Pedal to the Metal

Wow, last night was a night full of alcohol free firsts! In fact, there were even some general firsts in there too! Waking up this morning, without a hangover and still buzzing from the sheer brilliance of the night before is verging on addictive.

Last night was the first time I have ever been to a metal gig. Yep. A genre of music that I enjoy, that for some reason or another, I had never found myself stumbling upon was made possible by the epic guys from Black Hawk Down who had reached the semi-finals of the Metal 2 The Masses competition and an opportunity to win a slot at Bloodstock festival (9th – 12th August, Catton Park, Derbyshire, check out the website here).

To support my non-drinking, I offered to be one of the many drivers who took a huge group of amazing people on a roadtrip from Stamford to Nottingham. Not that my non-drinking needed any support this weekend as the switch in my brain appears to have been fully clicked into place whereby alcohol doesn’t even factor in my thoughts anymore. Granted, it has only been a week, but still… It’s been the easiest non-drinking week I have ever had.

Anyway, back to the story! We popped on our Awesome Mix Volume 2 (yep, the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 soundtrack because I’m a nerd and not ashamed of it), sang our hearts out in numerous different styles to Mr Blue Sky (opera, meowsical*, rock) and laughed our way to the venue where we found a bar stocked with incredible beers (an Imperial Brewery tap takeover and the launch of their new IkePA), keg and bottles which didn’t interest me in the slightest. Ah OK, a little bit. I was a tad upset that I couldn’t have any of the new IkePA being launched as it smelled amazing and I looked at it longingly as my BitBurger Drive 0.0% was handed to me!

Then there was a desperate scramble for the single ladies toilet in the pub which appeared to be in use for a solid twenty minutes, only for the lead singer of BHD to eventually walk out of it suggesting that nobody follow him in… So metal.

We arrived a little too late to catch Three Years of Winter and heard Archaic from the pub (they eventually went on to win), followed by Down in One, Precibus (who finished third), Black Hawk Down (SECOND and through to the final!) and Nil Desperandum (the only group to have female member with the most incredible voice).

In my sober state, I ran to the front of the crowd for Black Hawk Down and jumped around like a crazy woman past 30 pretending to be metal. It turns out my long on top, shaved down the side hair style is pretty good for headbanging or just general flying around. And my sole concerning thought throughout this time? What the ever living fuck do I do with my hands?! Your knees bend and your feet jump, your head bounces, sorry bangs, to the beat, but what the fuck do your arms do?!

Oh to be drunk and not having to worry about your flailing body parts, although in my dancing time I have clotheslined people on the dancefloor by accident with my aggressive, long-limbed manoeuvres and actually, having my arms weirdly at my side and/or around my torso doing odd rave like movements is probably more of a safety feature.

So I had a headbang (a first) at a metal gig (a first) watching Black Hawk Down (a first for their full metal set) sober (a first) at The Maze (a first) in Nottingham (not a first) and it was incredible. I got hot, I got sweaty, I jumped around a lot, I told eight thousand three hundred and sixty four people that I absolutely could not hear them until the music stopped, I got mild tinnitus and I had two bottles of Bitburger Drive 0.0%, a coke and two bottles of water. I was even asked if I wanted to get involved with rounds of shots and was able to say, “Oh thanks, but I don’t drink” (a first) and laugh at the response of a pained face assuming I was either having a terrible night (no) or was an alcoholic (yes).

The best parts of the evening however were the conversations I had with friends that I can still remember today. One friend talked to me about how they want to spend time as a friendship group sober and do things that we wouldn’t usually do. We talked about organising a day trip to Go Ape or hiring a lodge at Center Parcs together and spending our days cycling and swimming, surrounded by nature and the bonds of friendship.

One friend talked about her insecurities and lack of confidence and as a group we talked about how to overcome those things. We even shared stories of our insecurities, mental health issues and times in our lives when some of us were suicidal. We talked about coming out of those tunnels stronger, happier, brighter and finding the life you deserve.

