“Go on just one. I want to see you up on that karaoke. Come on, Christmas parties are all about making a twat of yourself. Don’t be boring.”
What John from accounting doesn’t realise is that I am perfectly capable of making a twat out of myself sober.
Every office has a John. The usually straight-faced colleague who’s suddenly decided he’s the arbiter of fun because he’s chucked on a “jazzy” tie and bought a round of Jägerbombs.
Johns aren’t harmful. They don’t need to be avoided. But they do have a few things to learn.
I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol in four years, seven months and 22 days.
In that time I’ve danced on tables, snogged strangers and horrified unwilling audiences with my karaoke rendition of Teenage Dirtbag on numerous occasions – all with a blood-alcohol level of zero.
There are a number of reasons why someone goes booze-free; anxiety, personal preference, antibiotics, pregnancy, driving, recovery, just to name a few, but none of these are reasons not to get stuck in.
For me, the motivation was more serious than not wanting to splash out on a taxi home: I was a full-blown alcoholic and I needed to stop drinking to save my life.
At 25 years old, I remember explaining to a sober friend from Texas, how much I regretted that I wouldn’t be able to go to clubs and dance like I used to.
She told me in her dulcet southern tones: “If you want to dance on a table but you think you have to get loaded to do it. One day you’ll just go out and get loaded.
“You need to get up there and make yourself dance on the f****** table.”
At first, sober dancing made me feel painfully self-conscious. I was suddenly strangely aware of my arms – these previously unacknowledged appendages just dangling either side of my body.
But I quickly realised that no one was watching me, they were far more concerned about how they looked on the dance floor. So I learned to dance, and eventually, I learned to dance on the table.
Cheeky night-out snogs aren’t off the cards either. But if I’m at a work do, I now think to weigh up spontaneous fun against inevitable office awkwardness. Snogging maths is always easier with a clear head.
What I don’t have are drunken sexual encounters that leave me with a feeling of regret and rejection. And thank f*** for that.
Getting sober doesn’t mean I no longer have anything to contribute to the post-party debrief brunch with the girls.
But it does mean I’m compos mentis enough to turn up to those morning gatherings. And now I get to relay genuinely amusing stories that I fully remember, rather than cobbled-together flashbacks that I’m laughing off to mask my shame.
Whether you’re off the drink for the duration of a two-week penicillin prescription, a 40-week pregnancy or for life, you should know you don’t have to perform. You have nothing to prove.
But it’s also important that you don’t believe the lie that you have nothing to bring to the table when you’re not clutching a class of Pinot Noir.
All the good parts of your character when you’re tipsy still exist when you’re sober. You just have to unleash them. You just have to make yourself get up dancing on that table.
And when you do, you will get to enjoy the parties hangover free, without cringing at the recollection of the night before. For me, it was a Christmas miracle.
Lauren Windle is a journalist and recovering alcoholic