Week 38: Normal in sobriety

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I know, I know – I missed Week 37. I had intentions of writing a post for Sunday but then my computer broke and I had an apartment full of guests. The time to write a post just didn’t come, and I knew it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I didn’t get to it, so another week lapsed. I am calling it a lesson in “letting go of perfection.”

Anyway.

All of my drinking life people have said, “I love Drunk Heather. She is soooo much fun.” I’m not a mean drunk or a real a sloppy one. I’ve done silly things, but mostly for laughs and stories that are told over decades.  I was scared that when I stopped drinking, I would lose the side of me that others seemed to like so much.

Drinking has always been a great way for me to make friends. After a few cocktails, my whole personality sparkles. I’m funny, witty, interesting. I often think people don’t see the real side of me until there is a beer or two in my system. They so often seem surprised by how much fun I can be (and, usually, how much I can drink).

This week, I attended networking events that included drinking. Several times, someone offered to get me a drink from the bar. I was tempted to say yes, more than once.  It wouldn’t hurt anything, I rationalized, and it would help me slip into charming Heather. I wanted to win people over and she was good at doing that. Or, if I wasn’t going to take that drink, I could at least explain why, going into the story of my sobriety and then tempering the mood with some crazy drunk stories from the past.

I didn’t do either, though. Instead, I said no thank you and returned to my conversations.

This probably won’t surprise you, but the cool Heather appeared even without the coxing of wine. I told stories, I laughed at others’ jokes, I connected over silly interests. All of the things I liked about myself when I am two beers in came out, and I didn’t have a drop.

I’ve been treating my sobriety like it’s a “big thing,” and calling attention to it as some kind of way to justify why I don’t have a drink in my hand. This time, though, I never once said, “Oh, I don’t drink” or “I am taking some time away from alcohol.” I simply didn’t drink and never explained why, much like I didn’t feel the need to justify why I don’t eat meat or wore an orange sweater one day.  I looked beyond the need for alcohol  and decided to take the moment for what it was. I introduced myself to new people and tried to connect with those that I didn’t know as well. Sure, I said some dumb things and maybe didn’t come off exactly how I wanted, but all of me was there. Once I normalized my sobriety, I could be normal in sobriety.

In many social situations, I control what I allow people to see, and by hiding my flaws I also lock away the glowing pieces. Alcohol was the key that undid those chains, but I’ve come to learn that I don’t always to wear them.  What I saw this week, which I hadn’t been able to before, was that it wasn’t the alcohol that convinced people to like me, it was me.

 

Quick fun fact: I have officially lived in Chicago three years! This is the longest I have lived somewhere since graduating college. Chicago, I am more in love with you than I ever thought possible.

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