I’m thrilled that someone sent me an email with a question and suggestion for a blog article. Here’s the question Janice posed to me:
Mark. As one of your readers I thought to suggest a blog article about re-entering the world sober. You’ve written on the subject in your books and I am curious if you have a different perspective at this juncture in your life.
Maintaining sobriety in an environment without alcohol or drugs is certainly much easier than the opposite. It is also very easy, in theory, to state how having fun with friends (whom are able to partake without becoming psychopaths), is not tempting. However, for me, it is not easy and it is tempting which is unbelievable given my experience and knowledge of self. Getting past this point of uneasiness is where I am personally at in my almost 6 months of sobriety and figuring out how to navigate it for myself is the task at hand. Thanks for any insights you can offer.
Well Janice, my perspective on drinking, drugs, money, relationships, entertainment, recreation, physical fitness and education have all changed and evolved since I stopped drinking. I just recently passed 9 years of being clean and sober and I look forward to even more changes in my perspective. But you’re at 6 months sober, so let me start at my beginning.
I learned a lot when I re-entered the world sober and then as a non-drinker. Those two things may sound like the same but they’re very different, at least to me they are. Sobering up was a physical and emotional process that took about two years to fully jell. The physical recovery of my body and organ functions took about 6 months. During that time I started feeling physically stronger, healthier, I slept better and my digestive system was becoming accustomed to eating good food. This didn’t just happen one day. It was a slow, almost unnoticeable evolution. There were burst of progress. When I first quit I felt pretty good. No hangovers, not as tired and sickly. But my body (organs and digestive system), were accustomed to functioning with the chemical of alcohol. After about 10 days of no drinking all of a sudden my body didn’t feel so good. My sleeping became irregular, breathing was harder at times, I would sweat like a pig in heat for no reason at all and my guts were all fucked up. Whatever I ate I pooped like a goose. All those discomforts slowly went away. But I had to consciously take notice of it. When I consciously recognized that I was physically doing better, my mind and thoughts became more stable. I then signed up for a membership at a health club and jumped back into a regular and rigorous exercise routine. This helped me feel even better physically and it also helped with my self-esteem and mental attitude. Physical exertion brings more oxygen into the bloodstream and that’s good for the organ of the brain. Physical exertion also releases natural chemicals into the body which will help you feel better mentally.
But my emotional and mental recovery took closer to two years. I was an emotional mess for about the first year. Crying and feeling hurt and alone. I suppose it didn’t help that I was also going through a divorce. I stopped drinking in an attempt to salvage my marriage, but my wife continued drinking, so we were going in completely opposite directions. We weren’t friends anymore because we didn’t drink together. Now my former wife isn’t here to give you her side of the story, so it isn’t fair for me to air dirty laundry. I can only give you my side. Ultimately I couldn’t be around the drinking environment that was in our home, so I had to make the painful choice to leave.
After my divorce was final I did go out with my buddies to bars and clubs, but I didn’t really have any fun. I wasn’t tempted to drink. I was sober and my mind was becoming clearer and I didn’t like what I would see. I’m by no means a prude, but I was turned off by a lot of behaviors I saw and I found myself completely turned off by drunk women. I really didn’t know what else to do for recreation or entertainment, my whole life had been centered around drinking, and I wanted to feel “normal,” and I thought that going out to bars was what I was supposed to do.
I felt disingenuous when I was out at bars and clubs. I thought, “What the fuck am I doing here? I don’t drink. I don’t like drunk broads and I don’t want to hang out with drunks.” Without being conscious of it my perspective on drinking was changing. I became very introverted when I was at bars, so instead of going out I started to isolate myself at home.
After the sobering up process ran its course (about 2 years) is when I realized I had evolved into a non-drinker. I no longer felt like an “alcoholic” or a “recovered alcoholic.” If I don’t drink how can I be an alcoholic? As a non-drinker some of my social activities changed and my perspective of entertainment and recreation changed. But that was a result of the change in who I wanted to spend my time with. I still like to do a lot of the same things, but it’s with different people now. I don’t like going golfing with 3 drunks. I don’t like going boating or fishing with a group of drunks. I don’t like going to sporting events with drunks. I don’t even ask for a second date if I take a woman out to dinner and she pounds down a bunch of drinks. I don’t care if someone wants to drink socially or drink heavily. I just don’t want to deal with it and I don’t have to.
My perspective and my own behavior in bars and clubs has changed. I like going to a Sports Bar or Hooters with my buddies to watch a football game, I’ll even be the Designated Driver, but I don’t like going and sitting at a bar so I don’t offer my services as a Designated Driver for that. And when I do go to a sports bar with my buddies I ask for a separate bill, I’m not going to split a bar bill with a bunch of drunks. I’ll even ask our waitress to put all the food on one bill—and give that bill to me—and put all the beer and drinks on another bill and let those fuckheads argue over who owes how much. What I think is funny is that the food bill is about half of what their bar bill is.
I’ve learned to embrace all of these changes and I accept that my perspectives are continuously changing. I have found that when I am in social settings I quietly slip away from the heavy drinkers and gravitate towards the sober, or less drunk people. It’s not that I become tempted to drink, I just don’t have any fun hanging around with drunks. I find them boring and repetitive. I know that sounds arrogant, but I don’t feel that I’m any better than anyone else or above drinkers. Actually, I don’t have any feeling towards them at all.
I believe that what’s more important than my changing perspective on drinking is my changing perspective on living. As a non-drinker my pursuit of what I consider to be real fun and real excitement has exploded. In the past 5 years I have done more genuinely exhilarating, crazy and dangerous things than I ever did as a drunk. I have done, and lived through things I never could have when I was drinking. My perspective on work, personal growth and creativity has changed since becoming a non-drinker. I hunger for new knowledge, I want to try new projects and get better at my job. As a non-drinker I have a better perspective on being responsible, paying my bills and not overspending—I like not being all stressed out over money. But there are also a lot of quiet times as a non-drinker.
Consider this. I’m sitting here alone, writing this article and recording this podcast. I’m not out partying, looking for a wild time, but I’m also not sad and feeling like I’m missing out on something. All I’m missing out on is drama, wasting money, wasting time and morning headaches. I’ve accepted that some parts of being a non-drinker are uneventful. But uneventful can be calm and relaxing. I’m okay with that.
Do I still feel that living sober sucks? Yes, I do. I would love to have a beer or two and go socialize with people. I would love to have a couple of drinks, relaxing and talking with an interesting woman. But I know that I would forget all about the conversation, and the woman, and just focus on getting drunk. I know that about myself, and I know from my own experience that living drunk sucks a lot more than living sober, so I will continue to live as a non-drinker.
I invite you to discover more about yourself and your own changing perspectives. Accept that if you want to live as a non-drinker some changes are going to happen and you may have to be the one to take control of those changes. If being around drinkers is too tempting and feels torturous, then don’t do it. Don’t look at it as a punishment or view it as if you’re missing out on something. Change your own perspective and view it as a challenge to discover something new to do and something new about yourself. This can be your first evolutionary change into becoming a full blown non-drinker.
Remember that these are my own opinions and observations. Think for yourself and come to your own conclusions. If you enjoy this stuff or get something out of it please tell your friends about my website. It’s LivingSoberSucks.com. If you like what I do and what I write about, you can help me pay for all this by making a donation to my site, it’s done securely through PayPal: http://www.livingsobersucks.com/donate_to_this_site Donations are NOT tax deductible. Thanks for spending some of your very valuable time with me.