I am currently reading the book The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray.
I love that sobriety is such an open topic right now. For a long time, getting sober was a hush-hush thing that no one would talk about.
That is how Alcoholics Anonymous got its name.
There is a definite global shift happening, and I believe a lot of it has to do with COVID-19. On the one hand, people have slowed down and are more in tune with their surroundings, the company they keep, and the inner workings of their soul—what brings them comfort and discomfort.
I know for me, I have started writing more and have felt safer sharing my writing since Covid than I had in the past. I have this “ride or die, what do I have to lose, you only live once” mentality. Covid gave that to me. Feeling fear and hearing about people dying kind of lights a fire under your ass, so to speak.
In sharing my writing vulnerably and realizing I didn’t die and that people didn’t turn their backs on me like I thought they might, I received permission from myself to keep going. To fight through fear and uncertainty and to start knocking those things off of my bucket list.
When I joined AA in 1998, it wasn’t something you talked about at work. There was shame attached, like I failed drinking, and so now I was in AA.
I don’t see that stigma anymore. It’s more of, “Congratulations. Good for you for recognizing that you had a problem with alcohol.” Sobriety is way more common.
Now, it seems like there is this uprising of people saying, “Drinking didn’t work for me and I’d like to stop before I have to hit bottom and lose everything.” They are making a conscious choice to stop digging.
I got sober at 21 years old. Most people were just getting started and I was suicidal and done. I won’t go into my story too much here, but I am writing a book about it (stay tuned).
The other night during my writing class, we received a prompt to grab a book title and use it as a writing prompt.
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober:
“It is not always joyful; sometimes, it’s downright lonely and alienating. People are clinking glasses, but I’m off to the side, afraid I might fall off of this goddamn wagon.
Fear of falling, losing my time, disgracing myself.
Losing my edge, my ego.
Losing at life, becoming that drunk I strived not to be.
Afraid to go in, afraid to stay out.
Afraid of what’s to come, nothing to take the edge off.
I’m still standing, but sometimes, barely.
Hardly holding onto that gold coin of hope, and other times, squeezing it for dear life.
Joy? What Joy?
The joy of not feeling hungover in the morning.
The joy of not being paranoid to drive.
The joy of being coherent and available; present with my kids and not a drunk asshole escaping my life.”
My writing that night came out darker than I expected.
I am usually a sober cheerleader and had just celebrated 23 years sober that week. I had also had a few experiences with alcohol during the week that pissed me off and made me feel uncomfortable. One of them was this: I wanted to buy myself a nonalcoholic beer to celebrate my 23-year sobriety birthday.
Sounds weird, maybe. But to each their own. I don’t usually drink those, but I have had a few over the years, and I heard that they have come out with some new good ones, and I wanted to check one out as a means of celebrating my sobriety.
I called the market that I go to because I realized I had never seen nonalcoholic beer on the shelf like in other stores I frequent. And I wanted the good sh*t, not some watered-down pissy O’Douls.
I realized they had a separate liquor store attached to the market that, of course, I have avoided like the plague for the last three years I have shopped there. I avoid all wine and beer aisles and I always have since getting sober. I don’t need a fancy label catching my eye and calling out to me.
I called and asked if they had nonalcoholic beer. The guy who answered was super helpful and told me they had a large selection of nonalcoholic beer, wine, and even champagne. They even had vegan and gluten-free selections. So then I asked where it was in the liquor store and he seemed perplexed. He said, “Well, it’s all the way in the back in the cooler.”
“Do I have to walk all the way through the liquor store to get to the NA selections?” I explained that I am an alcoholic and I wouldn’t feel safe doing that. He offered to help set some things aside and I said no thank you. I will just send my sober husband next time, who is more secure in his liquor store meanderings.
Do you know this saying? “If you hang out in a barbershop, you will most likely get a haircut?”
I learned that early on, and it has stuck with me. I don’t hang out in bars and don’t walk through liquor stores. I just know me and that’s something I have to do to keep my sobriety intact.
I have an alcoholic mind, and even hearing about people’s drinking makes my glands get all salivated.
To each their own, but for me, I steer clear. Especially, when I haven’t been able to attend my recovery meetings in person for a year now. I know when things are on a slippery slope for me and how I have to protect myself and my precious sobriety.
So yes, there is an unexpected joy to be found in sobriety, but there is also a special kind of sacrifice and a lot of thought that goes into protecting it.
I am grateful that people are talking about leading an alcohol-free life and the truth of what alcohol does to some of us, even if we don’t resonate with being “alcoholic.” Some people are just choosing an alcohol-free life to be more coherent and in tune with themselves. I totally admire whatever reason brought them to this lifestyle.
I am thankful for the years I have been able to put together thus far, and only hoped early on that more people would join me on the journey. It is so freeing to see people coming together on Facebook sobriety pages and new Insta pages about the sober life.
I would love to hear your take on the phenomenon of being alcohol-free. Have you taken the non-drinking plunge? Have you participated in a “Dry January” or another alcohol-free challenge?