maker gets it that I am not drinking and leaves me alone I relax. They sniff and swirl. Lots of bawdy laughter over the spit, swallow or gargle joke that never gets old. I watch. Some of the group really are going through the motions - they don't really care about the wine. Water would taste as good. Others perhaps are real tasters - savouring a mouthful, leaving the rest until the next sample. A couple are drinkers. The alcohol is more important than the wine. They finish each sample, and hold out their glasses greedily for the next tasting. Aah, now that would be me. I never really cared for wine tastings. It was all too fussy. I was never sure how much more there was to come. I could never relax and get drunk at my own pace, in my own time.
And so the days progress. I sit on the edge of the wine tastings, showing a interest. Some of the girls even tell me about the wines, how nice this one is, how they don't like that one. They sweetly assume I still care. But I don't. The smell of wine ever so slightly nauseates me. Momentarily I think how nice it would be. I run my ever reliable video through my head. (Magical honey buzz of first sip, more, more is not enough, where is next glass coming from, mouth dry, blood sugar drop, need to eat, need to drink, need to sleep, its 3am awake, drenched in sweat, heart racing, thirst, must drink water water, its 6am liverish, headachy thirsty as hell, I hate myself I must stop, I hate myself) And when its lunch time drinking that whole scenario is just prolonged.
Day 3 and wine fatigue is setting in among the non hard core. They say "lets have a cappucino" when the others are tasting.
For the most part nobody refers much to my not drinking at all. The comments are mostly supportive and some are curious There are also the confessions:
- I gave up for 3 weeks recently - felt so much better. Started again, don't know why.
-I am trying to give up on weekdays, but Mondays are such stressful days that I end up drinking and then what's the point of giving up for the rest of the week?
Its not difficult to spot those with our same problem.
One wine maker would not accept that I did not drink and kept offering me wine with each sample. Finally one of the girls saw my irritation and said, "leave her alone, she's just out of rehab". It was good-natured, it was supportive, it was funny.
I did not feel envious of those drinking. Those that are not drinkers don't LOVE it the way I did and so I can't envy them. Those that LOVE it - well those are the ones that have all the same issues I had - even if they don't know that now. I know that sounds judgemental, but that's the way I see it.
The trip overall was just lovely. Just perfect. The friendship, the laughter, the conversations, the scenery, the weather, the food.
Wine on a wine walk? Not essential at all.
I have been tested and I think my love affair with the stuff really is over.