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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. ;)