Sober in New Orleans: Day 3

Yesterday was weird, awesome, exhausting, inspiring, exhilarating and eye-opening.

It’s nice to be able to remember the events of last night and yesterday, instead of trying to piece it all together between forgotten “WTF have I done?” text messages, questionable social media posts and random photos in my phone’s camera roll of strangers and places I don’t remember hanging out with or going to, or strange objects laying around the apartment of which I have no recollection of where they came from.

It’s also nice to be able to say I had a sweeping range of emotions throughout the day, instead of just numbed indifference as endless and flat as the Canadian prairies.

I had highs and lows as dramatic and epic as the Norwegian Fjords.

It was a bit of a Treat Yo Self Day, from our 80 minute morning massages to an indulgent shopping spree at the outlets (and of course a lot of eating in between). I was in great spirits all day until we were about to meet up with some friends across the street at the posh new NOPSI Hotel “for drinks” and to watch the ultra talented and soulful YaDonna West (friend of a friend) sing. And boy, can she sing.

A headache arrived, everything was hurting and waves of vertigo had me spinning like Dorothy on her way to Oz. Somehow, I think my body knew what I was getting myself into, it’s little but loud alarm system sounding off as best it knew how.

Yesterday I just thought I was overtired. Today I’m pretty sure it was anxiety.

This was the first time I was putting myself in a social situation – with friends, other than Hubs – where there would be more than a lot of drinking. It’s somehow different from watching strangers across a dining room enjoying some wine. This was an intimate, in-my-face, smell-it-on-their-breath, extended evening of god-only-knows-what-the-hell-is-going-to-happen.

Plus, it was Friday night of St. Patrick’s Day weekend in New Orleans.

The perfect storm to fall from grace.

Here’s (the abridged version) of how things went down:

5:30pm – Hubs and I head over to meet our friends, after I kill a couple superman-strength Advil washed down with kombucha. I was a little cranky because I was feeling fat and gross after trying on clothes at the outlet (perk of being drunk all the time in the past is that I didn’t really care how I felt, so long as I was – for the most part –clothed. Sober me really wishes he had stuck with the gym over the last year).

5:45pm – The lounge is breathtaking. Swanky and sexy. The type of place that begs for the clink of ice cubes and expensive scotch, spotless wineglasses and the swirl of shiraz and overpriced handbags. Funny how just a hotel lobby can make you feel like a drink would complete you. C arrives and her rosé starts flowing. I encourage Hubs to order a drink. He doesn’t really want one, but gets a French 75. I opt for a Virgin Bloody Mary and the biggest bottle of Perrier they have.

6:00pm – I’m grateful no one is drinking red wine. Red wine was my thing. I start thinking that I could handle having just one glass. It’s Friday night after all. I catch myself and have a tiny internal dialogue, miniature Annie Grace stepping up in my mind to ask if I’m willing to trade 30 minutes of “comfort” for hours of riding a dynorphin waterslide into a pool of regret. I decide to head out for a smoke instead of making a splash.

6:30pm – I come back to see 3 more people have joined us, whom I haven’t met and someone has taken my seat. I shuffle over my Virgin Bloody Mary and Perrier and she immediately strikes up conversation, sort of. She’s already slurring her words at 6:10pm. She has two whisky on the rocks in front of her, and for some reason is taking turns drinking from each.

7:05pm – I go out for another smoke to escape the awkward conversation, and to text my BFF in Calgary: “Best cure for cravings? Talk to really drunk people.”

8:00pm – I’ve officially fallen in love with YaDonna, who is singing Sinatra’s “Summer Wind”. Everyone else is sort of listening, but no one is truly paying attention, other than an elderly, humble looking Grandma who is slow dancing with a newborn while the baby’s parents are sitting at the bar.

8:30pm – I’m starving. I’ve eaten a pack of cigarettes and have made about 10 trips to the restroom, having to pass that sexy bar twice on each trip. I recognize bottles and labels. Of course, everyone sitting around the bar is drinking red wine. Goddamnit. I can literally smell it. I order a Red Bull. I don’t even like Red Bull.

