100 Days Sober: Lessons Learned

photo by Eugene Hsu

Those who’ve known me for a while know that I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with booze.

I spent the majority of 2007 and 2009 clean and sober; for the most part, I loved it. I’ve learned to be a much happier me as a sober person. So when I decided to live an alcohol-free, drug-free, cigarette-free life earlier this year, I wasn’t really treading on new ground.

However, there are a few things I’ve learned about sobriety over the past 100 days that I’d like to share.

1. Nothing Makes Me Want to Drink Like AA

Seriously, I hardly think about drinking, even when I’m at bars or parties. I’m totally happy sippin’ on my Shirley Temple or tonic & grapefruit. But when I’m forced to think for long periods about my past use/abuse of psychoactive substances, it gives me the icky-creepies.

I’ve discovered over the past 100 days that I don’t need or want to hang out with other people who are “in recovery” and talk about our coping issues and sordid pasts. I do best by focusing on working hard, living well, and honoring myself and the people around me.

This is not to say that AA isn’t an awesome way to start your own personal journey into sobriety. It’s a highly personal choice, and I went to a LOT of AA/NA meetings before I made my own choice. One thing I did love about recovery meetings was the constant support and getting to spend time with other, much stronger people. So if you think you might want to go, GO. Just because AA wasn’t right for me in the long run doesn’t mean it’s not right for you.

The only other thing that really ever makes me want to drink is being in a bad, horrible, despondent mood. When those moods strike me nowadays, I have to deal with the problem at hand rather than trying to avoid it.

2. Substitutes Are Key

There’s something psychologically relaxing about sitting down with a few friends after a long day at work and having a Cold One. In previous periods of sobriety, I tried non-alcoholic beers and found that most tasted like 1) stewed carrots, 2) bong water, or 3) both stewed carrots AND bong water.

These days, I enjoy Clausthaler “beer,” Ariel dealcoholized champagne and wines, and my own customized collection of virgin cocktails, diet sodas, and coffee/tea drinks. For me at least, the act of sitting down and relaxing with a beverage is in itself meditative and calming. I don’t miss the effects of alcohol at all in those cases.

3. My Health Is A Bajillion Percent Better

It’s absolutely weird how much better my health is. I was having a ton of stomach issues and massive sleep issues, and all that’s seemed to go away. Plus, not consuming all those empty calories has helped me lose weight, 30 pounds and counting! I feel so much better, and I think I look a lot better, too. “Hard living,” as my mother would call it, tends to show after a while.

4. Less Booze, Less Drama

There must be a mathematical equation showing the proportional relationship between alcohol consumed and occurence of life-drama. I don’t know if it’s a correlation-causation problem necessarily, but I do know that it’s been pleasant to be on the outside of that whole ruckus for a few months.

This has made me a much more reliable, responsible friend and girlfriend, and it’s made my life ever so much easier to live.

Important side note: To any friends out there whose lives might have been touched by the drama of my former booze-drinking ways, all lightness aside, I sincerely apologize. If you’re part of that group and you feel like getting apologized to, please feel free to reach out to me at jolie.odell@gmail.com and let me know how I might have offended you. I’ve been trying to hit people up on a one-by-one basis, but consider this my mass apology, as well.

5. I’m Ready for Lifelong Sobriety

Lately especially, as these first few months tick by, I find I’m questioning myself harshly: Why wasn’t I able to maintain a sober lifestyle in the past?

The answer has been difficult and embarrassing. I really and truly enjoyed the times in the past when I was alcohol- and drug-free, but something always pulled me back into that other lifestyle. Once, it was not having “substitutes” available when I wanted to hang out with my friends who were drinking. Other times, I used alcohol to try to overcome my crippling social anxiety. And on other occasions, I simply caved to stress and pressure in my own life, taking the “easy” way out of dealing with my problems, both real and perceived. And at least once, I convinced myself that I was “cured” of needing to overindulge and was mature enough to enjoy a drink responsibly every now and then.

In the end, I’ve realized, I am simply not cut out for moderation. It’s not in my personality. I’m a go-big-or-go-home kind of drinker, and trying to pretend that I’m not (or that I won’t eventually end up that way if I allow myself to drink) is fatuous and more trouble than it’s worth.

As I have learned to cope with and sort through life’s small and large frustrations unfettered by alcohol, I’ve removed what I feel is the final barrier between me and sobriety: An essential fear of life. I am no longer afraid to face my life, in all its glory and ugliness, completely clear-minded.

