Last week I asked my friend Jackson (@_jjw_) if he would write a post for me to feature here, thinking it would be good to hear the perspective of a sober guy in his late 20’s, and what it’s like for him to move around our boozy world as a non-drinker. I didn’t realise when I asked him that he was on the cusp of celebrating his two years soberversary! Very cool, congrats @_jjw_ !! And thanks for sharing with us here. xxx
@_jjw_: Today I am happy to be celebrating two years — 730 continuous days — of sobriety.
Those of you who have been following along on this journey with me will know the past 365 days since coming out of the sobriety closet and into the world of vocal recovery have been pretty darn crazy.
The first 365 we pretty crazy too and I’ve kind of covered the decision to stop drinking and here and here. But I haven’t really talked much about what it’s like to be in recovery. So here is an eclectic mix of contemplations, observations, introspections, and reflections on what it’s like to be a late 20s guy in New Zealand who doesn’t drink.
Two years sober, huh. Don’t you want a drink?
Sure. Sometimes. If I’m feeling depresso or angry or frustrated about something —which is surprisingly getting less and less — it might cross my mind.
I don’t think I really had a coping mechanism beyond alcohol before stopping drinking. It’s forced me to actually face up to some of the emotions and feelings that bubble up in the course of a normal life.
It’s rare that I ever get a strong urge to drink, and if I do I, pick up the phone and call someone. My fiancee, friends, someone… anyone. I’ve set my mental alarm system on high alert for those kind of thoughts.
That’s not to say I always make the right decision or do the right thing to deal with problems – real or imagined. But I am learning about what sets me off and how to deal with it positively, instead of drowning it out.
So it’s not all smooth sailing from here onboard the HMS Sobriety?
I don’t think so. Not drinking gives you a lot of time to play around in your own head.
Sometimes I think of my brain as a miniature person sitting on a swivel chair spinning around and around firing a paintball gun filled with ideas, feelings, emotions, and thoughts at the inside of my skull.
I think a lot of people who have problems with booze live in a similar state of perpetual brain activity where small inconveniences become massive resentments within the amplifying confines of the cranium.
Learning to cope with all that noise in a constructive manner is a tricky task, especially for guys who often don’t like to talk about this kind of stuff. I know I don’t. But I also know talking about it and working problems out is about 73 trillion times more constructive than drinking.
What do you do to stay sane?
I talk. I write. I tweet (probably too much). I also exercise. I try not to isolate myself from friends. I practice mindfulness. I catch up with other people in recovery regularly. I try and figure out what the causes of problems are and I root them out, and isolate them and then try and neutralise them.
Earlier in the year I had been getting incredibly frustrated to the point where it was affecting my recovery. The situation required a change. I was so hung up on trying to make everything else change or railing against the unfairness of it all, that I forgot that it was probably easier for me to change things up rather than grind down my sanity trying to change things around me.
So I stepped back and changed things up on my side of the equation. It’s worked out quite well.
As I move forward I find it easier to spot situations where I need to walk away from it or I need to rethink my position. So many people — once again guys especially — think they can’t back down or they place the blame on others.
A good dosage of self awareness and reflection is needed here, and it may be painful, but it’s better than going insane and drinking again.
Do you ever get aftershocks of pre-sobriety Jackson rocking your sober world?
Hell yeah. We’ve all been dicks to someone at sometime. Alcohol amplifies that dickishness by a couple of orders of magnitude. You make bad decisions, then some more, then some more and suddenly you’re waking up in someone else’s bed with a head full of regrets, a maxed out credit card, and no idea how to get home.
You can’t make these memories go away. They happened and they ripple through time until you make peace with them. I have found apologising and making amends to people you’ve hurt (where you can and where doing that won’t hurt them or you) is surprisingly effective at fixing shitty situations.
I still also have those pangs of ‘OH-MY-GOD-I-SHOULD-HAVE-DONE-THAT-DIFFERENTLY’. Once again you can’t change that. You’re here, now, in today. So take that pang and try and learn from it, don’t try and drink it into submission.
No, it’s me with the raspberry coke, not her.
My fiancee drinks beer. She loves it. When we go to a restaurant on date night and she orders a beer and I get a soft drink, the waiter inevitably places the beer in front of me. A couple of weird things are happening here with gender roles and societal expectations. No biggie in this situation.
Where it does get interesting is when you meet a vocal ‘All-men-should-drink-beer-to-prove-they’re-men’ type. I don’t think beer is a gendered drink, and I definitely don’t think masculinity equals ability to consume alcohol. But many people do. I probably did think something similar in my early 20s.
The point being, I generally feel comfortable sipping on water or ginger beer or some kind of outrageous mocktail and y’all should stop trying to pressure me into drinking.
Why are you so vocal? Shut up and drink (your soda)!
I am vocal about sobriety for a few reasons. One is incredibly selfish. I figure if all you guys know I’m in recovery, the likelihood of me picking up another drink decreases. You’re my insurance scheme. Heh heh heh.
I also hope that by standing up and saying “hey it’s actually okay to not drink” it might go a small way to support other people to stop drinking or help someone else understand why their friend has stopped drinking.
Another reason I talk about it is that I don’t think there is enough discourse about sobriety in New Zealand. I applaud Mrs D’s efforts in engaging with all of you and writing about her experiences and building this community. Too often we are afraid to talk about why we don’t drink, I say be proud about not drinking booze.
A sober mind is a powerful weapon. So use it.