When people find out I am sober, they often ask questions—typically some variation of “But don’t you ever want to drink?” Questions are OK with me. I know people are curious about sobriety, and I have no problem discussing it.
But my response to the question about wanting to drink is different today than it was at the beginning of this journey.
For the first few years of sobriety, when people asked, my answer was no. And that was the truth. In the first few years of recovery, when I was still in college and ridiculously busy, I didn’t want to drink. I knew that if I did, my focus and my life would go downhill. I liked the stability of my life without alcohol.
I hesitate to say this, but it’s almost as if the first two years of my sobriety were the easy years. I had people around me who knew my story, who had seen me at my bottom when I was drinking. They fully understood why I stopped and they supported that choice. There was no need for me to learn how to turn down drinks or explain why I no longer drank because these people had been through it with me.
It was after college that sobriety became more difficult. After getting a job and moving, I found myself in different places with different people who didn’t know about my history. People would casually mention going to get drinks, or even hand me a beer. It was new territory in a way. But I just did what felt right: I told the truth. I’d say I no longer drank, that I’d been sober a number of years, but that it didn’t bother me if they drank.
Still, the question would come up. By this point my answer had shifted from “No” to “Not really.” There were times I wanted to drink, but it stemmed more from wanting to be able to do what everyone else was doing, not from wanting to be drunk. I just wanted to feel included. It wasn’t that anyone was excluding me, but in my head I felt that way. I just wanted to be part of things like everyone else was.
A few more years passed and I settled into post-grad life (my current point in life). I have people in my corner who know my story and support my sobriety. I should feel more settled and content and OK with not drinking than ever.
But here’s something that is probably surprising and hard for me to admit: Now, four years into sobriety, is probably the toughest it’s ever been for me to not drink—especially in the summertime.
One of the hardest times to be sober for me is on the lake, when everyone is basking in sunshine, drinking casually, being carefree. Those are the times I want to badly to be normal. It would be so easy for me to reach in a cooler, pick up a beer, and drink it. No one could stop me. I’m an adult and I make my own choices.
It’s not easy to admit that there are times I really, truly consider trying to drink again. But it’s the truth, and I’ve always given you guys the truth. It’s so hard for me to not wonder if the way I drink could have changed over time. I often wonder if now I could maybe have one drink, or two, and stop there. I often wonder if I’ve grown out of the college binge drinking I was accustomed to. I often wonder “What if?”
But here’s the thing: I don’t think I want to find out. My life today is so full and so stable without alcohol in the equation. Yes, it would be nice to feel more included in certain activities, like lake days. But is that really worth risking everything I’ve worked so hard for for the past four years just to feel included? Probably not.
I could probably have one drink, maybe two, and nothing ridiculous would happen. But eventually it would. I would spiral, just like I did the first time I started drinking. I would get wasted. I would make a fool of myself. I would hurt people. I would lose people. I would lose respect.
This time I’m smarter. I don’t need to go through hell again in order to learn the lesson the hard way. I have too much to lose now.
Today my answer to the question is that yes, sometimes I want to drink. Actually, lots of times I want to drink. And that’s OK to admit. That desire to be part of things will likely never disappear completely. What matters is that I keep powering through and reminding myself of why I started this journey in the first place: It was because I was in a place I never wanted to return to. So I’m not going to.