Thanks for reading, as always! Don’t get weird on me now. Just because I’m sober don’t mean I ain’t here to party. ;)

52 thoughts on “100 Days Sober: Lessons Learned

  1. I wish you well in your lifelong sobriety, it’s definitely healthy and admirable step. My problem with non-alcoholic life is my love for wine. There is no real non-alcoholic substitute for good wine and that’s the main reason, I’am never going to go “the sober way”. I suppose, that @garyvee would be the right guy to ask about this :-)

    • I agree with you about the wine. I am 101 days sober, going to a lot of AA meetings and still the idea of cold chardonnay sounds wonderful (especially during these hot summer days). Unfortunately for me, drinking began taking me to a frightening place (when coming down from it). For now I have to stay sober…as for one day, I don’t know.

  2. Great Post Jolie! I applaud your willingness to share this private aspect of your life with the world. Stay strong and I’m sure amazing things will keep happening for you!

    Tyler

  3. You go girl! Congrats on the 100 days!
    I had never thought to use the ‘substitution method, but may have to give it a try. I was only a heavy drinker for a short period of my life (three years sober solved that), but always felt awkward when hanging out with my friends that still drink. Since alcohol does tend to bother my stomach, I think I’ll try you’re substitution method and go for sober again!
    Funny that you’ve tied alcohol to the ‘drama’ lifestyle. I had noticed that as well, and when you combine a small-town with drinking and drugs you real chaos.
    Have you ever come across people that try to make you feel guilty for not drinking, or are most people pretty supportive? That may just be another aspect of small town living…

  4. You’re very brave for posting this on The Internet. Alcohol is very touchy subject for some people. You’ve shown how serious you are in making sure your life is the best you can make of it. I did something similar by going to the gym every day for 10 years. Sometimes you have to just take care of yourself and not bow to the beer or the Oreos.

    In reference to your topic of bad moods, there’s one thing I found that helps me out of them: Airplane! Seriously. It might seem a silly solution to a serious problem, but I found “…and don’t call me Shirley” to get me out of the worst funks I’ve ever been in.

  5. Congrats on your first 100 days and best of luck on the many that remain.

    On a side note, is that a dandelion leaf that you’re munching on? I’ve always heard that they were edible but have yet to find anybody who actually enjoys them.

  6. Good for you sister. Don’t discount the courage it takes to be sober. Most people can’t/don’t want to do it. I haven’t touched anything (booze/drugs/coffee) in over 3 1/2 years and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. Many of the benefits you’ve stated also happened for me. I also became a lot more focused and productive when I stopped drinking. Any addiction is super hard but I think booze is one of the hardest. It’s readily available, legal and socially acceptable to drink a lot of. It’s everywhere you go. Also, a lot of people don’t get it. Drinking is such a huge part of many people’s lifestyle that they can’t imagine why you wouldn’t drink. Kudos to you for evolving beyond the need for it and transcending into a new and exciting way of life. This is only the beginning. Wait until you see what other magic comes your way because of your commitment to healthy living and respecting yourself to the highest degree.

  7. Jolie, congratulations on not only taking these steps but being comfortable enough to share. There are a lot of others of us on the same path – myself included. The social anxiety is also what pushed me to have waaay too much all too often. I figure at my age it’s time to actually deal with that and not cover for it.
    glad to hear your thoughts.

  8. Kudos on your sobriety. Coming to grip with lessons learned are the important parts of recovery.

    Also, kudos on proper and spelling of the word ‘BAJILLION’

  9. Wow, what a great post. The phrase “stewed carrots and bong water” to describe non-alcoholic beer had me laughing out loud, and alone makes this worth reading.

    All kidding aside, congratulations on your discipline and courage. There are many things that some folks have trouble handling in moderation (including food, work, sex, even exercise — not just chemicals) and it can be a life-long challenge for those who aren’t cut out for moderation, as you so aptly put it.

  10. Awesome revelations you’ve made, Jolie. I had no idea you used to struggle with this, but then again I don’t know you personally :) . However, I do have friends in a similar situation and 100 days is definitely a huge step. Congrats. You seem to have a lot of good going for you at the moment and as a fan of your work I wish you all the best. And yes, you look great!

  11. One step at a time-steady as she goes! Live life fully and you won’t even need/want/miss a drugged or drunk state!
    but DO add 5000 units of Vitamin D3 to your daily regime-it not only strengthens bones, repairs cells, softens skin, buoys immune system, but it increases seretonin production so it lessens depression. Last but not least-don’t hang out with peoples who keep pushing you to drink-they want you to be a loser too. Trust me on this! lol

    darlene

    • Thank you, Darlene! <3

      I'm fortunate to have really supportive people in my life right now, and my boyfriend is AMAZING in encouraging me and talking/listening when I'm having a tough time.

      Vitamin D3 is something I'll have to try! I've been trying a few different supplements lately for energy and whatnot.

