Week 13: All the cool things that happen when you quit drinking

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A year ago I read a story about a guy who gave up drinking for two years. Oh, the awesome things you’ll experience when you stop drinking, he said. You’ll lose 75 pounds. You’ll save enough money to buy a condo. You’ll let go of toxic relationships and finally learn to like your own company.

That sounded pretty good, especially since I had decided to start 2016 with a few months of sobriety. I late realized that I knew the guy – I had taken a storytelling class with him a few months earlier – and was a bit surprised to know that he was sober, especially since the story he told was about being a drunk idiot and getting arrested for said drunken debauchery. I ran into him a few weeks later after his Medium post had been shared thousands of times and printed in the Chicago Tribune. The piece, which had taken him 20 minutes to write, he told me, earned him a book deal.

Of course it did.

The guy was a bit smug about the ease of sobriety and having a book in the works that I resented him. Meaning, I was hella jealous.

Nothing really happened in my two months of sobriety, and I wrote a counter piece to this guy and everyone else who says that giving up booze was one of the single best decisions of their lives. (A literary agent didn’t call me after this piece was published, but 2K shares isn’t awful.)

The night the piece was published I was actually breaking my sobriety with a Two Brothers’ Night Cat and several red wine variations. Sobriety hadn’t brought me a smaller waist line, a heftier savings or enlightenment, so why continue?

Since I’ve begun round 2 of sobriety, I get the same questions. “Are you healthier? Do you notice any big changes? Do you feel any different?”

The answer is not really. When I told this to one friend, she replied, “Good, then I am not doing it.”

As you all know, there are several deeper reasons I began this sobriety project, but I also made this decision with those vanity benefits in mind. I’d like to lose 10 pounds. I’d like to save money to pay off my student loans and afford my trip to Europe this spring. I’d like to win back all those hours of drinking and recovering from drinking and cash them in for some creative inspiration. Ninety-one days in and I look and feel nearly the exact same as the nigh before this project began, throwing back pumpkin beers to make the second presidential debate more tolerable. (No amount of pumpkin or any-flavored beer could do that.)

I will say, when I first stopped drinking, I did notice a slight increase in my quality of sleep. I slumbered deeper and longer. That new found relaxation didn’t last and I wake up at least twice a night to use the bathroom. Or because an invader has not only picked the locks to my apartment door but our front security door and has now made his way into my room so he can steal all my things and murder me, and his slight tip toeing has woken me up in a fit of panic and I am screaming at the top of my lungs.*

As a drinker, there are many chunks of nights I don’t remember. How I got home, how many drinks I had, what ludicrous snack I made once I got home. Every morning after a night of drinking, I would wake up and try to remember all the idiotic things I had said the night before and decide if I needed to send out a mass apology text. In sobriety, though, I lamented that not only would I remember everything I said, I would be able to control the truth bombs out of my mouth and not say stupid things in the first place. While I do say less dumb things, I still can’t always remember what I did or said the night before, even under the bright light of sobriety. I often think back, “Wait, did that happen? Or was it part of a dream.” I honestly don’t know the differences sometimes.

Also, the two-year sober guy said that some of his friends stopped hanging out with him once he quit drinking. None of my friends have done that. Maybe I just have better friends who aren’t lame punks that support my individual life choices.

I joked with E the other day that the only thing I gained from not drinking is more emotions. I laughed at my own joke until I realized I’ve always been over emotional, drinking or not. It

Not losing friends is great, and I can sort of deal with my bank account and weight numbers staying the same. However, I’d still thought I would feel some universal shift when I removed alcohol from my daily life. I envisioned my internal and external selves would morph and this entire project would have a definition of purpose, something I could point to and say, “Yes, that’s why I did this.”

That really hasn’t happen, at least not yet. I not even 100 days into my sobriety and it’s going to take time before I can dig up the rawness. Those deeper reasons are why I am committed to this year-long goal and I know it’s going to take longer than two months to unearth the things I needed to in sobriety. There is still time for that magic to occur, and I had hope that these smaller things like better nights sleep and a calmer life would prove I am on the right path. I do believe it will come and someday I’ll understand the true importance of following my gut into sobriety.

Still, I wish I could just lose five damn pounds.

Worst part of being sober this week: I went to a meeting for storytellers and someone had a bottle of wine. I didn’t know most of the people and felt slightly like a fraud in front of this group. I wanted to grab the bottle, down it and pretend like I belong. It’s harder to fake it without booze.

Best part of being sober: This isn’t so much a sober thing as an in-your-30s thing, but O M G is it awesome to go home on a Friday night, put on an adult-sized onsie and watch a movie. I remember once in college I stayed home on a Friday to watch “Gone With the Wind.” I felt like such a loser and thanked the high heavens when a friend called and asked to meet up for a drink. Only lame people stay in on Friday nights, I thought at age 22. At 32, I thank the high heavens that I am now a lame person.

*Note: This is almost always my partner trying to be very quiet not to wake me as he goes to bed. I may be a light sleeper. Or he may be a burglar. Jury is still out.

**Note: Also, I couldn’t find a real appropriate photo for this post, so enjoy this colorful one from last year’s Pride Parade.

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