Seeing friends & COVID-19

We have been in lockdown since sometime in March. I think it’s over 60 days now, but I’ve honestly lost count. This COVID-19 pandemic has forced people from around the globe to retreat into the safety of their homes, seeing friends and family only through Zoom calls and FaceTime chat-ups. To say it’s been weird would be an understatement.

I began my AF journey late into our shelter-in-place order, and now as states are opening up and my friends are ditching Netflix and jammies and venturing out into “socially-distant” venues, the next chapter begins. Both as it relates to living in a world where the coronavirus is still a real threat to our society and for me as I adapt to socializing with friends without a glass of wine in my hand.

And yesterday was my first experiment with both.

A friend visiting the area from out of town, who we had not seen all year, invited us to meet her at the winery near our house. Sitting outside seemed safe enough –though again, it was the first time we had literally spent time with anyone except our son. When we pulled up, the parking lot was packed. So many people. So many damn people.

I sat in the car, my anxiety levels rising, and seriously considered calling my friend from the parking lot and telling her that we couldn’t make it and hightailing it the hell out of there and back to the safety of my cabin in the woods.

Just so many people.

People not wearing masks.

People just walking around, gathering as though there wasn’t a real threat here.

I wasn’t ready. Clearly. But I sucked it up and headed to the patio, where… there were, again… SO MANY PEOPLE. I literally held my breath as I made my way to the corner table where my friend was waving madly.

No hugs hello were expected or given. The new norm, I imagine, for quite some time. I sat and pulled my chair a little further from the table.

We spent a good 90 minutes there, me drinking my (smuggled in) NA beer and water while keeping a close eye on all the people coming and going around me. It honestly was not fun. Not one bit of it. I enjoyed seeing her, of course, but I spent the whole time feeling anxious. And I know it has a lot to do with the current environment we’re in with this goddamn coronavirus, but I haven’t felt that stressed in a long time.

I’m not ready.

Not ready to be around friends.

And maybe if I was powering through a bottle of wine, I would feel less tense about the whole deal, but that’s not where I want this journey to end.

So, what I learned is that it’s not that much fun yet to be out with friends. Because of this pandemic and the risks involved, I’m just too nervous. And because I’m not medicating myself, there’s nothing to take the edge off that nervousness. And as much as that sucks, but I’m not willing to go backward. Everyone has to create their own version of what’s normal to them right now and sitting outside at a people-filled winery just isn’t it.

Not that I won’t try other ways to get back out into the world, when the time is right, but out of respect for my alcohol-fee journey, I need to find other things to do.

This is new. I’m committed to this. And, unfortunately, I’m having to navigate not only being with friends and not drinking, but being with friends and being anxious about being with friends, while not partaking. Thank you COVID-19.

As I proudly stride into Day 12, I have to be kind to myself and remember I’m not the only one looking for a new normal. We’re all trying to figure it out, alcohol-free or not.

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