  12. Kudos to you realizing you are go-big-or-go-home consumer. It took me a while, but I realized that about myself and video games. I can’t play video games a little bit. It is either every waking hour or not at all. If that is the reality, you have to choose not at all or miss out as time passes you by. Kudos.

  13. Ever see all the Arizona Green Tea in the office? I started drinking it copiously during the college frat days. So at 11am when everyone started drinking, my big glass mug full of tea was met with cheers of “yeah, Ramey is drinking!”

    Little did they know. BAM.

  14. congrats on your sobriety, jolie. i rarely drink, only during football season really (american football, not soccer….not enough scoring in soccer, it’s stupid). drinking is stupid too, so you’re not missing out (except during football season).

    as you know i like to focus on bad news, and i saw that you mentioned diet soda…..YIKES. oh man. search the web for “aspartame”…..then search the web for “donald rumsfeld aspartame”……then search the web for “aspartame searle fda”…….then you’ll be driven to drink. :) but don’t! i like juice, big fan of juice. though that can be a weight gain source too, if you’re concerned about that. so water is great. but not tap water, because that’s fluoridated. fluoridated water makes a population less alert and easier to control. fascists love it. hitler was big into fluoridated water. i’m a big fan of penta water, though it def has its haters, so to each their own, i suppose.

    anyway, congrats on your sobriety. stay strong. :)

  15. Loved reading what you are up to. Sobriety is hard to describe to those who aren’t. I have 13 years and wouldn’t trade it. I hard a good dose of AA in the beginning, and it was supportive. 5 years into sobriety I got divorced, my Dad died, I went bankrupt…….all while single parenting 2 sons who are now grown up and fabulous. I didn’t have to drink except for the massive quantities of mineral water, in a cocktail glass always on the rocks (locks like a really wonderful vodka martini), no one knows the better. Be happy, be safe, be well.

  16. Jolie, you impressed me so much more with this post. Congrats on being so diligent in remaining sober in the things you’ve changed in your life! This is an occasion to celebrate, something you should be proud of, and continue to be proud of the longer you are sober. I firmly respect the Silicon Valley bloggers that do this in such an alcohol and smoke-filled world.

  17. I believe bad feelings you get are your indicators that your struggling to survive in aspects of your life. It’s not very logical to suppress those feelings with chemicals, thus ignoring them and continuing doing something that is detrimental. If you feel crap about something it’s a sign that you need to buck up. However being slave to the system & society our backs are against the wall a lot of the time just so we can keep our house or feed our kids so drinking can be a good outlet for some who need to conform to society even when it’s to their peril and can’t afford counselling and struggle to open up to people to offload their problems sober. My mind and body is to me a super computer and I continually want it to run faster & smarter. No drinking for me.

  18. One more thing, (being a real geek myself). The key to any optimised body and mind is Acid/ Alkaline. Find a food chart that tells you what foods belong in what group. After foods run through your body they leave acid or alkaline traces. If there’s more Acid your PH levels drop and your neural kinetics and nervous system don’t communicate as well as the conductivity in your body decreases. (i.e that’s how junk food & booze buries the feelings).

    But when you focus your consumption on alkaline food-groups only your body’s PH level increases, your neural kinetics and nervous system work better because your conductivity increases resulting in an increased performance in your ability to make unclouded logical decisions, that relate to your survival.

    It’s all about the PH level and morning exercise. I would dump your problems on your strangers as well as your boyfriend tho. There’s only so much weight a mind of someone you love can hold.

  19. Jolie, I just love you so much! I’m so proud of your journey to sobriety, but more than being sober, the journey to learning more about yourself. Listening to your body, to how you react to thing, and listening to those who love you isn’t always easy. You’ve not only survived sober, you’ve thrived. You didn’t mention the professional above (directly) but it’s truly amazing to think how far you’ve come since we first met at SummerMash 2008 in LA. I’ll sit after a long day and girl-talk over non-alcoholic drinks with you anyday.

  20. I’m 23, and I probably should learn from your mistakes and quit right now, because I’ve been abusing my body for a while for the sake of the NYC party scene. But it is so, so hard, and so part of my routine, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop. I hope someday I can be as strong as you. (And as good of a writer)

  21. You are mastering your journey through life, my friend. Congrats on 100. Congrats on gaining wisdom from your journey. And congrats on your continued happiness.

  22. Thank you so much for sharing. Might try that on couple of vices I have. Go Big or Go Home on yourself is not a bad play. I would take that bet. One curious thing I thought of while reading do you notice a difference in your publication writing over the years? Have you compared timeframes of soberiety vs not sober in your writing?

