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Lessons Learned from 1 Month Sober

The day before my 27th birthday I suggested to my budweiser-before-noon, bottle-o’-wine-for-dinner, Vietnam vet dad that we try a month sober.  Never imagining he would actually agree, I found myself near panic when we ended the call.  Could I really survive 30 long, lonely wine-less nights?  And even if I do make it, what’s the point in torturing myself in such a horrific manner?

Now, it is not like I am some kind of beer slugger at a regulars’ bar or a fiend who hides her vodka addiction.  Simply put, I just itch for a glass of wine after a stressful day… and it just so happen all of my days are stressful.  It is not an addiction, I just identify with the European notion that life is not worth living without vino. or du vin. 

Before you pass judgement, I feel obliged to tell you that I am generally regarded as collectively sober.  My drinking is consistent, not heavy.  I max out after two drinks.  And not because I am drunk, or I have set sanctions on my habits… but just because I never care for more than two drinks.  I don’t like being drunk or feeling out of control. Truth be told, I never wanted to be under a residential care for addicts or under home arrest. Now, that’s not to say I don’t overdose on eggnog every Christmas or get carried away with bottomless mimosas most Sundays…  But even then, never to the point where I would be incoherent, or as my former college-self called it‘blackout’.  This might not seem like an accomplishment to you – but I am from Boston and now reside in West Hollywood.  Two places where the vast majority of the population drinks until their eyes are blurred and their speech inaudible.  With the company I keep, my drinking is far from deplorable… it is admirable!

Why then a month sober?
Because my defensiveness is a tell-tale sign of a problem. Because I really crave a glass of wine most days.  Because I come from a long line of alcoholism.  I haven’t been sober for this long since high school, and I am ready to give my liver a much deserved break.  I want to test myself… to make sure that my 2 glasses of wine every night is a choice, and not an addiction.  But mostly, I want to go sober because I am curious.  Who knows what kind of insight I’ll learn from a month free of brain fog.  Maybe I’ll finish my second screenplay, clear up my skin and lose those hate handles.  Plus, if all else fails, at least my bank account won’t dwindle so fast for a month.Flashforward.

It was a long and cold November, but I did it.  And it wasn’t easy. But I managed to get over the alcohol drinking withdrawal symptoms and to regain control of my life.

I was bored and awkward when I went out and annoyed and antsy at home.   But I learned a few things.  Some about myself.. and others about the world I inhabit.  And since this blog is a compilation of the lessons I’ve learned from the trial and errors of life, I can’t think of a more appropriate place to share my discoveries.

Lessons Learned from 1 Month Sober 

1.  Some of my friends… I only like when they’re drunk. There are some friends that are  just going-out friends, and this month I realized that their label has validity.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy their company… it’s just that they might not be my cup of tea, over tea.  I’ve found that there are quite a number of fringe ‘friends I see at the bar’ that I don’t necessarily have anything in common with besides that we a.) inhabit the same drinking locale, b.) sing the lyrics to 90s rap and c.) we’re on our second glass of Pinot Grigio.  Bummer, but it makes wedding invite decisions to my non-existent wedding easier.
2. The rest I only like sober. Alright, this isn’t exactly true.  There’s a dozen (handful) of friends I just love all the time.  Absolutely adore, would do anything for – can’t live without – type of friends.  But jesus I never realized how aggressive/whiney/sad/loud/annoying/(you get it) everyone can get when they drink 5 too many.  Odd how a bit of alcohol can really alter someone’s personality, isn’t it?
3. I can’t get up as easily after a sober slumber. God this one was a shock.  I thought I’d be rising with the roosters.  Instead, all this REM sleep has me fast asleep past my alarm clock and feelinggroggy and sluggish when I roll out of bed.  I don’t get it.  I’m either getting TOO good of night’s sleep or the wine was knocking me out so I could sleep through my boyfriend’s grizzly bear snores.
4. My skin is clear.  Let me type this one again – My skin!  I keep getting complimented!  It’s clear…and almost radiant!  But definitely more oily.  Must be all the water and tea I’m hydrating myself with instead of the moisture-sucking vodka sodas.
5. I make better food choices.  I’ve never been a drunk-muncher… but hangovers could leave me ravenous for buffalo chicken nachos.  Now when I wake up, I crave a green juice.  It’s miraculous.  And if I want to indulge – I can without guilt, considering everytime I decline a marg I save 1000 calories and 30 grams of sugar.  It’s like monopoly calories!
6. While we’re talking calories, it’s not really as fun to go out and get fat on rigatoni and cheesecake when you aren’t drinking.  And… well it’s just not as fun in general to go to dinner sober.  It’s like a balloon is being deflated slowly when the waiter asks if I’d like to try their champagne sangria and I have to decline.  The conversations don’t seem to get as intense, the night doesn’t feel as lively, my flirting is more forced, there’s no reason to linger after dessert…Dinners are faster… and …ugh, sorry to say it, less enjoyable sober.

7. Sporting games? Why bother. Apparently it is unAmerican – and maybe even a bad omen against your team – to go to any sporting game and not drink alcohol.  Which leads me to my next point.
8. Even if you are comfortable with your sobriety…no one else is.  Other’s push their drinks on you like alcohol is the anecdote to a flesh eating disease taking over the bar.  Why aren’t you drinking? Where’s your drink?  It’s more than a pick up line, some people are honestly shocked that you have decided to go out – and not consume alcohol.  I mean shocked.  And the people who don’t comment probably think you are just pathetically waiting around for some dude to offer you a drink.  The worst.  Or your friend that is actually offended you’re not drinking on her birthday? I’m here aren’t I??
9. Less excuses. Can’t blame my lack of gym motivation on a hangover – or that I didn’t wash my makeup off the night before on account of a champagne buzz. Or – more relevantly – that I procrastinated finishing an article because I drank too much Pinot.  Just so turns out… I’m just as lazy now as I was drinking... now I just don’t have a good excuse.
10. Speaking of relaxing. What is the f-ing point of getting blow outs and massages without champs?
11. Speaking of bubbly – should that even count for sobriety? I mean. Really.  A life without champagne, why that seems like no life at all.
12. And why is the music so loud?  And how come no one seems to mind?
13.  why are girls such dramatic bitches?

14. did someone just pass gas? Did everyone just pass gas?15. I get so mentally drained from social situations.  It is over stimulating to go out to an event without drinking. Far from relaxed and lose, I feel more alert and on edge sober.  The musics too loud, people are too sloppy, I can’t keep a convo going, the clock ticks by slower, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, I’m too underdressed…  the surroundings just feel amplified.

16.  Try falling asleep on a plane without a glass of wine. Never been done before.

17. Some of my acquaintances actually blackout every single time they drink… and their personalities really change.. for the worst.  Now I’m not pointing any fingers, I know that tequila gets me rowdy and red wine basically tranquillizes me… I’m simply stating an observation I made while I sipped on soda water pretending there is vodka in it so my friends stop screaming that I’m so lame for being sober.  Sigh……and the best lesson of all

18.  After a month, I have sunk into sobriety… it doesn’t feel so uncomfortable on my skin.  I have broken a vicious cycle of wine-dependency, and learned to channel my stress relief in other directions.  I no longer crave a drink… and I am proud of that.  I have become infinitely closer to my dad, but also closer to myself.  It’s easy to drink away feelings or a problem – butsobriety?  It forces you to stand face to face with reality.  Which is frightening and invigorating all at the same time.   I’ll drink again, but I’m in no rush – and for that I am beyond grateful for my sober experiment.

Try it out… and let me know what you learned. I dare you.

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