When I drank, I used to talk to strangers... A lot.
I’d actually often ditch the friends I was out with to hang with these people I’d never met before (without telling my friends) and end up in some sketchy situations.
But last weekend, I found myself chatting with strangers left right and centre. My flatmate kindly took me to Chester as she had an appointment there, so we made a day of it, and I had a bit of time to myself.
It was gloriously sunny, so I found a pub, ordered an Appletiser, and sat with my journal to do some writing.
A couple were sitting near me, having a drink and chatting quietly. The person closest to me, who I later found out was an ex-military 40-year-old man from England, told me his wife wanted to know what I was writing about. I later found out she was from Germany, and the two had met in Hamburg.
I told them I was writing ideas for Over the Influence, explained that I don’t drink (yada yada), and they asked if I’d like to join them at their table. He was bearded, wearing a backwards cap and reflective colourful sunglasses. She was tall and blonde, wearing a white dress and sipping on a soft drink.
I always notice when people are drinking soft drinks, so I asked her if there was a story behind it. Upon reflection, this was a insensitive, deeming I spend a lot of time thinking about the reasons people don't drink, but the question just slipped out.
Apparently, she’d had too many the night before. Apparently, so had he, but he needed ‘hair of the dog’ to feel better again. (Of course, I wasn’t judging, I’ve done this thousands of times before).
But they weren’t judging me, either. It was a strange feeling; I (unfairly) expected them to disapprove of my early sobriety, considering I’m usually told I have to ‘make the most of my youth’ by getting bladdered.
They told me that army drinking culture was rife, and that they had both struggled with drinking too much in the past. She told me that she once accidentally ordered 8% ciders and drank them as though they were regular strength, and ended up in a very horrible situation. He told me that he’d even blacked out for a few hours the night before, and they both found the pressure to drink intense.
I enjoyed talking with them a lot. They were happy to share with me and have an honest conversation about the downsides to drinking, which many people who drink can struggle to acknowledge (I used to avoid confronting them as much as possible).
They said goodbye after a short while and both wished me well. I told them it was nice to meet them.
A little later, two elderly ladies came into the pub garden, looking for a seat in the shade. There weren’t any free, so I offered to swap with them so I could sit on the sunny table nearby. They were thankful and offered to buy me a drink, to which I obviously declined (I still had half an Appletiser), but I thanked them for the offer.
When they found out I didn’t drink alcohol they were stunned, and kept apologising for having a glass of wine in front of me. It’s no problem, I reassured them. They had a little laugh and said, ‘The roles have reversed! Two old ladies like us are apologising for drinking in front of a young girl like you. What a funny world we live in!’
They asked me about my life and I asked them about theirs. They lived near me in Liverpool, and we spoke about the area and what they liked to do. Their children and grandchildren were travelling all over the world, and I listened to their stories with enthusiasm – their warm energy was contagious.
I eventually had to leave to meet my friend, so we said our goodbyes and I told them how nice it was to meet them.
Walking back to the car park, I thought, wow, I talked to strangers today! People are so nice. I love it when you hit it off with people straight away. I'm so glad I quit drinking and learned to be courageous when meeting people without a beer in my hand.
I genuinely meant it when I said it was nice to meet them. It was real, it was me. I was in the moment, listening, talking, and telling the truth. I also knew I wouldn’t forget them like I’d forgotten so many others I’d spoken to on messy drunken nights in the past.
It helped me to realise that there are opportunities to meet people, make friends, and laugh with others, all around us. It can seem a little daunting, but in fact a lot of the time people respond well to it.
Of course, this wasn’t my first encounter speaking to strangers since I got sober. But it was a perfect reminder that I could reap the benefits I thought I was getting from drinking without the alcohol.
I was calm, I was friendly, and, most importantly, I was being myself.
Do you have any experiences meeting new people or striking up conversations with people spontaneously? How do they compare to your past drunk experiences? Leave your thoughts in the comments! Don't forget, we are a community, and we love to hear from you. To reap the benefits of being a full community member click here to join the rebellion!