The majority of what I write has to do with the blessings that sobriety has brought to me, and most of the time that is truly how I feel about being sober. However, I wouldn’t be an alcoholic if I didn’t occasionally wish I could just throw caution to the wind and drink like everyone around me does. While not often, this does still happen to me. I still get that ache for a night of the unknown, a night where anything could happen if only I could drink. Over my two and a half years of sobriety, I’ve found that this ache comes during the extreme highs and lows in my life, which makes sense. Of course I’d want to drink when I feel like shit and want to wallow in self-pity. And on the flipside, of course I’d want to drink when everyone around me is doing so in celebration of something. That’s how I drank before, so why would it be any different now?
Here are five times I wanted to drink, and why I ultimately chose not to do so.
1. Through heartbreak. This one has to be the toughest to go through sober because it means actually feeling every single sharp, fresh bite of pain. Exactly a year ago, I was somewhat dating someone who was also sober and the relationship went from 0 to 100. I met his family on our first date, if that says anything. It was going really well, and I was happier than I had been in a long time. Then all of a sudden it came to a screeching halt, and I found myself more depressed than I had been in a long time. He stopped texting me back, stopped answering my calls, basically cut off all communication. I had no idea what I had done and simply wanted an answer or some form of closure. Over the next few weeks we talked a minimal amount but I never got the answers I needed. He started drinking again, and still is today. When this was all happening, I just wished I could pick up a drink and forget about my hurt. I felt so used and so stupid and all I wanted to do was drown those feelings in nothingness. Instead, I felt them. Every single one. I didn’t pick up a drink even though it would have been so easy. I didn’t want him to think he had the power to take my sobriety. Today, I am so grateful that I didn’t pick up that drink because I met the love of my life a month later and my life was still in a good place because I didn’t pick up that drink.
2. At graduation. I made it through four years of college. If that’s not a reason to celebrate, I don’t know what is. The problem is that celebrating revolves around alcohol in our culture. Even at the school-sponsored graduation events there was alcohol readily available. I tried not to act like it, but it was hard to be around all my peers at such a happy time in our lives and see them all drink like normal college students while I sipped on water, or, if I was feeling frisky, energy drinks. In the end I knew it wasn’t worth it. I knew that if I drank, I would likely drink to the point of blacking out and not even remember this happy, important time of my life. Today, all my memories from the end of senior year are clear and intact, and for that I am grateful.
3. On first dates. Ugh, the awkward feels. Since getting sober I’ve had numerous first dates, only one of which was with someone who knew right off the bat that I didn’t drink. It’s an awkward first date conversation to explain that you’re an alcoholic who no longer drinks. Thankfully, everyone I have had a first date with has been understanding. However, I always caught myself thinking about how much less awkward dates would be with the aid of alcohol. It would loosen me up and make the awkwardness of a first date a little less so. I often had to remind myself that if I had to drink to make someone like me, then I probably shouldn’t be on a date with them in the first place. A relationship should be built on a solid foundation, starting with the first date. And if that date is saturated in alcohol, it’s likely that both sides come away without a full understanding of who the other person really is. Not drinking makes me be who I really am, and in the end I found someone who loves me for that (even if our first date was awkward).
4. During the holidays. When I first got sober, this was something that came up a few times. People always said it was hard to stay sober during the holidays, but I didn’t really understand why. Holidays meant family, and I never drank around my family anyway. Then again, when I was drinking I wasn’t 21, so it’s not like I could casually pick up a drink around them without a lecture. Now, at age 23, I am entering my third sober holiday season. While I’ve never truly debated picking up a drink at a holiday event, it’s something that has taken up residence in the back of my mind. So many of the drinks just sound so good, and I feel like I want to drink them to enjoy the taste—something I never got to experience when I was drinking. When this happens I just have to remind myself that there are holiday drinks that I can make without alcohol. If I were to drink the ones with alcohol, I would likely sink back into my old habits and embarrass myself around family, which is the last thing I want to do.
5. On vacation. Last summer I spent a lot of time traveling. It seems that along with sunshine and poolsides comes alcohol. There were numerous times I was set up next to the water, tanning while reading a good book, and it was hard not to think: “You know what would make this even better? A drink.” What made it even worse was that many times there was alcohol readily available just steps away. I, however, had to settle for a simple slushie sans alcohol. In the heat of the moment, it was “Oh, poor me.” But really, I’m glad I don’t drink on vacations. It means no waking up with hangovers and no making a fool of myself in front of strangers. I’d say that’s a win-win.
I know that in the years to come I will face more heartbreak and more happiness, both of which will make me wish I could drink like a normal person drinks. But I can’t. I’ve tried time and time again, and in the end sobriety is the right choice for me. It’s just a matter of reminding myself of that each and every day.