Thoughts On Being 1000 Days SoberThursday, May 14, 2015
Today marks one thousand days since I decided I was done drinking once and for all. Even though I use social media for work, I’m a pretty private person and have very specific boundaries of what I will and won’t post online. I firmly believe that not giving strangers access to every part of one's life does not make a person any less authentic. That said, I’ve chosen to be public about my sobriety because it both helps with accountability and because I’ve gotten countless emails from other people saying it has helped them. Below is something I wrote for a select group of friends at the two year mark and I’m posting it here today with a few additions:
Some random observations on being sober, in no particular order:
*I am a very private person who happens to be well-known in the industry I work in. I have specific boundaries of what I will and won't share about my life online, but my sobriety is one I choose to talk about for one main reason: accountability. It's hard to have a drink at a work event when everyone there, including people you've never met, knows you're not supposed to.
*I can shut down a dance floor sober just as well as I could after a few glasses of champagne.
*It's not uncommon for people to lose friends when they stop drinking. I lucked out in this. I have always had smart, interesting, kind friends who are passionate about the world beyond the end of their driveways and that didn't change.
*While alcohol in the event and hospitality industries is prevalent, it is, for the most part, a social function. In the international development world it's a social function as well as a common substitute for therapy. It doesn't take much imagination to understand why. You see and live incredibly hard things. You feel personally bound by all the red tape. You can't shut out the news because the news stories are about people you have shared meals with and cultures you have called home for a time. Alcohol becomes a coping mechanism, a way to keep doing the "good work" even when it feels anything but good. Burnout is high in this sector, and while alcohol is not the only — or even primary — reason why, it is often a key component and the habit typically carries over even when you pursue another line of work.
*Alcoholism looks different for everyone. Mine was far from stereotypical and I surprised a lot of my friends when I stopped drinking because on the surface it never really appeared to be a problem. I've never been a binge drinker. I didn't get mean or angry. I never broke an NDA, which I'm required to sign for almost every client. I didn't make crazy decisions and I am fortunate in that I have very few alcohol-related regrets. I've never drunk texted or engaged in tipsy online shopping. Recognize that the signs don’t look the same for everyone: you don’t have to have a movie script-worthy problem to have a problem.
*Better mornings. Better skin.
*Being the only non-drinker around a bunch of people who are drinking is the best. eavesdropping. ever. Sí entiendo.
*You can be the designated driver if you want, but you don’t have to be. Your name isn’t Uber. There’s nothing less fun than driving a bunch of inebriated friends around.
*I'm an introvert who really likes people. I have fun wherever I go and I have a rule about always choosing the option with the story. You can do this with a drink and you can do it without — and you can have fun either way.
*You’re not regulated to a life of water or cranberry juice. The bartender can make you any mocktail, just tell them the types of drinks you like (I personally prefer something more on the sour or bitter side than sweet).
*My parents never really drank and I didn’t grow up seeing it at home. It’s common to assume that someone with an issue with alcohol saw it at home all the time. That was not the case for me. The most I saw my parents drink was the occasional margarita at a restaurant.
*If you can't give up something for 30 days, you're addicted. I am still fully addicted to coffee and my phone (though this year I took a six-week Instagram break and it was the best ever).
*The only two "secrets" I know for living a joy-filled life are actively practicing gratitude and actively forgiving. Joy doesn't come from drinking. Joy doesn't come from not drinking.
*It's not about you. And by this I mean my decision to not drink is totally, 100% all about ME. Your sober friends don't expect you to not drink and their not drinking is not a judgment on your choices.
*I will, however, judge you for that iridescent blue mystery fruit girlytini you order while we're out to dinner. If you're going to drink, do it right.
An addendum: If you have a problem and can't kick it alone, there is no shame in going to AA or some other type of support group/program to get help. AA was not a good fit for me, but it is for some people (hundreds of thousands, in fact). Find something that works for you and surround yourself with a group of friends who will keep your best interest in mind and hold you accountable.