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Why I Chose Sober

Before I define why I chose Sober, it’s important to acknowledge why I first chose alcohol.

Primarily, I chose alcohol for the social connection. In college, most of the extracurricular activities involve (binge) drinking. Parties, beer pong, flip cup, keg stands, sneaking vodka into concerts and football games disguised in a water bottle. In the working world, happy hour drinks provide an opportunity to unwind with your coworkers after a long and stressful week. It’s not often you hear anyone say “Hey, you wanna go for a hike on Friday evening to unwind? I’ll bring the coconut water!”

Sometimes, I chose alcohol to numb. Adolescence is stressful. Work is stressful. Bills are stressful. Relationships are stressful. Living alone is stressful. “Adulting” is stressful. Drowning the stress of everyday life with a martini temporarily eases the pressure of living in today’s world.

Occasionally, I chose alcohol because I didn’t feel like there were many other options. It’s what my partner wanted to do. It’s what my friends wanted to do. I could do something alone, or I could suck it up and meet my friends at the bar. While I cherish and value my alone time, always choosing to stray from my social group leads to a pretty lonely life. (With that said, all of my current friends know it’s not easy to get me to come out!)

Never did I choose alcohol because I actually liked it. I was never the girl who actually enjoyed the shot as it went down, or could truly appreciate the artistry or science involved in creating craft cocktails and craft beer. In fact, one time I ordered a drink that sounded delightful on the menu (rosemary-infused gin, lemon juice, lavender, club soda), and after my first sip I remember thinking to myself “I’d like this much better without the gin.”

I’ve never had an addiction to drugs or alcohol. I am not “in recovery.” I am simply making the choice to live a sober life. A life free of substances (well, except maybe coffee). People wonder why I would choose to sever my ‘healthy” relationship with alcohol if I never had a clinical problem with overuse or abuse. It’s not a concept many people understand initially.

One night I met some friends at the bar. A woman in my friend circle who I just met asked “What are you drinking?” as she waved her $20 bill at me signaling my drink would be on her.

I replied “Oh no thank you, I’m not drinking.”

“Oh…. did you have a drinking problem?” She asked with a hint of compassion, like she was expecting my response to include a story of addiction, rehab, and on-going support meetings.

I kept my response simple “No. I just don’t want to drink.” Meanwhile, in my head, I felt defensive that I even had to explain myself. If by drinking problem, you mean that I’ve spent a gross amount of money on drinks in my lifetime, and wasted several beautiful mornings nursing hangovers, then yes I have a problem with drinking.

I recently met a guy who invited me to a local bar downtown on a Friday night. I kindly declined saying “I don’t drink anymore so I’m going to pass, but have a good time!”

His response: “I’m surprised to hear you don’t drink. You struck me as the kind of person who knows how to have a good time outside of work!”

There was not a faster way to offend me or put me off.

I could list several reasons why I chose sober, but here are just a few:

  • Drinking is expensive.

  • Hangovers hurt.

  • I typically have clear ideas of what I want for my life. Alcohol usually does not support these ideas. While under the influence, I’ve made poor choices about who I share my mind (and occasionally my body) with, thus blocking the path to attract those I really do desire.

  • The guilt associated with forgotten or neglected responsibilities because I was drunk or hungover. Thankfully I have a very forgiving dog, but it doesn’t justify leaving her in her crate for 11 hours while mama is out making bad decisions. Being a bad dog mom is only the beginning…..

  • Nothing highlights an existing predisposition to depression or anxiety like the inevitable crash after a night of drinking. Sure, I might feel pretty good in the moment and even the day after, but nothing messes up my brain chemistry more than combining alcohol (a suppressant) with an antidepressant medication.

  • I’ve known too many people negatively impacted by substance use, misuse or abuse. Losing their job, losing their partner, losing their mind, losing their life…..It’s just not worth it.

After joining several hundred other people at this year’s “Recovery Day” rally and walk at Clipper Stadium, I realized I am not alone. Among this diverse group of people lies hundreds of other reasons to choose recovery and sobriety. Among this group of people lies the social connection we crave with like-minded people. And maybe, among this group of people lies the person who will ask me to go for a happy hour hike on a Friday evening. I’ll have the coconut water ready.

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