As we’ve closed in on our first sober year together, Jenny asked if I would be willing to write something sharing my perspective on the past 12 months. Looking back, I’ve learned much more than I expected about my own relationship with alcohol, my relationship with others, and about myself. I’m generally not one to write publicly about the “real” me, especially if the real me involves admitting to any sort of vulnerability or flaws, but Jenny and I agree that it’s important for more people to talk openly and share their experiences with sobriety so here goes.
From my freshman year of college until past my 40th birthday, I was an absolutely unapologetic drinker. Sure, I got a little carried away once in awhile, but I was a good student, held down a respectable job, got promoted, paid my bills on time, so drinking was never a problem. Fall down in a hotel tub while on a work trip? Black out on a camping trip with your friends? Ha! Those are just entertaining stories to tell (and retell). My life wasn’t falling apart around me so what reason did I have to change anything? It was in this context that Jenny and I met shortly after her divorce, and directly in the middle of mine. So needless to say, alcohol was always a big part of our relationship from day one.
- Hectic day? Let’s unwind with a drink..
- Something to celebrate? Let’s get a drink
- Stress? Drink
- Seeing old friends? Drink like you are 20 again.
- Vacation? Constant Drinks.
- Dinner time? Brunch? Saturday afternoon? Drinks, Drinks, Drinks
Again, never a problem, nothing to see here. Just 2 adults dealing with life, trying to relax and have a good time. Reality was that I was a huge enabler, always ready to restock either of our liquor cabinets, or head somewhere for drinks, and in total denial around my own level of consumption. So when Jenny decided that she was serious about quitting for a year, I signed up too as show of support for her. I wasn’t quitting because I needed to, I was just supporting someone I love, or so I told myself. In hindsight, I’ve realized how delusional I was about my own drinking and how that attitude shifted my own responsibility in this unfairly towards Jenny.
The first thing I recall about the beginning of sobriety was how soundly I slept. I’m somewhat prone to snoring (read sleep apnea) but within a couple of weeks my snoring drastically reduced, and I slept through the night like I hadn’t in years. The other immediate benefit was much more consistent energy levels throughout the day. No more kicking back to unwind with a cocktail, and just slowly running out of gas and ambition for the rest of the evening. It felt like I gained a 1/3 of each day back.
Socially, I think we both still struggle just a bit to know what to do with ourselves. At first, we very much kept a similar routine, hanging out with friends while they drank, or going out to dinner or a happy hour and simply replacing the alcohol with club soda, iced tea, or a virgin mary. As time has gone on, however we’ve both tempered the amount of time we spend in that type of social situation. Not because it makes us uncomfortable to be around other drinkers, but because it often seems that there is a lot more drinking that actual socializing taking place. This is not a meant as a criticism or a judgement, but rather as an observation… So we socialize a bit differently as a result and that’s a change we’re still adapting to.
Change however, is not a negative thing. It’s positive and opens up new and exciting opportunities to explore new places, meet new people, and revisit things you used to enjoy but forgot about or got sidetracked from because it was easier to just grab a beer and tell yourself you were having a good time.
Sporting events, live theater, hiking and exploring the outdoors, checking out the local places you always talk about going to but never getting around to. These occupy a much greater portion of our time that they did before. We also spend more time actually enjoying what those things have to offer, like kayaking WITH my kids, or showing Jenny’s boys around Flagstaff, and actively engaging each other rather than sitting around the campfire with a cooler of drinks. It’s a new perspective on things and think we both feel an odd combination of fortune, for figuring things out, and regret over time lost, especially with our kids…One year in, we are still learning and adapting, but it’s a change that gets me excited to get out of bed every morning.
One year seemed like a long time when we started out on this sober “experiment” last September. But now that a year has passed, it honestly feels like we are just getting started on something even better. I’m certainly a better, stronger, clearer eyed version of myself than I’ve even been. Not perfect or without flaws, but the best version of me up to this point. I see the same in Jenny. Well, except she’s mostly just perfection through my eyes…