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The strange experience of being sober at a concert

The strange experience of being sober at a concert

I'm not a big concert-goer. Every once in a while a friend invites me to a concert in Toronto and I say yes. Last night was one of those occasions. With my boyfriend living 4000 km away, the social outings are slim this summer. So, when my girlfriend had an itch to head to Toronto to see Blue Rodeo and Sam Roberts Band outside, I jumped at it. Of course, as a former social drinker, the usual questions arose about how I'd manage not drinking alcohol at a concert.

How quickly would I get bored hanging out on a lawn listening to music without additional buzzing supports? As I've mentioned in previous posts, time tends to slow down when you're sober. And, speed up the more you drink. The last concert I'd been to was The Who a couple winters back. I drank. My friends drank. A good time was had by all. At least, that was the story I told myself.

When we arrived at the venue, the place was buzzing with people and lineups for beer, wine and a drink called "the fishbowl" -- fishbowl shaped glassware filled with a light pink fluid. It looks as ridiculous as it sounds, for the record. My girlfriend lined up for her $14 cooler which she admitted didn't taste worthy of its price tag. 

I had no temptation to drink alcohol. I had my bottled water which was all I needed for the night. What struck me most about my experience was that I felt like I was in a sort of dream where I'm a passive participant to what's going on around me. After lifting the hand (no thanks) to offers of alcohol for so long, it felt strange to observe people behaving the way I used to behave (somewhere along the spectrum of silly tipsy to slurring drunk). It was with a mix of shame and wonder that I realized that not that long ago, I was okay with lining up for too long to buy drinks that cost too much. Over and over again. Just for what? To get some sort of buzz. 

My girlfriend, who was a lot of fun to hang out with, lined up three times through the night, spending close to $60 on three drinks, total. I'm not sure she got that buzz she wanted, but I remember that I used to do the same thing. Just keep drinking, without really thinking about why, until the night's over and you wonder what was the point? 

We met a small group of friendly people as my girlfriend lit up a cigarette by the fence, away from the action of the concert. As the only sober one of the group at this point, I didn't say much in the conversation. One of the guys in the group was clearly drunk or high. I've come to realize that it's no fun at all talking to someone who slurs words. In fact, it's somewhat uncomfortable. However, my most prominent thought was, ugh, did I used to slur my words when I over drank? I knew the answer to that. Observing him confirmed I never wanted to appear or feel that way again. Through the conversation, I learned that he had taken two mollies earlier in the night, which they found quite funny. I nodded my head. Cool. Hard drugs. Fun. It wasn't an ideal time to invite them to join my new sobercurious meetup group. I kept quiet.

While I was ready to walk away after a few minutes of conversation, my girlfriend chatted for quite awhile forcing me to stay, as well. She'd had two drinks by then and was feeling friendly. I, however, was ready to retreat. They were nice guys, don't get me wrong. But I've lost all understanding as to why so many people need to get lost in a high or buzz to have fun. 

"I can tell you're the introverted type," said one of the guys to me. I quietly said I wasn't, then proceeded to not talk. I just wasn't into this and in the end, I didn't really care how I appeared. He likely wouldn't remember our conversation when he sobered up the next day anyhow. 

We stayed until close to the end of the concert (my girlfriend managed by drop in on the guys one more time on our way out). I was ready to go. Which begs the usual question. Am I boring now that I don't drink? I can't even stay to the end of a chill outdoor summer concert. The old me would definitely be frustrated with the new me. We would not have hung out much a few years ago. But, the new me doesn't think I'm boring.

In fact, if less people were spending time and money drinking, I think everyone would have a better time. I remember that buzzed feeling that I wanted to feel during parties and social occasions. But now I recognize that all it does it water down the experience. It makes everything a little hazy. Sure you may laugh and chat more, and wake up with your pounding headache and tell yourself, wow, that was so much fun. But do you really remember it being fun? Or do you just remember that you were kinda buzzed. I haven't quite figured out the answer to that question. Yes, I tend to think I had a lot of fun all those party nights I've experienced over the decades. I certainly have some crazy stories to tell, if I choose to. But they were also laced with stupid actions, holes in my memory, and inauthentic connections. In a way, they weren't real. They were manufactured by alcohol. In short, I don't miss it. 

I much prefer the authentic experience. I remember every word, every observation. I remember that, last night,  I enjoyed my girlfriend's company and the performance. And, I remember that I was ready to leave after a certain amount of time. I was there for a good time. But not a long time. 

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