I can’t say that I was ever really sober curious. Sobriety seemed to me to be very uncool. I loved to drink. I had a great time when I was drinking. Life in my early 20’s was one big party, and I saw zero upside to being sober. Sure, I had some friends who weren’t big drinkers. We’d go out to lunch, go to the movies, or maybe grab a quick dinner here and there, but I didn’t spend nearly as much time with them as I spent with my drinking buddies. My drinking buddies were more fun, you see.
Even later, when my drinking buddies started to settle down and we didn’t have the same kind of time to go out and party that we did when we were younger, I had no real interest in sobriety. I just continued to drink at home. Alone. I liked beer. I didn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t have a few at the end of a long workday. So what if I got drunk by myself while my toddler was asleep? Or if I, say, woke up on the couch at 4:00 in the morning on a Wednesday with my front door wide open and a half-empty bottle of bourbon on the coffee table in front of me with no recollection of having “fallen asleep”? That didn’t mean I had a “problem.” Everybody goes a little too hard sometimes, right?
Sober curious? NO WAY! To me, sobriety seemed like overkill. Why swat a fly with a bazooka when a flyswatter does a perfectly good job? No, I didn’t need to quit drinking, but maybe I could stand to cut down a little on my alcohol consumption. I tried all kinds of different ways to moderate my intake – only drinking on certain days, only drinking after a certain time of day, limiting the number of drinks I was allowed on any given occasion, setting a maximum ABV for any alcohol I consumed, only drinking beer, only drinking wine, only buying a single 40 of beer for the night, only buying single serving cartons of wine, only buying shooters of hard alcohol (you can buy a LOT of shooters at once with much less shame if you tell the liquor store clerk you’re filling a piñata with them)…the list goes on. In case the statement about the shooters didn’t clue you in, none of it worked. I would follow the rules for a few days, have a massive binge, and then start the cycle over again.
Eventually, I knew that the only way forward was for me to quit drinking entirely. I knew it, but I didn’t accept it. There was always a thought in the back of my mind that I would find a way to keep drinking. Even when I was at my most desperate, even when I knew, irrefutably, that alcohol was ruining my life, I could not bring myself to accept the idea of sobriety. I hated to think about it. I wanted nothing to do with it. No, I wasn’t the least bit sober curious. What I was, was sober terrified.
In my mind, sobriety was like the shadow monsters that stalked me in my nightmares. It was going to catch me, and it was going to do…something…to me. I didn’t know what, exactly, but I knew it was going to change me. It was going to change everything. I mean, I knew things had to change. I knew I had to change. My life with alcohol absolutely was not working. That much was glaringly obvious. I wanted that change to happen, and yet, I didn’t. I wanted to change without changing. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the way it was.
A big part of the reason I was so afraid of sobriety was because I assumed that I already knew what it was going to be like. I was going to become boring. I was going to stop being myself. I was going to have to give up everything that made who I was and become some kind of sober pod person like my uncle who chattered on and on about AA and seemed to have no interest in anything else. Without alcohol, my life was going to suck. I wanted no part of that.
How I wish I had been able to look at sobriety with a curious, open mind. I know that Snidely was pulling the strings to keep me afraid because as long as I stayed afraid, I stayed addicted, but still. I wish I could have thought, “I wonder what it will be like,” instead of, “I’m so scared of what it will be like.” That’s why I think the rise of sober curiosity is so amazing. It takes something that can seem so huge and scary and turns it from an answer into a question. Instead of, “My life is going to suck,” it becomes, “I wonder what my life will be like?” It makes sobriety seem open-ended as opposed to the end of the line. It speaks of hope rather than the loss of hope. How awesome is that?
I have been alcohol-free for almost a year now, and I can say without a moment’s hesitation that my life does not suck. Getting sober absolutely changed me, but not in the way I thought it would. Instead of taking away all the things that made me who I was, it gave those things back to me. Instead of being the end of fun, it has opened up brand-new opportunities to enjoy life. Instead of being the end of the line, it has been the beginning of something new and wonderful. In other words, being alcohol-free is nothing at all like I thought it would be.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: regardless of your reasons for being here – whether you’re trying a 30-day or 100-day detox for your health, you are starting to become concerned about your drinking, or you know, like I did, that alcohol is ruining your life and you absolutely have to quit – be curious. More than that, be sober curious. Do your best to put what you think you know about sobriety aside and open yourself up to what it has to offer. Look for opportunities to change your mind about what you thought life without alcohol would be like. You just might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was.
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