I'm a bit over a year sensationally sober and it's time to "come out." Anonymity is crucial to success for most people who try to stop drinking but at some point those of us who have succeeded need to stand up and say proudly "Enjoy your drink, I'll enjoy my sobriety. I've earned it."
One of the most difficult situations that many people have to deal with in early sobriety is explaining to friends, family and work colleagues Why they're not drinking. We have to come up with workable excuses not to drink at cocktail parties and family dinners "Oh I can't drink tonight Thank You!... antibiotics... blood test in the morning...doing a one month detox." It really shouldn't be so complicated to explain to the people that we love and respect that we really can enjoy their company without a drink in our hands... but sadly it is.
When I started my first sober year I did "come out" to my family and my closest friends. They all knew that I enjoyed drinking but I needed to be honest with them about how seriously I had lost control. For most of us who are very high functioning heavy drinkers our loss of control is a secret but it is a secret that we have to expose if we are going to have the support we need to stop. I needed to know that the people who were closest to me would really understand that I absolutely could not have "just one" drink ever again.
The problem is that if I'm at a party or a work event and say "Oh no Thank You I don't drink... period" then every stigma that goes along with the word alcoholic attaches to me like flies on paper. People suddenly see me as fragile, unreliable and somehow diseased, or worse yet, they think that I'm exaggerating and going through some sort of menopausal rebellion against the status quo. The reaction is either "Oh my are you an ALCOHOLIC!?" or " Oh come on you're not an ALCOHOLIC."
For me sobriety is the most empowering experience of my adult life. I have not been brainwashed or hypnotized and I don't think that alcohol is demon's poison. I just know that my long and illustrious drinking career is over and I am thrilled with the result. Rather than waking up blurry, hung over and grumpy I'm up at six ready to rock. It turns out that every occasion that I once thought required a drink is actually more fun, less stressful, easier and more genuine with a clear sober head.
My goal now that I've achieved over a year of sobriety is to encourage people to think about alcohol and alcoholism a bit differently. Many of us have been enjoying all of the reports about the health benefits of wine and alcohol that have been in the media for the past twenty years or so. But a different picture is starting to emerge.
We have a serious health crisis in the United States. My generation of Americans is dying at a much younger age than expected due to alcohol and drug-related overdoses and disease and women especially are now reported to be increasingly high rates. Maybe we are actually drinking a bit too much. Maybe it's time to slow down and think. Maybe we can send the generations coming up behind us a different message than the one they've been getting.
If you drink moderately and enjoy it that's great! But please don't question it if a former drinking buddy has suddenly gone teetotal. Alcohol addiction is a killer and you don't have to hit rock bottom to know it's time to stop.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.