I’ve been a drinker for over a decade. Maybe not every day, but let’s say three days a week on average, at least three drinks, wine or beer. I did some time with whiskey years back, but decided I’d rather keep my pants on. It’s not the healthiest lifestyle, but neither is it something A&E wants to do a show about.
The week of Dec. 7 had been particularly drunk, and since I’d gotten into a pattern of late of saving my boozing and my hangovers for the weekend, I thought I’d change it up. A sober weekend. Well, two days has turned into two months now. It’s without a doubt the longest stretch I’ve had since I could drink legally, and probably since before that as well.
I had thought maybe of writing about it after one month, but it just didn’t seem like enough time, and since I don’t know how long I want to keep this up — it’s not something I entered into with a plan like, “I’m never gonna drink again” or even “I’m taking six months off” — I thought I’d share a few of my observations about sobriety. Can’t do anything these days without keyboarding about it later.
So here are five reflections on two months. Hope you dig:
1. It sucks
It’s true. Being sober is way harder than being drunk. I won’t lie, I’ve done a decent amount of problematic boozing in my day. You have a shitty late night at work, come home, five beers, bed. You have family drama, seven beers, bed. Maybe on a Monday night you come home from work, have 10 beers over the course of seven hours and make a night of it because you’re miserable and you’re having one of those, “every decision I’ve ever made in my life has been wrong” kinds of days.
Drinking to alleviate some inner turmoil or self-directed dissatisfaction — or at very least escape from it — isn’t healthy, but it sure is easy. Being sober and actually having to face the chasm head on, on the other hand, is hard. You begin to see your patterns for coping, but the kicker is that seeing them doesn’t do anything but make you feel worse. And you know how you don’t get to deal with feeling worse when you’re sober? By drinking. It’s been an interesting cycle of force-fed miseries.
2. I’m still awkward
Some of the best drinking in my life I’ve done to cope with a social situation. I’m a weirdo by nature, the kid in the corner my whole life, and to this day, I’m a piss-poor conversationalist, well-suited to spending my days in front of a laptop screen. Drinking never made me Mr. Cool or gave me abs like Budweiser’s marketing specialists would have me believe, but at least with three beers in me, I can fool myself into thinking I’m doing alright.
Sober? Well, there ain’t a moment of facepalm-worthy awkwardness that gets by Sober Me. Sober Me catches it all, internalizes it, and although a given conversation may still be progressing, I’ve already marked it as a failure. And so it ends. Weirdly.
3. Booze is expensive
If there’s an upside — and I’m not yet convinced there is — it’s that hooch costs money and not spending money on hooch allows you to spend money on other things. Like records. Or camera lenses. Or more records. And where The Patient Mrs. stood ready to remind my ass of just how broke we actually were at a moment’s notice when I was blowing $200 a week on fancypants beer and wine, now there’s a novel laissez-faire attitude when it comes to things like swinging through a record shop when I should be on my way to work. From my end, it’s just good to know I’m irresponsible no matter what.
Should I accidentally manage to save some money as well, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but primarily, it’s just nice to have a little more cash to work with on the day to day and not have to feel like I’m breaking the bank stopping for iced tea in the morning.
4. I still feel like crap all the time
This one might be the biggest bummer of all. I’ve got friends who take time off drinking or who have stopped altogether on a permanent basis and what you always hear is, “Oh, I feel so much better!” all in that breathy weight-has-been-lifted tone of voice. Screw that. I still wake up three days a week with a headache. I’m still sore. I don’t feel like I’ve been through some cleansing process and come out on the other end a better person. I feel like crap. And I can’t even drink about it!
Granted, the fact that I get an amount of exercise close enough to zero to be statistically insignificant might have something to do with it (see “laptop screen,” above), but still. I’m not thinking I’m going to stop drinking and two months later be as active as, say, the elderly couples in AARP commercials. But give me something! You would think that if you spent a decade poisoning yourself and then you cut it out there would be some discernible difference. Somebody get me a bowl of ice cream.
5. I’m in no way an alcoholic
I’m glad to know. Alcoholism is a real disease that effects scores of people the world over, and I’m not one of them. After however long developing a drinking habit, it’s been way too easy to be like, “Yeah no thanks” and just drop the whole thing. I don’t think someone with a genuine dependency gets to do that.
Hell, I had four separate Xmas celebrations this year (five if you count the office party). If I can make it through that without a drop, I can do anything. In the last two months I’ve been rejected for mortgages, had to put a dog down, been to shows, had more than a decent share of shit-tastic days — all occasions that would seem to warrant a few beers if not a full sixer — and still, nope. That’s not me bragging. I’m still as much of a wreck and as incapable of dealing with my existence as ever. I just apparently don’t have the illness that makes me drink to cope with it. Thanks, science.
There you have it. I don’t know how AA would feel about this list, but that just what I’ve noticed. And if you take something away from it, take away the fact that even realizing all this crap, I’m still not having a beer. On some level, I think it must be worth it. That, or I really like having the cash. Ha.