5 Surprising Things about Sobriety

After hiking the Appalachian Trail, my body changed. It’s hard to say why exactly. The constant pounding combined with eating so much processed food was surely a factor, and all of this coincided with turning mid to late 30-something, so perhaps, it was just a part getting older. Halfway through 2017, I realized I was struggling to do the things I used to love to do, and I realized I had to make some changes.

I don’t know why it wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but drinking was one of my major problems. What had always been a fun social activity for me was now costing me. After even just one or two glasses of wine, my sleep would suffer and so would the next day. Drinking more than that would most likely result in a completely lost next day. YUCK. So I tried to cut back without great success and realized that going completely dry was the best solution. Drinking just wasn’t serving me any more. It was making things more crappy, and so in 2018, I vowed to go one year without drinking.

A lot of people looked at me like I was nuts, and couldn’t believe I was serious, but the further into this I get, the more my perspective on the issue of drinking changes. Why on earth would I do anything that makes me feel horrible and keeps me from doing the things I love and want to do? And why on earth should anyone care? So many things have surprised me…things I really didn’t expect at the start of this journey.

  1. Drinking is really, really common. And lots of people continue to do it even though it makes them feel awful and they do lots of things they regret, and most of us never question this. What is that about? I think the alcohol industry is powerful and desperately wants people to think they have to drink to be sophisticated and sexy and have fun and all those things. The further I get from it, the more insane it seems that we spend so much money on booze only to have it almost always lead to negative things. Also I know that it’s crazy that I plan to go back to drinking once I’ve proved to myself that I can go a year without it, but that’s my dumb plan at the moment.
  2. We tend to create a strict dichotomy of alcoholics/regulars, when it seems most people fall somewhere in between. We could probably all benefit from giving our livers a break without the world freaking out about labeling you. Alcohol is addictive (did you know that? I honestly didn’t) and anyone that drinks is on a “path” to alcoholism, in some way or another. It’s more like smoking cigarettes than I ever realized.
  3. I read “Recovery” by Russell Brand and learned about the 12 steps. They are beautiful! They seem like a class that should be taught in school, and certainly not exclusive to addicts. Why aren’t we teaching that kind of self-care? Seems way more important/useful than algebra.
  4. There are not a lot of great alcohol free alternatives that don’t have sugar or caffeine in them. Let’s work on that.
  5. I am way more in touch with my body and my emotions now that I am not introducing poison into it every time I feel slightly bad.


Yes, I can admit that I have messed a couple of times, but not much! I am very proud of making it to the end of march with fewer than 5 drinks for the year, and I am still committed to making it through this year dry. I feel so much better, so much more creative, and I’m sure it’s not hurting my bank account either. I’m eager to find out what surprises the rest of this year will hold.

I’m a writer!

I read somewhere that the definition of happiness is “moving toward your own potential” and I love that. It explains why the pursuit of goals is enjoyable, and helps me to appreciate the journey, the movement towards, and not get too hung up in waiting for the goal to be met to enjoy things. So what am I enjoying? I am fucking loony about reading and writing. They are two loves of mine that I kind of forgot about. I’ve been wracking my brains for years trying to figure out who I am and what my “purpose” is, and I feel like it was just sitting in front of me the whole time, waiting for me to come out of an alcoholic haze and flick on the lightswitch that was under my finger the entire time. WORDS. Words are power, punch, guts, heart, tears, lives, everything. They are art and they are passion. I am over here trembling at the thought of what power lies at the end of this proverbial pen.

It is so scary. It also means responsibility. But I know now that I need to write. I know that a lot of it won’t be any good for a while, and I need to be okay with that. I am suddenly overwhelmed by the desire and excitement of observation. I need to see and experience the world in a a vivid and different way if I’m going to write about it. It’s the complete opposite of getting a little tipsy and basically forgetting to notice anything at all (which I have definitely been guilty of). My memory is dim and that makes me sad. I’ve been so lucky to experience so much, and yet so foolish to dull the shine of those memories with alcohol.

I also don’t know if I’ve ever been proud to tell someone my job title. Even when I was the Deputy Direction and Associate Vice President of a University, I thought it sounded so pretentious…I just couldn’t say it. I said “university admin.” I’ve dreamed of an elevator speech I’d be proud of, and writer does that for me. Oooh…what about, “I write novels.” Even the sound of the word “novel” makes me zing with joy. I love novels! How cool would it be to have that be associated with me? ME!? It’s weird, but it is the thing that scares me the most, so I know it’s the thing that I have to do. Even if it’s terrible, I’m writing. I AM A WRITER.