I moved less than a year ago and am still organizing and reconfiguring some books and journals. I have been struck by how many times I open a journal or notebook and see “I drank too much last night, I need to stop.”
Six and a half years ago, I was at a very low point, and was clear that I was trying to drink away my sadness. I found Jean McCarthy’s site, Unpickled, which really resonated with me. I then found another group site where I determined I’d do 6 months without alcohol. I did 7. It wasn’t too hard and I loved how I felt. I cleaned up my diet and got more exercise. And I didn’t fall off the wagon, I just eventually had a drink here and there.
Or that’s what I told myself. Seeing those journals and searching through my email I see that I was less than 6 months into the “moderate” drinking before I was back on that site, admitting I needed to stop, but continuing to drink. Searching through my own archive, I have to acknowledge that alcohol has been problematic for me for a long time.
For many years I would rarely drink at home, I just liked to cut loose a little if I got out. You’d think I was a sailor on leave instead of a stay-at-home parent. Many of those memories still make me cringe. I don’t ever want to be a ridiculous drunk person again, nor do I want to hole up drinking at home to avoid embarrassment by slowly rotting and letting the real juice and spice of life pass me by.
As of today, I am 8 months in with no plans to get off this wagon. What is different this time? I have come to some tough realizations.
Sober is Smarter for me Because
1. Moderation is not a thing for me. It takes 100% of my brain space and has about a 50% effectiveness rate.
2. I am committed to the long haul. This isn’t an experiment, I’m not checking it out to see how it goes.
3. I identify as a non-drinker/sober person and I am more and more comfortable with that. I can say “no thanks, I don’t drink” and it feels true.
4. Drinking has ceased to add to my life, it only takes. I don’t have time for destructive activities.
5. This is life or death. If I am an outlier, I have 50% of my life left, but more likely, I’m about 65% through (forsaking any accidents, viral pandemics, etc.), with quality of life highly dependent on my health and fitness levels. The links between alcohol and cancer and – even more frightening, early dementia – are enough to scare me straight. I am going to be a grandparent next year and I will be ready – I am up for a 2 a.m. call any day.
I think the other thing that has shifted for me is even bigger. The early months (and all those times I logged ‘no alcohol’ in my journal for 3 days) were all centered around alcohol. I remember reading a memoir about a person with anorexia – they spent all their time not eating. Every thought and action revolved around food, even though they were depriving themselves of it; months 1 and 2 without alcohol felt a lot like that to me. Wake up, not drink, sleep, repeat. And that is necessary and good and totally normal. But now I wake up, plan my day, work, hike, play with my animals, volunteer, follow creative pursuits, cook good food, read, hang out with friends and family, then I take stock of my day, express gratitude, sleep, repeat.
Alcohol – I’m over you.
Won’t you join me today?
More by the author of this post:
Sober is just smarter
Like sticking with a friend you know is good for you
Not running with a bad crowd
Just because they look like fun
And are loud
There are no wins
Behind those haggard grins
No real atmosphere found in vodka or gin
Desperation long before vomiting begins
Sober is good at the party anew
Because then you get to be you
Not a clownish version
A too wide smile
That misses your own personality
By a mile
Sober is cooler
It’s authentic style
While keeping our wits about us
Not getting into any old taxi or car
But remembering you booked one
And the name of the bar
It’s not taking a trip either to a cell or ER
Sober is just smarter
and more poetry by Floss:
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