9:00pm – C is getting really drunk at this point. The waitress has just been topping up her wine glass free-pour, before it’s even empty. Chair-thief is still talking (primarily about herself, on repeat) and keeps explaining how she only drinks socially. I’m reminded of how I was her for 20 years. I’m still irritable but no longer annoyed by her – I feel sorry for her, and grateful for my Perrier.

9:30pm – We’ve managed to coordinate our plans enough to make a communal decision to head to this apparently random Ramen Pop-Up at a nearby bar I’ve never heard of. At this point I’d eat a chair, so I’m just happy a decision has been made. Coordinating this however, is like herding feral cats.

10:00pm – We arrive at the Ramen Pop-Up and it’s hosted in the seediest, skankiest hole-in-the-wall you can imagine. It’s exactly the opposite of where we just came from. The irony of how quickly we descended from high-end-downtown posh hotel lobby with soulful live Jazz to sticky table-top, dark and dingy bar blasting some sort of angry garage band isn’t lost on me. As within, so without.

10:05pm – I’m transported back to my 3-Pitchers-of-Beer lunches I’d have at Sneaky Dee’s in Toronto when I was in University, before heading back to class. The ramen ended up being delicious and the crowd around the bar once again gives me as many reasons as there were people of why I most certainly do not want a drink. There’s yelling, screaming, and some dude is repeatedly punching his fist on a table almost in tears. I think another drunk kicked him in the balls and left. It also smelled really weird in there.

11:00pm – Apparently, now we’re heading back to the swanky hotel: there’s a live DJ, dancing and a rooftop pool party. Chair thief bails and stumbles home (hopefully). We arrive and I have to admit – the view was breathtaking. The music was incredible. I discovered that dancing sober is akin to playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. I was blindly aiming at some sort of rhythm and looking drunk, even though it was just club soda in my glass. At least I blended in. Hubs is fine, C brought him a rosé that he says tastes disgusting. She keeps encouraging me to drink, over and over again, and pouts when I keep declining.

11:30pm – I’m entertained by more than half of the crowd on the roof and start really thinking about what’s actually happening. Everyone is standing in small circles (with the exception of the exceptionally drunk, who are dancing like no one is watching, even though everyone can’t take their eyes off the spectacle) and no one is really talking to each other, as you honestly really can’t over the loud music. But, this is what we call being social: spending money on an evening that will barely be remembered, while barely talking to each other. We call it a night (thank god) because C is sort of everywhere and I’m terrified the hot mess of a stranger next to me is going to topple off the rooftop in her 8″ heels while she’s busting a move to apparently a different song than the one that’s playing. Her rhythm is as sharp as a ball of dough.

12:00pm – We’re back at our building. C decides we should all go up to the rooftop for a nightcap. I still have Red Bull regretfully racing through me, so I agree. Hubs and I zip to our apartment for a second then head up to the roof. C never arrives. Shocking.

I put myself to bed, grateful for the money in my pocket, the ramen in my belly, and only regretting the Red Bull that should be banned from human consumption.

I’m grateful for last night. It was as though 20 different former-me’s were summoned so I could watch myself, like Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. All the awful “Old Me’s” parading before my very eyes.

“What’s to-day, my fine fellow?” said Scrooge.
“Today!” replied the boy. “Why, Christmas Day.”
“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it.”

It’s 42 days without a drink today – and especially after last night, it’s fair to say “I haven’t missed it.”

Written by SJ VanDee

Recovery Blogger. Sober AF. Photographer. Storyteller. Writer.


  1. First, hurrah for maintaining your sobriety at ground zero of all things drunk. And then kudos for this great writing. You managed to sneak Dickens into the French Quarter, hello? What’s not to love. My mother and stepfather live in Louisiana. They drive hours from home just so my stepfather can get a Dunkin Donuts coffee. I’ve heard of some awful drink called a Hurricane and have no desire, much like Red Bull’s they should probably also be banned from human consumption. Mostly I just want to tour all the haunted houses and maybe…maybe eat that fried dough thing which I can’t bother to try and spell. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    Liked by 1 person

Let's talk...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: