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Loving My Sober Life
You can spot an alcoholic by the phrase, “a sober life is boring.” It’s not absolute, but typically, anyone who thinks sobriety is boring hasn’t attempted being sober. Usually, this is due to fear. In the same way that we might say, “skydiving is stupid” without ever having gone. It’s a very human response even if it’s wrong. We criticize things we don’t understand or fear. While fear is a very natural response, we can fight it with another natural response, our innate curiosity. Rather than criticize living a sober life, we should ask questions. There are a lot of misconceptions regarding sobriety. Partially because the people who tend to “get sober” don’t do so voluntarily. In movies (and in life to a certain extent), people who “get sober” tend to hit rock bottom and are pulled unwillingly to rehab, or jail and then rehab. Blame it on my alcoholic dependent brain, but I believed I couldn’t be sober because a life without alcohol would be painfully dull. Having been sober for 5 years, here are four things that I’m continually grateful for in my sober life.
1. My Memory
I have vivid memories. I doubt it’s technically “photographic,” but it feels that way compared to the alternative – murky, muddy, blur of time. What’s interesting about being sober is what I don’t remember about being drunk. I can scarcely remember events, parties or even apartments I lived at for years. It was always a chase.
Now, I can have a pleasant dinner with family and remember the conversations verbatim. I can remember how the food tasted on Thanksgiving and be inspired to recreate the dessert. I can visualize myself on a sandy beaches in Hawaii (on a family vacation) and yes, I can even distinctly remember the sunburn.
I think of my drunk days as always chasing a carrot. I didn’t dwell on the past, I thought about the future, but the future was limited to “what bar” or “what beverage” I would indulge in that night. In a sober life, my memories inspire me to keep moving forward indefinitely, creating new memories.
2. Feeling Emotions
This is a weird one to talk about since “you have to experience it to understand it,” but I knew I had to write it down. I remember being 7 months sober and joining a friend in a color run. Most people tend to walk it, but we agreed we would race – it was only 3 miles or so, how bad could it be? I remember getting halfway through the first mile and feeling like I was going to die. My ears felt like they needed to be popped, my breathing was rapid and shallow like I couldn’t get enough air – like I was drowning. My face was wet with sweat (which made the color cake to my face and became infinitely more uncomfortable). And I was already seeing spots.
We slowed down, but kept going. She told me the worst thing I could do is sit down or stop, so I pushed on. By the time I was nearing the finish line, my feet had swollen and literally gone numb in my shoes. I ended up taking off my shoes and walking with my feet fast asleep – it feels like you’re walking on stilts.
I ended up dry heaving my brains out. The world was spinning, my legs felt like they were bursting at the seams. I was hot and uncomfortable, scraping chalky green clay from my face while my eyes burned with colored sand.
And I loved it.
In the journey of sobriety, it’s not often you get to physicalize your internal struggle. Every day is a battle, but – and I find this is especially true with running – when you’ve been physically beaten yourself, you appreciate it. I was wet, hot, uncomfortable, and in genuine agony… and in my 7 months, this was the first time I felt like I was genuinely detoxed; like the alcohol was oozing out of me. The rest of the day, I was sore as all hell, but I never thought about drinking. I sat on the sofa watching movies and chatting with friends for the remainder of the day and never once got bored or wandered to drinking. I ended that day satisfied.
When I was drunk, I could split my hand open (trying to grab a moving train like in the movies) and bleed out feeling nothing, but this run was sober and real and was/is so vivid that of course… I continue to do it again and again.
3. My Free Time
I actually do things now. What I mean by that is, I remember being bogged down by money. My drunken life was always based around my next paycheck. It was never a question of “what I’d do” after work, I’d drink it. Without alcohol though, it’s amazing how rapidly I’ll research and do things.
It started with cooking. I wanted to eat some meaty lasagna, but I was craving a particular kind my grandmother used to make with broccoli in the center (don’t judge). All the ready-made lasagnas weren’t going to cut it, but then – maybe obviously now – I looked up how to make lasagna and 2 hours later, I had one of the best meals I’d ever eaten. When I realized how simple this was, it snowballed.
I could be doing anything and an idea would pop into my head. Instead of thinking about it nebulously, I’d go do it. For instance, my buddy had a daughter who was always growling at him. He joked that it reminded him of a gremlin from the horror movie. This gave me an idea. I used a handful of free apps, gathered some stock music and videos of said daughter, and cobbled a mock horror trailer of his daughter. You better believe we’ll play it on her wedding day.
Another friend of ours got permits to build a deck but the contractor was pricey as all hell… so we looked up what we needed to do and gradually built a deck in their back yard. My free time is full of miscellaneous projects and activities. I try everything and can keep myself busy if the powers off and phones are dead. It’s a new life.
4. My Skin
Through therapy, one of the things we quickly discovered was how uncomfortable I was in my skin. Every social situation felt awkward. I felt bony and never knew what to do with my hands unless I was holding something. Drinking numbed my body, it felt like it melted my skin away and kept me fluid. (In hindsight, I actually think the drunk me probably made people a lot more uncomfortable, but that’s besides the point.) If I tried dancing, I always felt rigid; like an umbrella being opened an closed. If I tried soberly watching a movie, I’d fidget and be embarrassed for laughing out loud. If a show – or if I’m being completely honest a commercial – played inspirational music and started to make me tear up, I’d push the feeling down and bury it.
I never felt comfortable until alcohol entered my system and then it was always an excuse for my behavior. I remember when a friend of mine was moving away and I cried. When they never reached out and I did a kind of mental inventory of why, I realized that whenever I was drunk, I never appeared genuine. It was the alcohol, not me. They didn’t know I cared.
Today, in my sober life, people know I care. I cry at sappy commercials and laugh about how it affects me. Not in an ashamed way, in a “their marketing department got me” kind of way. I dance to the music, feeling my rhythm in tune with the song. I don’t know how it looks to others, just how it feels to me. And when I watch a movie in the theater, I get in one of the closest rows and love feeling dwarfed by what’s happening on screen; I’m invested.
I feel good about myself and it makes me comfortable. I don’t feel awkward standing next to people or worry about where my hands should be. I don’t babble incessantly either, I listen. I ask questions and people open up to me. I feel good. I feel I belong and that’s something I never would’ve reached drunk, only sober. I love living my sober life.