sober lifestyle


This week, I got a real-life Dundie (digital certificate standing in for cheap trophy) and was given “the floor” for the first 10 minutes of our weekly team teleconference. My new coworkers wanted me to highlight five fun facts about myself.


Mind ➡️ blank. I mean, other than my 397 days of sobriety, the personal revelations I’ve made in the past year through therapy/recovery, and the prescription for a new mood stabilizer that’s currently waiting for me at CVS 😬, I couldn’t think of anything “fun” — or, really, anything factual that wouldn’t result in excruciating awkward silence and immediately cement my role as Office Outcast after just one month on the job.

Heck, I’d already, unapologetically, blew off their Virtual Happy Hour invite a couple weeks ago. And believe it or not, as much as I’ve always loved the loner’s life, I don’t go around actively trying to be antisocial.

So, I pulled out the old standby.

“I was at Game 7 of the World Series in 2016 and got a ‘W’ flag tattoo to celebrate the Cubs winning, even though I’m really scared of needles and blood and pretty much anything…um, biological,” I blurted out…to a group comprised of 80 percent Bulgarian residents and 0 percent Midwesterners, by the way… “I also played Division I college softball, and even though I was a pitcher, I literally cannot throw a slow-pitch pitch over the plate to SAVE MY LIFE. …Weird, right?”

*30, maybe 40 seconds pass with no sound*

“Does anyone like the show ‘Better Call Saul,’ because I just started rewatching it on Netflix and I can’t believe how the characters drink beer or tequila like every day and never get hangovers or end up with weight or digestive issues or DUIs!!”

I didn’t actually say that last part. While I’m all about oversharing here, and I’ve pretty much given up on fitting in out there, I do understand there’s an appropriate way for mature adults to conduct themselves in professional settings. Or, at the very least, I’m not a complete tone-deaf, socially inept freak…

Not anymore, anyway.

If you’re easily influenced by what you observe in society, whether it’s real life or on social media/ads/movies/TV, I would imagine living sober is especially difficult. I mean, I was basically born impervious to peer pressure, allergic to “what everyone else is doing,” and I still get a little rankled by the casual, accepted omnipresence of alcohol every 🤬-ing place I look.

The old me probably wouldn’t have given another thought to the opening warning attached to my latest binge-watch obsession, but Sober Jen stared, incredulous, when it flashed on my screen. Oh, the F-word and cigarettes are offensive, but not the repeated booze-fueled grifting sprees by Jimmy and Kim (my all-time favorite fictional couple, BTW)?!?

I’m not actually upset, or even really triggered. I’m just…well, acutely aware — especially in “these stressful times” — that being a non-drinker means having something you used to love very very much, and can no longer ever do, perpetually dangled in your face. You just have to deal with it and keep doing your thing.

I would imagine it’s like seeing your ex in all your favorite places. And also in places you would rather not be but are forced to go, such as work group chats, where people think nothing of posting pics of longneck bottles next to laptops or long-stemmed goblets with the caption, “Wine o’clock!” 🙄

Of course, I can laugh when I see clever Facebook memes like the one above (you think it’s weird to follow Pee Wee on FB? I know you are, but what am I?), and shrug when people I know flippantly joke on Twitter that COVID quarantine has given them “15 extra pounds — and alcoholism.” Dude, between like 2008 and last summer, I was the one spamming your feeds with close-ups of double Patron shots and drunken selfies sprinkled with psychobabble, so I shall never sit upon a hypocritical high horse when it comes to alcohol. I will not begrudge consenting adults the right to indulge their affinities, whether it’s for food, drink, or anything, short of cruelty, racism, misogyny…and we might come to blows if you say something ignorant about addicts in my presence, but that’s a whole other tangent.

I might also, occasionally, feel sorry for myself. Poor me; I can’t drink. I might have times when a lifetime of “content to do my own thing” is overtaken by a burst of longing to be “just like everyone else.” I might occasionally burst into tears while watching a random TV scene depicting friends laughing and shooting the shit at a bar. I might be blindsided by memories of that sweet, magical escape alcohol provided for me — so crucial, I thought, to surviving social situations — and suddenly, out of nowhere, become overcome by grief at the loss of my thing.

Alcohol was my thing for a long time, and to say I never miss it would be false. The above scenario about the tears and the TV scene actually occurred several months ago when I was re-watching “The Wire” and McNulty and Freamon were talking shop over beer, whisky, whatever, and WHAM. 😭

Earlier this week, when I was contemplating the subject of informal work awards, I remembered Pam Beasley on “The Office.” Her whole storyline in the hilarious Dundies episode was that she had too many margaritas and got banned from Chili’s, which — I am not kidding — could have been ripped straight out of my real life. Let’s just say, the Presidente was the catalyst in a few past disasters.

You want to stop feeling self-pity over your squandered drinking privileges? Think about that time you crashed your car into a guardrail in Florida after (at least) four cocktails in a 45-minute dinner outing, then drove away with only a bent front axle and looming repair bills to show for it. 🙏🏻

Thank goodness I’m a much more responsible citizen now, and despite the occasional flash of FOMO when I observe what it seems like everyone else but me is doing, I think my personality actually equips me quite well for recovery. I approach invitations to boozy adult gatherings the way I did rumors of parties back in school (I wasn’t one of the “popular kids” and was actually rather proud of that). I’m totally fine with taking a hard pass on pretty much any social event, “consequences” be damned.

Yeah, I could probably use a little bit more “go along to get along” in my life, and with more work actively practicing the 12 steps, I’m confident I’ll get it.

However, even in “The Rooms,” where people cling to the tradition of anonymity and preach “principles over personality” as THE way to salvation, I’ll always remain an independent thinker committed to following her own path. I don’t have to agree with everything in the program or everyone in the group to learn tools and take — more importantly, give — comfort.

I will always feel compelled to (over)share my recovery story publicly, truthfully, and unapologetically, because I want other addicts to know they’re not alone. I’m proof that no matter how much you 🤬-ed up, there is hope for a better future. I want anyone who’s struggling to know that addiction does not mean you are a bad person, and asking for help doesn’t mean you are weak. No matter what messages you might be getting from society, in my eyes, there are few things more admirable than acknowledging and owning your mistakes, taking control of your life and changing your behavior. Doing hard work on yourself benefits everyone around you and makes our world a better place.

This whole world can be one big annoying, frustrating trigger, if you allow it to be. To all the sober people out there working hard to face life armed with nothing but courage and your inner compass (and probably lots of coffee) and protected by nothing but faith (and hopefully the love of family), you are all my heroes.

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