It’s an interesting thing, this life I’m leading these days. This intentionally sober life, with intentionally sober surroundings. I’m now a long-term sober person (1.5 years and counting) working as a mental health therapist with clients who are trying with all their power to get and stay sober. I am dating a sober person, and my best friend is a sober person. I run a creative writing group that seems to be some kind of bastion for undercover sober folks to gather and write together. I blog (not as often anymore, but I try) about being sober, visit the Reddit StopDrinking forum every day, and have a sober day tracker on my phone (day 569 today!).
Sobriety is everywhere for me. Sobriety as a concept feels so omnipresent in my life that it is just a natural thing. Sobriety is as much a part of my life now as drinking was part of then, before I made the decision to become a teetotaler in July of 2016.
No more messy drunken parties where I’m the only one with an unspiked drink in her hand. No more hanging out with groups of heavy drinkers trying to convince everyone I’m having a good time. I’m not having to continuously hold a polite hand up to turn down fancy cocktails while I’m out with people. I can talk openly about how I struggled with alcohol with my partner and my friends because they’ve been haunted by a similar monster. I’ve got the opportunity to sit across the room from my clients and watch their faces light up with the same kind of recognition, confusion, anger, joy, and fear that I felt when I was first getting sober. I now recognize my past ambivalence toward getting sober as an incredibly normal part of the process, a feeling of being torn in half that plagues almost everyone who is trying to be better.
I open this blog often in an attempt to write more on sobriety but I find myself tongue-tied and mystified, because it’s like trying to write about not using cocaine or avoiding heroin. The concept of drinking is so far-removed from my personal experience these days that I can hardly remember a hangover, except on the days when I wake up with a head cold and remember how awful it is to have a dry throat and puffy face in the morning.
I open this blog and try to write and end up walking away, because I don’t know what else I can offer right now. I worry sometimes that this “sobriety as a normal part of life” thing will be tested or challenged in a way I won’t be able to handle, some time in the future. What will I do if/when I experience the death or grave illness of someone close to me? What will I do if I lose my job, my home, or my career? How will I handle the loss of my own health, if that happens? Do I have to tools I need to stay resilient in the face of life’s most tragic, disruptive losses?
I hope so. I don’t live in constant fear of these things, but they do sometimes cross my mind, and I wonder: am I doing everything I need to do in my recovery right now to ensure my continued sobriety when shit really hits the fan? Am I missing anything? Or is this it? I wasn’t sober going into my divorce in 2014, and that’s when I really started to go overboard. I drank and drank and drank, sometimes a full bottle of wine in less than an hour on top of a beer or two, just to make myself fall asleep. I felt like walking death half the time but saw no real way out.
Yet, here I am. I found a way, eventually. And maybe all that matters at this point is that I keep solidifying my sobriety through my daily intentions, and reinforcing all the barriers I’ve placed between myself and a world where drunkenness seems like the only answer. I’ll keep being honest with myself about what I’m struggling with, and I’ll keep working on reaching out for help. I’ll write here. I’ll tell my friends, my partner, my therapist about what’s going on. I’ll protect myself and practice self-care so I can be a better friend, partner, sober person, and therapist. I’ll keep the sun in my eyes and at least a half-smile on my face. I’ll trust myself and the process, for as long as I can.
These are the things I never really thought about when I was first getting sober. I was’t concerned with the long-term question of sustaining a lifestyle once the dust had settled. I figured that after the first year and all the sober milestones (weddings, memorials, breakups, etc.) that there wouldn’t be any question—that I’d just have it figured out. I guess there’s a reason you can walk into almost any 12-Step meeting and find folks who are decades sober, who still join every now and then for continued support.
Anyway, there that is, and here I am. Sober on, sober folks! We’ve got this.