When my friends first suggested this idea, my instant thought was ‘NO WAY’. There is no chance I’m doing this, even with alcohol free options. It will just be too hard. Seeing all the other girls on Zoom getting drunk, knowing I’m not. Why would I put myself through that?

The discussion continued and I started to wonder whether this could be the perfect practice for me. Being around my friends while they are drinking, but it’s over Zoom, so I wouldn’t be able to smell the drinks they are having and if it got too much I could just make my excuses and leave.

I waited for the ingredients to be decided and was relieved to see the only alcohol being used was Gin and Prosecco, both of which I have fantastic alcohol free versions. I eventually decided to go, but without alcohol. My friends knew about my issues and were cool with that.

It was actually really nice putting full make-up and a dress on. I hadn’t done this for at least 12 weeks. I was excited, for two reasons:

1. I was looking forward to spending an evening chatting with my friends.

2. I was looking forward to discovering some mocktails. I never normally put this much effort into trying new drinks, flavoured tonic water is about as extravagant as I’ve got so far.

I got my ingredients ready and strategically set up my laptop so no one could see the mountain of dishes lurking behind. The screen turned on and everyone was there, all glammed up. Whilst we were chatting one friend suggested we open the prosecco and have a glass before we start. I felt a pang of upset, what’s the point of opening my Freixenet 0.0? It’s not going to get me drunk. Suddenly my ‘fantastic alcohol free version’ doesn’t seem so fantastic and I find myself really wanting what everyone else was drinking. The good stuff!

What have I done? Why am I doing this to myself? It’s far too early in my sober journey to be doing this. I could be sat on the sofa right now, no make-up, bra off, pyjamas on, drinking a glass of Shloer.

But I power on through. The cocktail making was fun, if not a little stressful, I should have prepped my fruit before. Tring to peel a grapefruit and get all the pith off is not easy, especially when some squirts in your eye. Oh the burn! We made five all together. Most tasted nice, one (the grapefruit one) did look like something I would bring back up after a night out though. If I’m being totally honest, none of them were that great, I’d take Robinsons Lime and Mint Cordial with tonic water any day! Plus there isn’t a requirement to do a whole set of dishes after drinking that either. Yes, you read correctly, do the dishes. I don’t own a dishwasher. The struggle is real.

One thing that surprised me most about this experience was that some women didn’t make all the cocktails. They just sat there with their G&T’s or the cocktail they had made first and that lasted them for the whole 90 minutes. One lady even said “I don’t drink Prosecco, it gives me really bad hangovers”. What the actual ****? Of course it gives you hangovers. It gives the vast majority of human beings hangovers. That’s no reason not to drink it. I couldn’t believe that there were people doing this thing and not purposefully out to get smashed. It’s even a bank holiday!

And then it struck me, this is what normal people do. Normal people don’t see every activity including alcohol as an opportunity to get wasted. It was lovely. I’d envisaged that the 90 minutes would have concluded with boring, sober me watching 20 other battered women fall of their chairs and spill their cocktails down their sparkly dresses. Instead it ended with everyone saying goodbye and promising to be up for our 7am zoom workout. As if! They’re all going to finish their cocktails and spend the rest of the evening drinking whatever other alcohol they can find in their house and fall asleep on the sofa.

When my alarm went off the next morning at 6.40am I really struggled to get up. Not because I was hungover, it simply felt wrong getting up at this time on a Bank Holiday, plus I knew I would be the only person there. How wrong I was. 19 other women filled my screen, at 7:00am, on a Bank Holiday Monday having made cocktails the evening before. Maybe being alcohol free won’t make me that different from everyone else? It will just make me different from the old me. I’m ok with that.