If you’re sensing a theme to my posts, stop it. You don’t know me. . .yet. Although in drafting my second ever blog post for this website, I was inwardly awash with the myriad congratulations and success stories in response to my inaugural post. In discussion with well wishers and others taking it “one day at a time”, as they say, I began to grasp the true breadth and insidiousness of addiction, and the importance of making it your little bitch.
Through these conversations and my own experiences over the past year, I have also come to realize that your problems don’t just evaporate when you stop drinking. A hyena does not suddenly become manageable because you’ve leashed it, and as trite as it may sound, when warring with your id, you really are confronted with battles that must be fought one day at a time.
A lesser writer might have expressed this by saying something along the lines of “sobriety comes with ninety-nine problems, but a drink ain’t one”, but this establishment guarantees quality. That said, I thought it may be fun to jot down some pros and cons of sobriety that are hopefully ubiquitous in everyone’s experiences with recovery.
Don’t get me wrong, some irreparable havoc has been wreaked on my hippocampus. I might have even lost a few colors somewhere along the way. Since I stopped drinking, however, I awake with each new morning to a high that surely only Gods have experienced.
I doubt many people would go so far as to describe the sensation of an intact memory of the night before as “a high that surely only Gods have experienced”, but for me, it’s still novel. Exhilarating, even. These days, if someone gives me a dirty look, I know why. I no longer start my day under a lingering cloud of guilt like some amorphous blob desperately in need of Zoloft.
A new day is exactly that, unmarred by a specific brand of opprobrium well known to those of us who were, or are, wont to black out. Moreover, I can feel a weight from my head lifted like someone simply cracked open my walnut, wrung the gin out of my brain, and carefully put me back together again. Of course, there was a stretch of recovery, but ever since, I’ve been able to channel this new capacity toward academia once again, and pursue more cerebral things such as annunciating and handling stairs like a professional.
Like any high reserved solely for deities, it is a dangerous, double edged sword. Sure, it’s magnificent to recall every word you said the day before verbatim, but it’s also a horrible nightmare akin to sleep paralysis. Not to gas alcohol too much, but a lot of its appeal lies in how it can soften edges to a blur.
Four weeks and six days ago, I told someone I felt “railroaded” when I meant “blindsided”, and I’ve been trying to find their contact information ever since. Still, I suppose it’s better to remember every little thing than to blackout the big stuff like your graduation or clogging your mother’s washing machine with full rolls of paper towels after pissing yourself at a wine tasting in front of your high school science teacher. I would elaborate, but. . .
If I had a dollar for every hundred dollars I’ve spent at a bar, I would have enough money to open my own bar, but I don’t because I drank that money away long ago. What I do have is a storied past rich in unsafe party vibes, and that’s priceless.
Not priceless, is the actual amount of money I’ve spent on top shelf poison. That is a very real and very troubling number veritably somewhere in the tens of thousands of dollars. That’s not to say that I’m suddenly flush with cash, but I am starting to catch up to my debts and my shoes are better than ever.
It’s true. Especially at first. While all of your friends are raucously slamming Jägermeister and meeting for drinks after work, you watch their merriment bloom all around you as if in slow motion. Their liquor fueled endorphins crackling all around in the air like sparks of electricity, you try to soak them in, maybe even live a little vicariously, but at the end of the day, you’re just existing on a different plane and yes, I have heard that story already, Paul.
Paul brings me to an excellent party trick that I picked up from Karen Kilgariff. If you’re sober and attending a drinking party - what, is that not what the kids are calling it? - the moment someone starts repeating a story or joke is your cue to get the Hell out of there. This marks the zenith of the amusement you can derive from your drunk friends before things tank. Don’t even say goodbye, they won’t know.
Since I’ve stopped drinking, I’ve started going to the gym, gone back to school where I’ve made the Dean’s List, started a relatively successful podcast and run its instagram page, launched this website, and married the man of my dreams who made it all happen. I’ve even read like…three books and done a couple of face masks.
Not all of those things are in direct consequence of my sobriety, but my point is that the better parts of my days were being completely monopolized by drug and drink. I never realized how much life I was missing out on before two in the afternoon or how much television I was missing after five.
Learning to fill that time in a way that feels productive is the best combatant against the boredoms that inevitably linger in the crevasses of time you once numbed from existence. But listen, you beautiful genius, it’s worth it. My French is better now than when I lived in France. Although, when you live in a country where some of the best reds in the world are ten bucks, you can assert your slurred fluency in any Romance language pretty quickly and confidently. Santé!
Con: Personal Responsibility.
This is a big one. I hate to even say it, but in the interest of candor I must admit that the biggest bummer attached to sobriety is having to take personal responsibility for your actions. Your rose colored Ray Bans smeared with the the grease you got on your fingers from a 3:00 am Taco Bell run have been snatched from your eyes. Everything is brightly defined now, because there is a spotlight on you. Also, it’s summer and you’re naked in a crowded intersection clutching a Chalupa. At least that’s how I feel.
I can no longer hide behind the veil of being powerless over my addiction. I can’t hit ‘erase’ on a bad day anymore. Suddenly, if I’m an asshole, I’m no longer somewhat pitied for it. This is as it should be, but it’s a rough transition nonetheless. The long and short of it is that it’s lame not being able to do whatever you want whenever you want. Yet, taking responsibility for your actions is almost like paying your taxes or wiping your ass. No one really wants to, but it’s better just to do it.
Despite my wildest efforts, I never truly erased any of my problems by drinking them away, but I maintained my distance from them as they mounted. It’s not unlike ignoring your credit card statements for a few years. You can move to Paris all you want, but eventually you will have to sober up and get a job, and by the time you do, you’re absolutely drowning in interest I would imagine.
Pro: The Rest.
All considered, I feel like a new man firing happier, healthier neurons each second. I’m finally navigating my life with some clarity and connecting the dots between actions and consequences. And while I stand by my opinion of anything less than true hedonism being lame, being an engaged and productive member of society does have its merit. At least, it’s better than the black hole in which I convinced myself I was so comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re having a fun, sexy time in college, live it up! This list won’t feel familiar to a lot of you, and as Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing. May you never feel the false righteousness that comes with completing the bare minimum at your day job while still slightly drunk from the night before.
You know if what you’re doing feels right or wrong. I knew it when I was taking warm shots of vodka between classes in middle school. I just didn’t have what I needed to really objectively examine and control myself.
If this list was resonant, I hope you find what you need to gain that control, because it really is an unparalleled high.
I often felt so out of control that it seemed natural to submit fully to chaos rather than try.
Well, I’ve been trying for a little while now, and I’m here to tell you, the pros outweigh the cons.