sober lifestyle


For our first “date night” of the summer, my husband and I dove headfirst into the deep end of post-COVID reality, crawling through stop-and-go traffic down I-95 to Citizens Bank Park for last Sunday’s full-capacity Phillies-Yankees game.

On the drive to the stadium, we discussed how nice it was not to have a dog in the fight.

You see, the last time we were here, back in August of 2019, we came to see the Cubs…who rewarded our loyalty by blowing a 5-run lead and serving up a walk-off grand slam to Bryce Harper. 🤨

It was at that game that I first tried keeping score as a sobriety strategy — a hands-busying distraction from all the alcohol swirling around me — and it worked so well on Day 40 that I went back to it on Day 708.

Including that $3 scorecard, on top of $18 for two souvenir Aaron Nola/JT Realmuto cups of Coke Zero, $35 for four Hatfield Grill sausages, $15 for parking at our favorite lot on Pattison Ave. and $104 for tickets in the 300 level, the total bill for our baseball date was $175.

Thus, the main topic of discussion on our way home from the game was: “Holy shit; do you remember how much we used to spend when we were drinking?!?”

I say “we,” because Hubby, to pad his Best Spouse on Earth resume, has gone alcohol-free along with me over the last (almost) two years. And to illustrate the vast difference between addicts and non-addicts, if you ask him how long-term abstinence has affected him, he’ll just shrug.

I have an online diary filled with thousands upon thousands of words (and counting) devoted to the subject.

That said, if you want to really move a man’s needle, bring up how much money he’s saving. And if Hubby doesn’t feel any amazing benefits of sobriety in his body, I know he feels it in the wallet. I’ve been running the numbers.

Back in the old days, we would’ve dropped $175 at a sporting event on alcohol alone. 🤑

That’s probably enough, but of course, I can go on. …

I spent about $75 at the liquor store every week on tequila and vodka, and if we went out to dinner on a weekend, my drinks (bottomless double Patrons 🤢) added at least that much to the bill. So, say we did that twice a month. Between drinking at home and drinking at a restaurant, we’re looking at close to $10,000 over two years.

Tack on an extra $700 for beers at two Major League Baseball games each year ($175 x 2 x 2).

And we’re not even going to take into account all the late-night, drunken junk food binges at 7-Elevens and hotel gift shops — Hubby and I took quite a few Cub fan road trips over the years — because, well, I was too blasted at the time to know what I was eating, much less how much I was spending.

So, even if my math is sketchy — it’s probably sketchy; I only scored a 550 on the math portion of the SAT…and yes, I still remember that — I easily blew a semester’s worth of grad school tuition, plus textbooks, on booze in a typical two-year span…prior to July 7, 2019.

Add up all the habits I’ve developed since then to replace drinking — nightly smoothies, Jell-O pudding, Tootsie Pops, audiobooks, custom running shoes, monthly Stitch Fix boxes — and we’ve still saved thousands of dollars.

Considering I actually start grad school in August, it’s safe to say this “savings” is way past spoken for. But as a concept, it’s still nice to think about.

I’m told there’s an app that will calculate your sobriety savings for you, but I feel like automation might take some of the fun out of this exercise. I mean, there’s also an app that keeps track of sober days, but I’ve chosen to take the primitive survivalist (prison inmate?) approach, physically drawing daily hash marks on my basement walls.

Some things just feel more gratifying when you do them by hand. …which sounds dirty. But you know what I mean. These little old-fashioned manual acts keep me mindful and present in the moment. Like writing out thank you cards and walking them to the mailbox instead of sending texts. Or cutting out magazine clippings with a pair of scissors and Elmer’s School Glue-ing them on a styrofoam poster to make a vision board that looks like it belongs to a kindergartner. 😂

Or, keeping a scorecard at a baseball game!

There’s a giant electronic board in the stadium that broadcasts every pitch, and real-time box scores available at the tap of a phone screen, but I prefer drawing tiny diamonds and K’s and E’s on a piece of card stock with a miniature pencil for nine innings, then straining my brain to figure out team totals and pitching lines — were those runs all earned? 🤔 Shit! I missed two batters going to the bathroom; that screws up the whole thing! 😫

I missed a whole lot more when I was drinking — and I don’t just mean action on the field. There were so many little moments, over 20 years, that I lived through but never fully experienced, and now can’t even remember. So many date nights with Hubby that ended with me passed out and him pissed off.

I might eventually make back all that alcohol money, but I can never get back the lost time.

That sad realization is also a great motivator. With it, I can plunge into a packed sporting event where people are enjoying alcohol everywhere I look — which, not gonna lie, is still hard — and immediately do some calculations in my head:

One intoxicated afternoon = at least a hundred bucks + a headache + a huge step backward for me and my marriage + self-hatred + shame spiral…

All for what? Bud Light Seltzer? 🙄

The alternative: Souvenir cup of Coke Zero (with a free refill) that we will take home and drink out of for years to come, until it literally melts in the dishwasher + a scorecard full of scribbles that will sit around the house ad infinitum until it sparks an argument over why we’re saving it + lively debate on what it really means to “strike out the side” (OK, I concede; it’s three batters, three K’s) + coherent conversation on the way home about how far we’ve come + a happy hubby with more cash in his pocket and less stress in his life…

I can just stop there. Actually, I could have just stopped at the souvenir cup. 🤣 But seriously, I don’t have to be a math whiz to know that my personal ledger is currently in the black, and that sobriety is saving me — sorry, us — a whole lot more than just money.

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