I started writing this as a brief thought, but it turned into a post. Sorry it’s a little weighty.
As most people who’ll read this will know, I stopped drinking three years ago (as of May 27, 2016). For the most part it hasn’t been that tough. Most people are supportive if it comes up at all, and in the odd occasion that someone asks me if I’d like a beer, a simple “no thanks” fits the bill just fine. But sometimes it’s still a little awkward.
Now, I’m not talking just about those times that I find myself playing in a bar or at an event that takes place in a bar or whatever. Those situations can be a little weird, but usually I can order an O’Douls or a Coke in a plastic cup and no one notices that I’m not in on the revelry. Once in a while there will be a guy after a set that says, “Let me buy you a beer!” and you’ve got to explain…but that’s not too big a deal. You just let them know it’s a personal decision and you’re not judging them and it’s cool. In fact I’ve more than once said, “Hey, I appreciate that, but I’m three years sober, so I’m going to have to pass…but how about I buy YOU a beer?” Drunks usually understand why someone would want to clean up.
The times that it’s rough is when it’s a friend, and they think they’re being funny. I was recently in a situation where one person in my group decided they’d like to have a couple of drinks. It was a small group and it would’ve basically just been that one person doing the drinking, so I said, “Remember, I’m 3 years sober” and my friend’s response was, “Oh right, you suck.” I know as a fact that this is a person who wants what’s best for me; who wouldn’t want me to compromise my integrity or my personal decisions, and if they noticed me buying a bottle of Jack Daniels at the grocery store would stop me and ask me what the hell I’m doing… I know this person was kidding and thought we were all laughing; and out loud I did chuckle. But it wasn’t funny. I didn’t appreciate it… (And I know that if they knew that, they’d apologize. I’m not mad–it was a lapse in judgement and we’re all allowed those.)
The truth is, I’ve been struggling this year. I haven’t really talked to anybody about that–this is the first that I’m really admitting it, although I’ve dropped hints here and there… I don’t want to get too deep into the reasons I quit because I know it’d bum out some people I care about…but suffice to say that what I’ve always said about it is still true, and I still feel the need to stay away from the silly sauce. But more than once this year, I’ve been at the grocery store and had to make sure I didn’t cut through the liquor aisle because I knew I’d linger too long. Even last week, I was looking at different brands of tea and briefly thought, “I miss doing this with beer.”
There are reasons that it’s been harder this year than in the previous ones. I’ve been a little (or lot) more stressed. I’m living alone and I get bored, then live a little too much in my own head. I haven’t been sleeping well and a shot of bourbon can be pretty relaxing. I’ve had some nice dinners and know exactly what wine I’d want to pair with them. Stuff like that… Mostly the stress, I guess… But yeah, I’ve missed it lately, and I’ve struggled a little. (“Struggling,” by the way, means “thinking.” I haven’t had a bottle anywhere near in my hand or anything like that. Just “I miss that” thoughts.)
…and this is a bad time to have someone’s reaction to me being sober be, “Oh right, you suck.” Because, y’know…it kinda feels like I do sometimes. The reality is that I don’t get invited to hang out at stuff as much anymore–as though being IN a bar is going to result in me affixing my lips to the tap…or like people feel like they’d have to babysit me instead of having fun… Or maybe they mean well, just thinking, “Oh he wouldn’t be interested–he’s sober…”
Look… I’m responsible for my actions–nobody and nothing else can choose for me. And I have been making what I think is a good choice for several years now… But yeah man, I’ve noticed that I sit at home a lot of Saturdays these days. And I’ve noticed the photos other people are posting that a couple of years ago I’d have been in. And I’ve noticed the extra stress and the lack of sleep, and I’ve noticed that the root beer barrel candies at the office taste a lot like the Jim Beam Red Stag bourbon. And yeah…that sucks, and it’s the kind of thing I’m likely to drag around with me a while…and didn’t I used to deal with that buy buying a pack of Guinness???
So, I guess what I’m saying is this… Watch what you say to people who might be struggling. Because sometimes when you’re kidding, it feels like you’re right.
That said, I stand by what I said earlier. Only I am responsible for the decisions I make. I am choosing correctly, I am choosing wisely, and if it weren’t a struggle it wouldn’t be a success. So I’m going to be fine. I’m choosing to be fine. (What are those mantras? “Making bad decisions is what got me here, etc…”) I’m not going to give up on the choice I’ve made and I’m going to get through the struggle. But part of doing that is going to include talking about it. So here we are. No ill-will to the friend that thought they were kidding. Sometimes a cigar’s a cigar and a joke’s a joke…but then again, I also miss smoking. (Kidding…sort of…) We’re in this together and I’ve got people I can turn to. Just might need to turn to them.
Thanks for reading that. I promise my next post will be more fun or at least not as weighty.
An “Alt-Country” mix of like 200 songs. I’m about 30 in. Artists in brief: Drive-By Truckers, Old 97s, Hayes Carll, Bottle Rockets, Son Volt, Uncle Tupelo, Slobberbone, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, The Hold Steady, etc etc…