Ryan Bell learned more than he expected in the first year that he gave up alcohol.
In November of 2013 I read a story by David Sedaris that made me think about my own drinking. In the story his sister continuously brought home men that had the similar whisky and cigarette smell of their father. They rode motorcycles, drank beer and left as noisily and drunkenly as they had arrived. I couldn’t help thinking of the booze leaking out of my body and being absorbed by my daughter, my memory of my own father’s smell and, of course, my own love of and lack of control in regards to alcohol.
That short story was my tipping point and here are 7 realizations I’d like to share about my first year of sobriety:
1. It’s a Relationship
Alcohol can become a more important connection than any other friendship. When I began thinking of alcohol as a human relationship I realized that this long-ass friendship was unhealthy and screwing me over. Simply put, alcohol was too important to me.
2. There is NO Substitute
Coffee, cigarettes, pedicures, candy, movies, vaporizer pens, marijuana, Faberge eggs… NOTHING is going to work. If you love a certain drug then you’re not going to be able to simply replace it. I tried with coffee and I just ended up having to do that balancing act of keeping the right dosage of caffeine in my body and trying not to poop my pants in grocery stores. Sorry Shop ‘n Save.
3. You’re a Hobbyist
If you don’t think alcohol is a hobby then try quitting for a while. Life’s gonna get boring real quick there bro. You absolutely must find other outlets. Think about how many hours per week or glasses per week you drink and then think about how much it slows you down. It’s much more deeply embedded in the fabric and patterns of your life than you recognize. Damn you, Jim Beam tattoo.
4. The Myth of Moderation
I’d tell you how much I used to drink but I figure that you can make a good estimate here and I don’t want my mom to scold me. (Hey mom, I’m writing fiction. Cool, huh?). MODERATION IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR ME. If I had moderation I would need to have all of the moderation in the world and then I’d shoot moderation into my veins while drinking a moderation cocktail and putting 19 moderation suppositories into my anus as I sat in my golden moderation castle on Rodeo Drive.
5. It’s SOOOOOO damn hard.
As soon as you make the decision to quit the world is awash with drugs and/or alcohol. Little cement statues appear in your yard pissing Jameson as the beautiful bluebirds bath. Beer is free at every function you go to AND it’s some new delicious beer that you’ve never heard of before with a cork in the bottle and it tastes like bacon. A cork in a bottle of beer? That’s crazy.
6. You’re Gonna Lie to Yourself
There’s this facade of control that pops up like some midget ninja who pops up in the night and says things like: “Yeah… it’s no problem.” “Just a nip.” “Just a sip.” “One glass of wine on a special night.” “That hooker was dead when you got there.” “No big whoop.” “You got this bro.” “You’re not addicted to crack.” Damn you, Midget Ninja, you’re a sneaky little bastard.The year before I quit I had slowed down substantially. In fact, I probably only drank 2 or 3 days out of the month and I’d go for friggin 3 months with no alcohol. No big deal.
BUUUUUUUUUUT… wait just a minute.When I did drink I’d get blackout-fall-down-sorority-girl drunk. People noticed I wasn’t drinking as often but man, I sure made up for it when I did.
Drinks are like damn Lay’s potato chips for me. “Can’t have just one, can ya?” You are damn skippy I can’t have just one.
7. Your Friends are Waiting… Waiting… Waiting…
I bartended for 17 of my 23 collegiate years (rough estimate) so my friends are boozers with cinder block livers. I was able to put them off and give them excuses for a while but eventually I had to tell them that I wasn’t drinking. After a few months they stopped offering and sparkling water started showing up at parties.
I have to tell you, dear reader, that this may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever written. Sobriety is difficult but public sobriety is just plain painful. If you’ve had a hard time there is help out there. In fact, feel free to join a sober artist community that I created on Facebook called Zero Moderation or start sending work to our Submissions page. In truth, I’ve learned much more than this and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. Give yourself a goal and then after you get to that goal give yourself another one. Mine’s another year… and next year it will be the same.
Photo: Tom Godber/Flickr
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