We talked about removing toxicity from our lives and focusing on love, respect, honesty and loyalty. I could not have spent the evening with a more beautiful group of women, all of whom have been through so much in their lives and all of whom still face life head on every day with positivity, passion and power.

As the evening wore on, between the all-consuming music and the inspiring words, I felt my soul healing, filling with love and was reminded of how important friendship is. And on the way home, I even had my adorable husband talk all romantically about how lucky we are to have found each other (he only ever does this after a beer or six) and to be sober and remember the beautiful conversation between friends about our incredible relationship was perfect.

Now, of course, it wasn’t all brilliant and easy. There were a lot of people there that I didn’t know and without alcohol, I find it impossible to speak to strangers, even when they are friends of my friends. I freeze up, my brain empties, and I forget how to even make the simplest of conversational starters. Like smiling at somebody for example, instead of looking panic stricken and terrified. Or turning to face people rather than turning around or getting my phone out.

 So, instead of wallowing in the fact that I found these situations horrifyingly uncomfortable, I need to do something about it. The final of Metal 2 The Masses is on the 23rd June, so I have a month to perfect speaking to strangers and being comfortable doing so. But how?

I’ve always been a fake it till you make it kinda gal and this has helped me become much more confident in work situations, though I haven’t always necessarily carried this through to my personal life. Part of getting better at speaking to strangers is overcoming the awkwardness that you are going to say something stupid and people will hate you, a belief that stems from years of bullying at school and the views of people no longer in my life.

Firstly, this isn’t true. And we come back to something I said last week about seeing yourself through the eyes of the people who love you unconditionally. The conversations I had with my friends and family last night about me, my insecurities and my fears of being sober proved to me that my fear of being boring without alcohol is completely unfounded and ridiculous, and so I need to change that belief. My fear of speaking to strangers and saying something stupid and them hating me is also ridiculous and so I need to change that belief.

And, practise makes perfect. So, for the next month, I’m going to change this scenario. Generally, I always wait to be introduced to somebody before I can even speak to them, which often leaves me at the back of the room not speaking to anybody as that’s just not how social situations work! So here’s the plan.

Step 1: Introduce myself to people I don’t know. “Hi, I’m K.” Awkward, if they don’t respond. But who doesn’t respond to somebody introducing themselves to you? Apart from me of course…

Step 2: Have some basic conversational starters prepared prior to the event so that my brain can’t shut down and render me incapable of speech. “How do you know the band?” An easy, open ended question that gets conversations started and offers a response back to you. One that I couldn’t even think of last night when facing new people. Brilliant.

Step 3: Respond. “Ah well, I used to work with A who is now one of my closest friends. Plus my husband and I love live music and don’t go to see it enough, have you met D? D meet random stranger whose name I definitely remembered who knows B from…” and so forth.

Step 4  : Listen. We’re all so busy thinking of the next brilliant thing that we want to say, that we forget to actually listen and take cues from the conversation being had!

Step 5: Have back up conversations about NON-POLITICALLY SENSITIVE subjects ready to go if conversation dries up. So no K, chatting about #RepealThe8th and how Irish women are forced to travel to England for abortions is not a conversation starter for getting to know a stranger. That’s for later, you psychopath. Calm your shit down.

Step 6: Relax. This isn’t about meeting your soul mates and transcending through relationship nirvana in fifteen minutes, it’s about not being stood at the back of the room like a wanker for the evening.

There is my challenge for the next few weeks. Steps that I will put into my phone, preparing for new and exciting social situations until this all comes more naturally to me and I’m slightly less of an awkward twat than I am now.

In the mean time, I need to get out of bed, find those friends who fill me with such joy and go eat delicious food with them, laugh until we cry and as a group, mock my husband for his severely sprained ankle and ludicrous limp. After one sober night, my confidence is soaring and world, I’m coming to get ya.

*If you haven’t ever meowed along to a song, you haven’t lived. Both addictive and annoying to the parents of young children who you can also teach this too. Start with Sam Smith, the whiney tones are great for meowing along to.


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