    For me I was just curious.

    Well you have a nation of supporters out here that are with you!

  23. Lovely post. :)

    I don’t drink at all. Never really did. A long time ago I decided that I needed to try this stuff out and see what I was missing. For a while I went big on alcohol and some unpublishable things, Super Size Me style. And realized life was better the way it was.

    It’s good to read what you wrote. People ask me all the time how I manage not to NEED this (specially being a musician!) and I don’t know what to answer. I think your post puts it better than I ever could.

    Way to go, girl! ;)

  24. Thanks for this brave personal post Jolie. I’ve abused alcohol off and on over the years, especially since the end of my 20 year marriage in ’05, and I have twice tried total sobriety also but never with 100 days success. I’m impressed with your success and your courage in talking openly about it. Whether we abstain or not, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that it is essentially about overcoming fear of our lives. Wishing you the best and continued bravery.

  25. Congratulations on sticking with your decisions, and thanks for summarizing the lessons you’ve learned. This is a very insightful story.

    Also, what a photo! I love the colours, and you look so sincerely happy. Really sets the tone for the post :)

  26. Hi Jolie.

    Just a little word to tell, like the others, how brave I think this post is. And how interesting your lessons are. I don’t know you much, I just read a few posts on RWW or Mashable from you, and I didn’t know that side of your personality.
    And knowing your previous relationship with alcohol and how you dealt with it will certainly not affect negatively my vision of your posts. To the opposite, it gives the vision of a nice, smart, balanced, determined person.

    A really, really nice introspection. I can’t do anything else but wish you to continue that way.

  27. Hugely inspiring Jolie – and I had to laugh at the ’1) stewed carrots, 2) bong water, or 3) both stewed carrots AND bong water’ comment. My mum tried non-alcoholic beer for health reasons and she would have agreed with your assessment. :) There has GOT to be an opportunity to make healthy non-alcoholic stuff that doesn’t taste like gym shoes.

    I find this kind of post hugely inspiring – both for its transparency (reaching out to readers, to people in your personal life to be accountable – the bit about apologizing in person), and your strength. Sure, I read your tech posts, but increasingly, people showing the human aspects of who they are and how they triumph over any adversity or struggle on blogs give me more hope than any Firefox extension ever could, and that connecting makes a blog like yours so valuable, so thanks. Getting healthy (in any sense of the term) is hard work, but oh boy, so work it. You look at that photo of you in this post, and you radiate health, positivity, and kick-assness. It shows – you go girl! :D

    The trick for me is keeping balance – physically as well as emotionally (etc.) and I keep thinking ‘there’s gotta be an app for that’. If anyone finds something that helps them, let me know. In the meantime, the good blog posts help remind me of balancing things, so thanks for this one.

  28. Jolie, I found your story thanks to the Weekend Coffee Links — and I have to say while I’m sure it is not your intention to do so, I was moved to tears. I hope you accept my apology for my anonymity and you will see why I have chosen to do this in a moment. In October, my husband will celebrate two years of sobriety. We have talked a lot about it, as his decision to go to AA was something that affected both of us. We’ve often discussed many times those that come into AA, but never to be seen again, however remain sober.

    Many people feel the way that you do and do fine. For him, those stronger people help him to be inspired as well as to realize that his “rock-bottom” was pretty shallow, and he’s grateful for that. The important thing that I’ve learned is that no matter what path someone takes for sobriety, just getting there is enough to hold your head high and be proud. Sometimes that’s all you need.

    I wish you all the best in your continued journey.

  29. Congratulations! I don’t recall how I got here, but I was searching for blog building tips, not sobriety. The thing is I need this more than the other and am so glad I came upon you. I am going to have another go at sobriety starting Labor Day this year. My last stab was last Labor day when I decided to try AA. My sobriety lasted till March when I realized AA not only made me want to drink, but quite possibly to kill myself. I have seen AA help many a person, and begrudge them nothing but it is not for me.Thank you for showing me that I am not alone in this and that sobriety without AA is possible.

  30. 5 years clean now but i still get the urge. I reckon I always will do but i,m getting used to being a sober person and it rocks !
    I agree with Julie about AA – In the beginning it was the only thing than kept me out of the bars, but I could not imagine hanging out with AAs the rest of my life. But for some its the only way they can stay clean so thats cool too.
    Good luck to everyone else on the journey , and thanks Julie for kicking it into the open.

  31. I agree in full about AA. It is for people that can’t leave the past behind and move on. They hold you back from stepping forward and leaving your alcoholism. Blame it on a disease and you have an excuse. There are no excuses but your own dependence. AA will only serve to remind you of it and drive you back.

  32. It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    - William Ernest Henley

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