On Being Sober for a Month
My last sip of alcohol was at the stroke of midnight on January 1. I drank the champagne, thanked my hosts and summoned a car faster than you can say “Cinderella.”
I knew going into this year, I wanted to challenge myself to what I lovingly call “No Fun January”: no caffeine, no artificial/added sugar, no alcohol. For a month. “Maybe more?,” people asked. “HA!,” I’d reply. Let’s get through a few days before we start talking crazy.
I was fortunate to have a support group in my mom, my sister-in-law and one of her aunts. The accountability of having others go through the same thing was a huge help for me personally. I also have a handful of friends who are sober and my guardian angel of a grandfather — who led countless AA mentees and meetings — to lift up my spirit without the use of spirits.
The first few days were, admittedly, much easier than expected because I was sick with a nasty sinus infection. I couldn’t taste anything anyway, and the last thing I wanted was a cocktail. (OK, maaaybe a hot toddy sounded amazing, but I wasn’t giving in that easy.)
Then I returned to work. A co-worker’s farewell lunch was my first real test. Could I sit through an entire hour with 20 others enjoying drinks while I just sipped water like a poor sad, sap? The answer is: Yes. And TMI, but “treating” myself to a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon was a terrible mistake, given my new clean eating plan.
I started realizing that first week just how much alcohol is a topic of interest: in TV shows, in movies, in music, in conversation. I sometimes wanted to scream and shake people: Didn’t we have anything else to discuss?! But I also knew I was hyper aware (and sensitive) because of my challenge.
The second week — mostly recovered from being sick — I realized how much time there is in a day. I found myself taking on freelance for the first time in a while, working on my killer digital portfolio and cooking with more excitement than ever. If I come home from work without hitting happy hour first, I have about SIX hours to do what I want! Can I get an “Amen!”?
I also got back into a workout routine that week and tried some new activities, too. Barry’s Boot Camp kicked my ass (and abs) the first time back. Reformer Pilates was my first-ever attempt, and I fell in love. I left classes excited about how hard I worked and didn’t feel the need to celebrate with a drink.
Going into the third week, I was nervous. Not only was it a long weekend, but Inauguration Day loomed large. Would I be able to stomach it all without a cocktail in hand — or at least my boyfriend, Mark West, by my side?
I faced the third week, which was also particularly painful at work, like any normal person would: I hid. I holed up in my apartment as much as possible, canceling plans and staying away from social media. I binge-watched shows I swore I’d never see, read some books and avoided all forms of reality as much as I could. #healthy
After emerging from a cocoon, I felt a little rejuvenated but a LOT proud for making it through emotionally and mentally draining scenarios without needing a drink. I coped while staying sober, something I will perfect over time without having to be a complete recluse.
After such roller-coaster weeks, I didn’t think it could get any tougher. But the fourth week brought two very big tests: a girls’ getaway to Santa Barbara and my Gasparilla Invades SF party.
I made sure my traveling companion didn’t “feel weird” if she wanted to enjoy drinks at dinner or on the beach or from 9–5 if she so wished. I was learning, after all, how uncomfortable other people can get when you’re sober. My friend was great, though, and indulged as she wanted without feeling guilty.
As for Gasparilla, I had a great time dressed as a pirate on the streets of SF. We got funny looks, unfunny comments and had a whole lot of seafaring fun, and I did it all without the aid of alcohol. I was tempted, as friends offered to buy drinks and shots and “just one” wouldn’t hurt me. But I’d already made it through 27 full days and wasn’t about to ruin it.
Along the way, I noted a few lessons I encountered while being sober for 31+ days:
- I used alcohol as a coping mechanism and an excuse. From happy hours to post-workout dinners and everything in between, I didn’t realize how often I’d reach for a drink. And it wasn’t always a glass of wine for the night. I’d throw back three or four ($15) cocktails “just because” it was a hard day at work or I was stressed out with politics or it was a day ending in Y. Any excuse was good enough for me to indulge in the alcohol I so love.
- Clarity can be frightening. In razor-sharp focus, I started seeing how many hours I’d normally spend in a week, not doing much else besides socializing over drinks. I wouldn’t think twice about hanging with a group of friends and having a few rounds, because that’s the norm. What’s abnormal is being the one who’s not drinking, and then everyone wants to know why and how and “OMG I could never do that!” The truth is, people: You can. You just have to push yourself to understand it’s not a priority anymore. And if you have friends who enjoy socializing while working out or volunteering or doing other sober activities, well that’s just the bee’s knees.
- I became THAT person, who often talked about being sober. To be fair, I’m now also that person about how much sugar is in everything… but I could hear myself in conversations, constantly talking about my challenge. Maybe it was a defense mechanism — people wanted to know why I wasn’t drinking, and it’d make them feel weird, and so I’d get on a soapbox to explain. And the more I talked about it, the less I wanted it.
So, that’s my story about how No Fun January taught me a whole lot more about myself than I ever imagined. I’ll likely indulge this weekend, for a friend’s birthday, but I don’t see myself ever returning to my old habits. Have you ever challenged yourself to something like this? What were your results?
About WittyburgSarcastic, sports-obsessed writer & FL native navigating SF.
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