Editor’s Note: No, Dappered is NOT gonna turn into a sobriety blog. I am not advocating for prohibition. I will not be bursting into your taphouses, axe swinging, ready to spill double IPA into the streets. (Although it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen someone drink beer out of a gutter. Hi Erik!) That’s kinda the point of the post below, which has been adapted from a post I originally published on AlcoholExperiement.com (a 30 day experiment based on the book This Naked Mind). Dappered will still talk booze and bars and hosting and cocktails. Because for many, drinking “ain’t no thing.” But for some of us, it became a thing. Or at least more of a thing than we wanted it to be. If you’re in that space between “take-it-or-leave-it,” and “choking on your own vomit in a porta potty,” then maybe this’ll resonate. I know some of you are. I’ve heard from you over email after recommending a non alcoholic IPA. If this has no interest to you? Then hang tight. We’ve got a best bourbons for Derby Day post in the works.
Sobriety (the word) Stinks
Here’s a thought that’s not gonna sit well with many…
The word. Not the act. The word.
As a college professor of mine once declared to an entire class: “Words have meaning.”
(Profound, I know.)
And while it was funny at the time for us to watch a superior academic declare the linguistic equivalent of “the sky is blue” with such flourish, he was, and is, correct. And we humans rarely spend enough time thinking about just what our words mean, and how they impact our lives.
Take the word “style” for instance. Having a sense of style basically means you’re pretty good at making certain types of choices. Yet for some reason, if drinking alcohol isn’t working for you anymore, choosing not to drink is almost taboo in the style culture. Nobody would freak out if you decided to not wear a fanny pack. Okay, bad example, but you see where I’m going with this.
“Would you like a fanny pack?”
“No thanks. I don’t think they look good on me.”
“Wait. What? Are you okay? Oh no. Did you get busted for driving while accessorizing?”
The word “Sobriety” also carries with it a LOT of meaning. One could easily say it’s a loaded word. It’s super loaded. As are its miserable band of brothers “sober”, “recovery”, and “alcoholic.”
I was at my kickboxing class the other night when I was discussing the headspace meditation app with another student. She just had major foot surgery, and is struggling through the healing process. She’s understandably frustrated, but she’s still showing up and punching like hell. No kicks obviously, but she’s punching. There’s a section in the app on headspace dedicated to rehabbing injuries. I was singing the praises of the app, and spoke of how I’m currently doing the “cravings” pack (notice how it’s NOT called the “addiction” pack). I told her it’s really helped me get through the early stages of pausing my drinking, perhaps permanently.
That’s when another student, totally well intentioned, jumped in and dropped the whole Alcoholics Anonymous playbook on my head. Turns out she’s a counselor (all respect to her, I could never do it) and leads a local AA men’s group. Her exact words before she started firing off the AA artillery was:
“Oh you’re in RECOVERY?!? Lemme tell you about…”
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Hold your horses lady.
Loaded labels lead to isolation. And it shouldn’t be that way.
Look, I guess if it’s working for some, then by all means. I’m all for doing what works. If you’re struggling with something, bad, and… I don’t know, praying to your refrigerator seems to work? By all means, get on your knees and praise Kenmore! But I, personally, don’t want to be in “recovery” for the rest of my life. Even (especially) if I choose never to drink again. I don’t want “sober” to be the first word someone thinks of when they think of me. Not because I’m ashamed. Because it’s limiting as hell. And more dangerously, it can too quickly become a major focus and put you in a silly little box. Alcohol became too big a part of my life. Now certain communities of non-drinkers want it to STILL be a huge part of my life, only by making it a daily fight that never goes away, never lets up, and you never gain any sense of peace with it?
The hell? What are we talking about here, Sisyphus rolling a keg up a hill day after day? How’s he supposed to let this troublesome boulder go, if he’s damned to always have it front of mind?
Dionysus: “Yo Sisyphus! What’s shakin’ baby? (*hic*)”
Sisyphus: “Oh you know, same Hades, different day. I don’t eat rocks anymore, but boy, lemme tell you, day after day of pushing this thing up this hill and I sure think about eating rocks a lot.”
Mmmm. Rocks. Delicious rocks.
Also, being in a constant state of “recovery” implies that I’ll never get better. I’ll forever be in some sort of mental traction, in a full cerebral-cortex-to-brain-stem cast made of shame instead of plaster, frozen with fear that if I walk by a bar I’ll duck in, “relapse” (another one of those words) into a cheap whisky binge, then wreck my car on the way home.
That’s not how I got here. And I honestly don’t think that’s where I’m going. And even if it IS how you got here, don’t you deserve better? Wouldn’t it be to your advantage to assume the future is brighter?
No wonder people, especially in the world of style, think alcohol and dressing well/living intentionally must go hand in hand. Because they assume that if you’ve decided not to drink, you’ve been doomed to forever be on the precipice. That somehow this proves you can’t make sound, smart decisions. Your “type” has been cast. They think there are two distinct types: You’re either champagne and fashion week, or bum wine and skid row.
But that’s not the case. At all.
There’s no scientific evidence proving some of us are born with a broken booze gene.
Whether it’s fair or not, Sobriety, Recovery, Alcoholic, they’re all loaded. And I don’t like them. My friend and fellow student who had to have foot surgery didn’t do anything wrong. She’s going through a process that can be challenging, but she’s getting there. And she’s not going to be in that goddamned walking boot for the rest of her life. She will, at some point, get better.
So will I.
So society can take their perpetual-misery labels and shove ’em.
This post was written back in January on AlcoholExperiement.com, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best and most straightforward things I’ve ever done for myself. I kinda look at booze now like I look at cigars. Maybe fun/cool in the moment, but that moment is pretty fleeting, and good grief that taste in your mouth and the stink on your clothes the next day? Not worth it to me. Maybe one day I’ll try moderating again, but I’m plenty happy not drinking, and I can still make you a mean Manhattan. If you’ve questioned your alcohol intake and are interested in exploring your relationship with booze, I’d highly recommend giving the experiment a shot, as well as reading This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. Full disclosure, I have no official relationship with the Alcohol Experiment or This Naked Mind.