A (not so very) long time ago in a galaxy (that seems) far, far away, I was a knock down, puke-in-your-fish-tank drunk. The kind of slobbering drunk that embarrasses themselves every weekend and calls their editor drunk on Thanksgiving (still sorry 'bout that, Eve!).
I wish I could say I had some impressive rock-bottom story, but the truth is less exciting; I just felt like shit all the time. Vomiting six times before noon had lost its luster and I'd lost the urge to stumble home at dawn with a lampshade on my head. This, coupled with the fact that I was finally seeing a shrink on a regular basis, had a proper PTSD diagnosis and the right medication, and I was ready to quit.
Here's the thing about addiction and self-medicating with alcohol though. Quitting the booze is just the beginning. You might have a handle on your addiction at the moment but the symptoms you were medicating are probably still there. Not only that but sobriety itself isn't what most people expect.
You think once you're off the sauce that your whole life will be different — and it can be — but the unicorn kisses and rainbow farts you're expecting are a lie. Turns out, there's a lot of things about sobriety that no one wants to talk about. And that's why I'm here. Not to rain on your sober parade but because getting (and staying) sober is easier when you actually know what to expect.
1. It can be lonely.
I know you think old Lenny from the Thirsty Spittoon is your best friend but once you give up the juice you'll soon find you have little in common with your hard-drinking pals. For a lot of alcoholics, their entire social life revolves around getting hammered. You may not realize it at first but the longer you abstain the fewer "friends" you'll have coming around.
It can get lonely but trust me; it's for the best. Being able to stop was a majorly positive change in my life and it's led to a lot of great things, including improvements in my family life, my wallet, my career, and the number of taquitos I eat at 2 a.m.
This is doubly true if you're at the stage where you don't want alcohol around at all. I'm lucky in that my cravings for alcohol diminished greatly once I was prescribed the right mix of medication for my various brain shenanigans. I don't have a problem being around booze most of the time but those of you that will struggle with this issue may realize that if given the choice between you or a few rounds of Jägger bombs, Lenny will always choose the Jägger.
Lenny is kind of a tool.
And, you know what? Good riddance. I'll take less heartburn and more cash in my purse over Lenny's stank ass any day.
2. Your other habits will change.
And by "other habits" I mean pooping (among other things). Drinking booze means taking in extra calories — and I mean a lot of extra calories. A simple glass of wine contains as many as 200 calories. Now imagine drinking 10 of those. This surplus of calories plus a mostly liquid diet means most alcoholics have shitty food habits (pun intended)... and even shittier poop habits (OK, no more poop puns).
When you stop drinking you take away that surplus of liquid calories, which leaves you HANGRY. Screw a Snickers, the only thing that stopped me from turning into Leona Helmsley's less pleasant doppelgänger was a pint of Ben and Jerry's and all the bacon a woman can eat without hurling. Unfortunately for me, it turns out that spoiling your lazy gut with years of liquid courage does little for its work ethic. Which translates into the most epic constipation of your life.
3. You may not recognize yourself.
First thing's first — the whole "A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts" is bullshit. You're likely to be an entirely different (and better) person sober.
One of my favorite things to do while drinking was watch shitty reality shows, which was pretty much all I could do once I had half a bag on. Once I gave up the drink it suddenly felt like I had all the time in the world on my hands. Too much time. Even after work and three kids I found myself adrift, especially since we'd recently moved to another state and Lenny stopped taking my calls.
In the last year I've taught myself CSS and PHP coding, improved my graphic design skills enough to start a business (or two, actually), began the process of renewing my crisis counselor certification, and started homeschooling my oldest kid. You know what I don't do anymore? Watch The Voice while chugging a Coors Light and weeping silently to myself about Adam Levine's douchebag face.
There's nothing wrong with reality television mind you — unless we're talking about The Apprentice or a possible Rob Kardashian spin-off. That just happened to be what I did a lot while boozing and once I removed alcohol from the equation it wasn't fun or entertaining anymore. A lot of things weren't.
Yes, booze might help you lose some inhibitions and it will probably make watching the E! Channel less excruciating but there are better ways to achieve this than downing a six-pack of Miller Lite. In fact, no one should ever down a six-pack of Miller Lite. Or any Miller Lite, ever.
4. Some people won't like it.
One of the hardest parts of getting sober for me has been the negativity and outright hostility I've encountered. And it's not (just) because I'm an asshole, either. I've heard about this phenomenon from tons of other (less asshole-ish) people.
The reason will vary from person to person — maybe your roommate will act like a dick because your sobriety reminds her of her own addictions. Maybe your co-worker will stop calling because they think you'll suddenly become a bore. Or maybe your partner will continue bringing booze home because he fears losing control of you now that you're not drunk all the time.
No matter the reasons, it will suck and you will feel alone. But you're not. This is when reaching out, whether through a support group, a sponsor, or a therapist, becomes important. Don't let the assholes bring you down. Your life is worth more than their cognitive dissonance. Anyone who can't support you getting sober isn't worth the stress of keeping them around.
5. Sobriety isn't a magic bullet.
Despite what movies and TV tells us, getting off the hooch doesn't magically make all your problems go away. This is especially true if you were a douchebag when you drank, but even if guzzling Jägger Bombs was a secret shame (the shame being you drank Jäggermeister, of course), most of the issues you had before will still be there. Only now you'll be fully aware of how fucked your life is.
The good thing is, you'll also be sober enough to actually deal with it.
6. Boredom can be dangerous.
Edith Wharton once said, "Beware of monotony; it's the mother of all the deadly sins." And it's never truer than when you're trying to stay sober. The only time I ever get serious cravings for alcohol is when I'm bored or lonely. Which is a lot since we moved to a new state and I know zero people. I've tried to combat this by throwing myself into work, but the boredom still creeps in sometimes.
Of course, as TV guru/silver fox Dr. Drew says, "Boredom is just another word for depression." Now that I'm once again dealing with my mental health issues the boredom isn't nearly the siren call to drunkenness it was before.
Still, I sometimes miss the uninhibited laughter and deep conversations I had while drinking with friends. Except, in the light of day, those conversations and that laughter meant almost nothing. At least not compared to the epic shit storm that usually followed.
The best part about not drinking is I don't have to worry about that post-booze storm of shit and really, that's about as priceless as you get.
Frances Locke is a Las Vegas based artist and writer. She likes long, awkward walks on the beach, smutty puns, and cats. You can find more of her work at The Angry Introvert.