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Six months ago, I didn’t know how this was going to go. I didn’t know if I’d quit for a week, a month, two months, the classic one hundred days, or more. Here I am today, six months after I chose to take a break from drinking, which was how I thought about it at the time. Taking a break— something that is temporary. I didn’t know how long this would last, and I still don’t. I do, however, know that six months is longer than I originally predicted I’d be able to go. As someone that had spent the past five years or so drinking regularly, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stick with the sober lifestyle. What would Saturday nights be like if I wasn’t going to my favorite bar and relaxing with a few PBRs? What would I order to drink at nice dinners when the wine list was off limits? What would special occasions be like minus the White Russian or Long Island Iced Tea? And speaking of special occasions, over the past six months, I’ve had several come up that I’ve spent sober for the first time in years. I’ve attended two open bar weddings since going sober, including my own sister’s. On top of that, there’s been Thanksgiving, Christmas; New Years was especially hard. St. Patrick’s Day. In just a few weeks, my birthday. All of that being said, there are things that I’ve learned over the past six months—some of which I expected, some I didn’t. Here are a few.
There are things I’ll miss out on.
Okay, this one wasn’t a surprise. I knew going into this that there would be things I’d miss by going sober. At my friend’s wedding in October, I saw the inhibition-lowering effect of alcohol on the other guests as the evening progressed. I watched from the sidelines as most of the others were out on the dance floor, not caring in the least how ridiculous they might look, knowing a couple of drinks would’ve given me the boldness to join them. On particularly rough or stressful days at work, I could no longer think about the cold beer that was waiting for me upon clocking out. Which leads me to the next thing I’ve learned.
Drinking is part of the problem, not the solution.
Before going sober, when I would feel anxious or stressed out, I’d “solve” that with some alcohol. It wasn’t until going sober that I started to really understand that drinking wasn’t solving any problems—if anything, it was adding to them. Drinking might hush the anxiety in the moment, but the next morning it would always rebound even worse—sometimes joined by a headache. Going sober was a great way to mentally detox and clear my head of the issues that drinking was aiding.
The longer you stick with it, the easier it gets.
I remember my first Saturday night after deciding to go sober. Like many people, Saturday nights were usually the time when I’d drink the most, and I was honestly not even sure how to spend it without alcohol. I ended up going to the movies with a friend where I could still relax and take my mind off of the fact that I was drinking water instead of beer. As a week turned into two and so on, it slowly became easier to say no to drinking. Six months in, the craving for alcohol still pops up occasionally, but it’s much easier to push it out of my mind and move on now.
Being reminded of alcohol is nearly unavoidable.
Let’s face it: the society that we live in loves referencing alcohol. I see it multiple times a day. I honestly wasn’t even really aware of this until I went sober. I’d just become so desensitized to it that I didn’t even pay attention to the drinking references all around me. I can’t go out without seeing someone wearing a funny t-shirt mentioning their favorite kind of wine, or jump on Facebook without seeing a meme that mentions tequila shots, or turn on the TV without seeing a beer commercial. It’s almost unavoidable to be regularly reminded of alcohol in our society, and it’s something that I’ve noticed so much more since going sober.
You don’t need alcohol to have a good time.
When I was thinking about going sober, this was an issue that popped up in my mind: what would I do for fun? For quite a while, I’d thought that in order to have a good time, alcohol should be involved. I’d thought of a fun time as watching a game at my favorite bar with a cold PBR in my hand, or relaxing at the beach with a refreshing cocktail. But having fun doesn’t have to involve drinking. In fact, for most of the really fun times in my life, even strictly my adult life, I’ve been totally sober. A drink can add to an experience, but it’s not the experience itself.
Being the sober friend has its drawbacks and its benefits.
This was another lesson that I learned at my friend’s beautiful wedding, and I’ve seen it reinforced many times since. Although my sobriety at that wedding made me lack the boldness that it would’ve taken to get me out on the dance floor with everyone else, it also made me thankful for one thing. As we all stood outside and watched dazzling fireworks shoot up into the air, I was thankful that I could be completely present and conscious in that moment. I was thankful for my clear, non-intoxicated head, and the crystal clear state of being that I felt. In the times since then, I’ve come to really appreciate that feeling, especially if I’m in a situation where I know most of the people around me aren’t getting to fully experience it due to their inebriated state.
You need to learn to say no.
I’ve never been very good at saying no to people. Even if it’s someone offering me something, I just don’t like saying no to people. Since becoming sober, though, there have been times when I’ve had to just get over it and give a flat out no to someone. I still sometimes go out to bars with friends, though not as often as when I was drinking, and now it’s mainly for the purpose of food and socializing. So yes, there have been times when someone has offered to buy me a drink and, at the risk of seeming rude, I’ve had to just say no thanks. If they push with the classic “oh, just one, come on” line that sounds familiar to so many women, I’ve learned that instead of submitting, I need to be persistent and, if necessary, just leave. It’s not a crime to refuse. I don’t need to explain that I’m sober and create excuses, just say no.
Well, there’s a few of the main lessons I’ve learned from six months of sobriety. I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up or the other things I may learn in the future. Cheers to the past six months, and to whatever the next six months have in store.