Hello dear friends!
After many months of thinking and struggling with this topic, I feel like it’s finally time to come out and claim another label for myself.
Now, for most of us, when we hear the word “sober”, we think of AA, we think of addiction, we think of people whose pasts are riddled with horror stories about drinking and drugs, and how they’ve managed to “get clean”. Or on the other hand, we hear the term and immediately play word-association: teetotaler, serious, uptight, drab, colorless…and I’m here to tell you that being sober is none of those things! At least for me, anyway, not to mention many of the wonderful women in recovery that I have met over the past couple of years.
So, first I will answer a question that perhaps is swirling around in your head now- no, I have never had a “problem” with alcohol, and do not consider myself an addict. Yes, I drank quite a bit for a short period in time in college. Yes, I had a scare with nearly poisoning myself, and my hallmates being worried that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. Yes, alcohol was blamed for my rape, instead of my rapist. And yes, I continued drinking after that, well into my 20’s, and even after getting ill 7 years ago. But over the last few years, I’ve noticed that my relationship with alcohol has gotten even more strained.
I have to admit, I never really enjoyed drinking. I mean, yes, the social aspects were great, and it made me feel like a part of the “in crowd”. I know that being accepted was, hands down, the #1 reason that I ever drank in the first place. Because my body sure as hell didn’t like it. Now, I’ve always been slightly jealous at all the people that actually love drinking because it makes them feel good. They loosen up, they come out of their shells, they become the life of the party. As an introvert and empath, I longed for that kind of release, to get out of my head for a while and just be. So I kept trying booze. Over and over again. And I never found that flow.
My choice to go sober has been one that I’ve been ruminating over for years. Slowly, I have drank less and less, on fewer and fewer occasions. I’d started saying things like, “I’m not really a big drinker,” or “Just a sip,” or “I’m a lightweight,” to begin my (social) transition to sobriety, and slowly people began to absorb those messages, and I didn’t have to turn down invitations to bar crawls or clubbing anymore. People started realizing that, when they invited me to their home or party, I wasn’t going to get drunk, or loud, or rude, or destructive. I could be funny and charming and kind, with just a cup of water in my hand.
So, it’s been a long-ish transition to announcing my sobriety, but here it is. Tah-dah!
Why is this a radical act of self-love, you may ask? Because it’s one that takes courage. To stand up for myself and my body, when nobody else can or will. Because to completely abstain from drinking (especially at my age) is highly unusual, in our culture where both social and work occasions are centered around the bar scene. Because, to claim a label that is so cut and dried (pun intended) can be somewhat threatening to our new fluid, fun-loving zeitgeist. Because, the potential to be seen as a fuddy-duddy or a party-pooper is terrifying to many (I, however, have always been proud of my granny status. Slippers, reading, and 9pm bedtimes- woot!). But after much experimentation, and self-exploration, I’ve finally decided that staying sober is the best thing I can do for myself.
There are a lot of reasons why people may choose to go sober, and addiction is only one of them. I'm proud to be a part of a wonderful community of sober people, even though my story may be unlike many of theirs. My road to sobriety has probably been quite different than many others'. But I think the more diversity in the sober world, the better. Sobriety is a choice, and hopefully one that all people, from all backgrounds, can feel empowered to make.
Of course, a lot of my decision has to do with my physical health. As you know, I’ve been sick with Lyme disease/chronic fatigue syndrome for over 7 years now, and I will be damned if something as silly as booze were to hold back my recovery. I know, deep down, that I have what it takes to get well again, and that alcohol (and the surrounding culture) was only going to get in the way. This comes from not only some knowledge about the physiology of alcohol consumption, but also my own personal experiences, and how my body communicates with me when I drink.
The first sip may be delightful, especially of those fruity drinks, but in a few short minutes, I start to feel sick. Depending on the type of booze, my reaction may be mild or more severe, but regardless, it’s never a good thing. I get dizzy and foggy-headed. My body feels like it’s overheating. My legs start turning to jelly. Then the horrendous headache starts clamping down. My stomach turns. I feel shaky. Even though these things had been going on for years, in response to my drinking, it’s taken me a while to actually listen to my body’s pleas for me to stop.
So, now all I can say is, "Sorry, body. I promise, from today onwards, to treat you better."
Now, as I say the word “sober”, it feels good. It feels right. I can sense my whole energy respond in a positive way. It resonates with me, on all levels- physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. I know that I can walk forward through my life with this new empowering identity, and that I can claim this new radical label in the name of self-love and self-care.
In light of all of this, if you drink, I simply invite you to tap into your body and what it is trying to tell you. And if you find that your body or spirit isn’t 100% on board with your drinking, perhaps it’s your sacred invitation to cut back? I’m not saying that you have to go all-in with sobriety, but any step that you can take towards a better relationship with yourself, the better. Open the lines of communication, and you may find some unexpected guidance come your way.
As I’m writing this, I notice on the news that the rates of drinking among those under 30 are on the decline. So maybe it’s not so radical after all.
Your new sober sister
And of course...
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~