Do I Have to Drink to Have a Good Time?

A social experiment

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Nearly three years ago, my first editor at Creative Loafing, Kim Lawson, forwarded me an email from an avid follower. He wanted to wish her farewell as she was leaving the publication, but he also wanted to chat with her about me.

He pretty much asked her if she thought that I, a promising writer in his eyes, would have the courage to write a column on socializing in Charlotte without drinking. Would I consider doing an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) Crawl and talk about my experiences in an article?

My editor never forwarded anything that she didn't feel was at least interesting enough for me to mull over, but this one I couldn't even fathom.

Outside of the fact that I was having a hard time trying to figure out how I could enter the world of AA without compromising the very anonymity the group was built on, two other thoughts came to mind.

One, "I'm not an alcoholic!" *Insert scoff* Two, how in the world could I go out, have a good time and not drink?

Little did I know that that reader, while he didn't know very much about me, was introducing a conversation I'd be having with myself a couple years later.

The past few months haven't been the easiest in my personal life and instead of living in the moment of reality, I've often been wandering aimlessly through the night, especially on the weekends.

Call it coping, call it developing poor drinking habits, I've been trying to do what a lot of millennials are trying to do — find myself.

Nevertheless, that journey has involved quite a bit of alcohol. And a couple weeks ago, that reader came to my mind, like an annoying parent reminding me, "I told you so."

Snapping back into reality the day after a night of drinking can be excruciating. No, I'm not just talking about the physical consequences of a hangover, but the emotional rollercoaster — the deep regret, the negative self-reflection and the feeling of hopelessness.

Lately, that rollercoaster has felt like an Uber I take every weekend. So I decided that I was finally going to take heed to the advice of that reader and start my own challenge, "Sober October." (Would it be a real thing if it didn't rhyme?)

Don't get me wrong peeps, who would I be if I didn't still turn up for the Q.C.?! But this month I'm going to turn up without having to turn up anything.

The idea came to me last week when I decided to buy a last minute ticket to see RENT at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center. Even though I was exhausted after a long night, I refused to let the money go to waste.

I managed to make it through the work day and walked to the venue.

I watched as everyone else made their way down the staircase to the bar for a glass of wine or a lackluster cocktail. I thought for sure I wouldn't be able to resist the temptation but before I had time to convince myself that my stomach or my wallet needed one, they were opening the theater doors.

I took my seat and waited for the show to start.

After being reprimanded for taking a picture of the "trademarked" set — it was a great pic by the way, so sue me — I thought back to the first time I'd seen the movie. I wasn't a fan of musicals and thought there was no way I'd be able to endure over two hours of singing.

The next thing I knew, I was screaming "525,600 minutes" with the rest of the Broadway lovers. Over a decade later and I was planning for the show a full year in advance.

The show started and I realized that despite being tired, I was sitting on the edge of my seat as if I'd never seen the show before. I was captivated with how bright the lights were, how colorful the outfits were, how I felt like I could feel the energy of the characters — even when they were hitting the wrong notes — and it all felt so real. Was I actually enjoying a nightlife experience without drinking?

My content bladder certainly thought so when a large majority of the auditorium spilled out of their seats at intermission for refills and a trip to the bathroom.

A girl could get used to this.

So, whether in recovery or just apt to take breaks, let me know your favorite hangouts and events to frequent in the Q.C. on a sober evening.

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