I chose the worst year to quit drinking.
It has been a full calendar year as of April 1st of living sober. I gave up drinking a year ago…Well, as I write this, it’s 9:30 p.m. on March 31, but barring something catastrophic–and it would have to be a major catastrophe since I live in a place with active and archaic blue laws so nothing is open, particularly liquor dealers–I will have made it one year simply living with and within my own, unaltered brain.
I was going to let this dubious milestone pass without comment because, hey, I’m doing what a responsible person should be doing. Also, how does one celebrate milestones when you’re sober? Have the near-beer version of a party, like the Gobots of parties? Have a keg of apple juice and do jell-o shots that are just jell-o? This is the longest I’ve gone sober in two decades. Besides, a year of therapy has taught me that you need to constantly take self-inventory.
For 20 years I’ve not had to deal with my abhorrent thoughts and the consequences of them. And it has been difficult in ways that I did not anticipate. I thought I’d go around being quietly judged for being a drunk while being outwardly lauded for deciding to join the ranks of functional society. I thought I’d get the benefit of every doubt, that people would give me leeway because, “well, Lushy Von PukeShoes is trying to cope with the mundanity of sobriety, maybe we should all just collectively give a hug, a pat on the head and a hearty ‘attaboy’ so to not risk being the reason for Captain Drunkberry here to tumble off the wagon.”
The hard part has not been abstaining, its been the complete controlled demolition of everything I am. Like an old, dilapidated Las Vegas hotel, I’ve spent the last year being imploded and just crossing my fingers that there weren’t too many lost souls still trapped inside, but even if there were, we’ll just build on top of their charred corpses.
For a person who started crying when my therapist simply asked, “do you like yourself,” it turns out there’s more to ego than self-esteem. Compulsive self-indulgence is rooted in selfishness. Hiding from meaningful human interaction, hiding from my own feelings, means you think your feelings matter enough to hide from them. Trying to live without the crutch of the most banal form of passive suicide has been terrifying. It means I do think life is worth living. Now I have to figure out why that is.
It has been weird. During the past year, I’ve been to four different mental health professionals. Some therapists, I’m convinced, are just winging it, white-knuckling every session just hoping no one asks to see the note pad they’ve been doodling on or reads the certificate framed on their wall, “you got your therapist license from the Universal Life Church? The same place I paid $25 so I could be an ordained minister?” One therapist I went to had a broken couch and he just shrugged after a half-hour into an hour session during which he went through four Nicorette gums. He never spit one out either.
Right now, though, if you’re not me, if you don’t have to be sober, for god’s sake, how are you not drinking right now? Have you looked around? Society is surfing down an active volcano, drink up, sniff some glue, maybe snort a line of Mrs. Dash and see if that does anything for you. It’s wild out there, I’m not judging. I’m stewing in jealousy. Of course I miss drinking. Booze is great if you’re able to handle it.
One year is not a long time, but it feels like a lot of aging has taken place in that time. I’m learning. Rebuilding trust. Rewiring my brain. Figuring out who I am. Listening. Wondering how nobody talks about Jimmy Buffet as the Pablo Escobar of alcoholism. Back to listening. Trying. Constantly making a conscious effort to try. Trying not to make sobriety my entire identity.
I don’t have any special insight to impart to anyone. The only thing I’ve learned is more about me, which, yuck. Being a drunk is a staggeringly cliche thing. Everyone is a drunk in a similar way, but everyone maintains sobriety in a unique way. This is a part of my way, so thank you for taking the time to read this.