"I heard she's pregnant."
"I thought she got a DUI!"
"No, I heard she's sick. Like cancer or something."
"Doesn't alcoholism run in her family?"
"It was just for Lent, right?"
Why is the word SOBER such a dirty word? Why is it that when we learn that someone doesn't drink that we automatically assume there's a (usually shameful) reason behind it? Why does it make us so uncomfortable?
Why does there have to be a reason?
What if I were to tell you I stopped drinking...wait for it....FOR ME?!
You've probably heard the saying, "One's too many but ten is never enough." Well, that's me in a nutshell. I've never been one of those people who can just have one drink. Happy hour after work for A DRINK and appetizers? Well, you may as well be asking me how hungover I want to be at work tomorrow. Because for me, a happy hour turns into a miserable morning the next day.
Let's face it, I'm getting old. Back in the day I could tip back a few shots and a few beers and wake up feeling like a rock star. Those days are long gone. Two beers and my head is pounding the next day. Add in the two shots I got to chase those beers with and it's a recipe for disaster. And that's putting it lightly.
Drinking has always been a part of my social setting. I'm a small-town girl. We didn't have a lot of options when it came to things to do in high school. I drank my first beer in 8th grade while sleeping over at a friend's house. Her big brother was a junior and had friends over and let us hang out with them around the bonfire in the backyard. And they cracked me an Icehouse. Yep we didn't mess around in high school. From there I was sipping Zima with Jolly Ranchers on the banks of Lake Roosevelt, shot-gunning Busch Light from the tailgates of my truck and sneaking shots out of my friend's parent's liquor cabinet when they weren't home. Typical teenage rebellion. But looking back, no matter the social setting one thing was always prevalent - alcohol.
When I got married to my ex-husband my Grandmother asked my parents why he and I had a beer in our hand in EVERY PHOTO shown in the slideshow during the reception. When my mom reiterated this to me, it was the first time I truly noticed what a staple alcohol had become in my life. Needless to say...my marriage ended largely in part due to our drinking.
And that wasn't the only relationship that saw it's demise due to alcohol-driven arguments. And hell, I may as well make it awkward - I watched those arguments result in flashing lights and jail time for more than one of my boyfriends...as well as emotional and physical bruising for me. And that was part of the problem - while I was focusing on OTHER PEOPLE'S dependence on alcohol, I wasn't recognizing that I was leaning on the drink myself.
Now don't get it twisted, I wasn't sitting at home downing six-packs of Coors Light by myself after work. In fact, I rarely had alcohol in my house. I never looked forward to a glass (or bottle) of wine with dinner or as a night cap before tucking myself in each night. I was a social drinker. I didn't depend on the alcohol itself as someone with alcoholism would. I was depending on it to make me feel a certain way - or in some cases, not feel at all.
Time to get awkward again - I've suffered from depression and anxiety most my life. Most recently I was diagnosed with ADHD. You combine that cocktail of emotions and sometimes the easiest way to self-medicate is by surrounding yourself with friends at the bar. Being at home meant too much silence. Silence meant responsibility. Thinking. And who wants to think about their responsibilities? Oh, you have laundry to do? Go get a beer first. Dishes in the sink? Maybe I'll grab a beer then do them when I get home. Drinking was always A LOT MORE FUN than what was calling my name from the walls of my tiny, lonely apartment.
Drinking made me a social rock star. I could talk to anyone. Believe it or not, this communications major who talks for a living behind a microphone on a radio station really struggles with social interaction. I HATE talking on the phone. My phone rings and I feel sick. But if you let me take a couple shots first, I will talk your ear off for hours. With CONFIDENCE. I'm not worried that you'll judge me or that by telling you my deepest, darkest secrets that I'll regret it the next day. Nope, I'm gonna lay it all out in front of you. What you see (and hear) is what you get.
Drinking also helped me forget how lonely I was. I love my dog and my cat, but I'm still human. I still long for human interaction. Real skin-on-skin contact rather than kisses that result in cat hair in my mouth and nose. When I drank, I was out with friends! People who loved me! And after a few drinks I completely forgot how lonely my little apartment could be.
But one day I realized that the only thing drinking was doing for me was making me sad. And angry. And temperamental. And tired.
The next morning was always a combination of, "Oh my god, what did I say?" and, "Oh my god, what did I do?" I'd proceed to eat like crap for two days, skip my daily runs and sleep my lunch breaks and evenings away until I felt better. Until the emotional and physical hangover subsided. Then I'd do it again.
Then, a month ago, something hit me.
Sara Jean you are a god damn ADULT. Start acting like it. Stop wallowing in your self pity, stop complaining about your life and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
And I knew exactly what it was that I needed to do.
So I quit. Cold turkey. And I'm never drinking again. Yep, take my word for it. I'm done.
I've had "dry" months before and slowly eased back into it and look where it got me. I tried to cut back and I've never succeeded. Ridding myself of alcohol really has very little to do with ridding myself of the drink. I'm ridding myself of the SCENE. I'm changing my LIFESTYLE. And I've never felt more amazing.
I'm waking up earlier and earlier. I'm enjoying my mornings with a cup of coffee or tea and then taking a long walk with the pup to listen to the birds and breath in the fresh, morning air. I'm doing my chores and doing my makeup and wearing pants to work (versus the hoodie and lounge clothes everyone was used to seeing me in). My road rage has subsided. I no longer run late. I haven't taken a nap in a month because I'm not tired. I have energy. I'm running again and remembering how amazing it feels to sweat (without it smelling like Fireball). I have motivation. I'm happy.
And believe it or not, I may be socially awkward but my conversations now MEAN something. And I can look you in the eye with REAL confidence when we sit down and talk.
Sobriety has provided me everything that alcohol had promised.
Yes, I have to feel again. But you know what? Pinpointing those feelings and taking control of them makes me feel ALIVE. Human. We were meant to feel. And we were meant to cherish the awkward, weird, sometimes ridiculous mess that we were born to be.
So that's why. If you want a reason, there it is. But I don't think that sober is a dirty word... I think it's full of magic.