When I hosted dinner parties back in my drinking days I would pre-open at least three bottles of very fancy wine (to breathe!) and set out pretty bowls of loose cigarettes and lighters for everyone to enjoy once they’ve had just enough of the wine to think one cigarette would hit the spot. I’d have at least ten more bottles of wine in staggered rows on the kitchen counter so no one felt there might not be enough – especially me. There’d always be an enormous charcuterie and fruit platter with fresh french bread sliced up in a basket, and some large roasted meat item as the main course when dinner finally happened. I wanted to send people into a tizzy of gluttony and fun. A night to tap into their inner glamazons with an abundance of adult (read: expensive) food and beverages.
My friends loved these parties and told me I was especially good at hosting. I was proud of that, and I hosted dinner parties as often as I thought was possible without killing the magic.
This past Saturday night, for the first time since getting sober 2.75 years ago, I hosted a small dinner party with a selection of those friends from the olden days, and I served wine. I host sober brunches regularly (let me know if you live in the Seattle area, by the way – I’ll add you to the invite!), but trying to host a regular dinner party with drinkers felt really hard. I’ve done pretty much everything else sober – holidays, birthdays, vacations, work events, etc. I have all of those sober muscles built up. But hosting a dinner party with wine and old friends felt fresh and scary.
I bought three bottles of red wine for six people, and told them to bring more if they wanted to (they did). I was ready to watch my friends get drunk and silly and just basically be exhausted by the end.
In fact, the drinking was minimal at dinner, and the raucous over-the-top vibe of dinners-past was notably absent. We had nice conversations. It was, for lack a better term, very pleasant. Which old-me would classify as a total disaster, honestly.
The dinner also felt new in a good way. We shared the latest from our lives and in many ways the conversation simply matched our life stage. Jobs, kids, divorces, and health. The 40s aren’t raucous on the outside, perhaps, but there’s always some major transformation happening on the inside, whether you’ve quit drinking like I have or not.
At one point during dinner we talked extensively about my friend’s incredibly youthful looking skin. Like, dramatically different – fresh, smooth and glowing. She said she’s been using a skin regimen that is half organic peels and oils, half self-care ritual that she loves to indulge in daily. She also mentioned that she’d been cutting back on booze, which she is convinced improves her skin (she’s right). And since her daughter was recently diagnosed with Celiac, she’s been eating gluten free and “loving it”.
So, there we were, eating a nice dinner with some wine present and the conversation turns to health and the various adult choices we are making in our own respective lives. My former gluttony-buddies were making their own transitions toward healthier choices, not to lose weight and catch a man (the olden days), but to feel better – to sleep better, look fresher (read: not thinner, per se), and generally enjoy their lives more. My glowing-skin friend even said at one point that she had been inspired by me when I quit drinking. And in turn, after this dinner, I felt inspired by her.
I mourn the loss of those down and dirty, fancy and footloose dinner parties. But I can see that we are all – oh shit – growing up, and finding pleasure, peace and growth in new ways.
My personal struggle, since quitting dieting, has been to find balance with food. I know I can’t moderate alcohol, but food was and is different from a drug. I’ve worked so long and hard at “eating whatever I want” these past few years to reverse the years of shame and guilt, that I haven’t sat back and really contemplated how I want to feel in my body. My friend’s explanation of her skin ritual really struck a chord in me.
Do I really want to feel over-stuffed or tired from sugary desserts, or am I pushing myself to eat those foods just to wear down my years of automatic elimination of specific foods (unless I’m binging)? Would gluten free eating help me have more energy? Should I try it, not to lose weight, but to just experiment with how it feels? Should I add in more beauty/skin rituals to give myself that gift of glowing skin and, maybe more importantly, the gift of dedicated time every night to massage my own face and know that I’m worth the effort?
And, really, what struck me about her ritual was the time it must take to do that every night. It blew my mind that she was able to “fit it in.” Which is hilarious, really. I don’t have kids. I don’t have to work late nights. I have the time to treat myself. To shop for fresh veggies and fruits. To cook elaborate healthier meals. To go for more walks. To scrub and oil my face before bed. But I don’t do it. My indulgence options have always been big and episodic – a 90 minute massage once every 3-6 months, two pieces of pie for dessert, etc. What about simple healthy rituals that I can do every day?
So, I am going to start working on actual HEALTH at my size – eating healthier foods, daily self-care rituals, and movement. I’m going to do it because it will feel good. It will reinforce my self worth and I’m sure it will spill over into how I treat others too. It feels like it’s time.