What do you see when you envision sobriety? Let me guess: AA meetings in dark, damp basements, billows of Marlboro Red smoke, men with heads down and hands in their pockets walking on the opposite side of the street from bars, and God. SO much God.
But before you judge, consider that every single one of us has a void. It’s the essence of being human: the unsettling realization that we’re all born alone & die alone; that life, in a way, is just a simulation; and that no one — no matter how they’re shaped — is truly capable of filling us up. It’s you and you forever, angel, and we’ve all got ways of making ourselves feel artificially full until the day comes that we don’t have to feel at all anymore. Some of us blow lines, or paychecks, or both. Some of us smoke our lungs black. Some people pay for company. Many of us fuck until our joints ache, or give our hearts to invisible deities that never tell us whether or not they love us back. Nearly all of us put people we deem “special” on pedestals they don’t deserve. And for whatever reason, almost everybody drinks.
I have a hilariously tragic narrative about my downfall to “rock-bottom” - and some iconic tales about the last night before going out with a bang - but you’ll have to buy my future book to know the dirty deets. Honestly, the biggest trigger was simply becoming sick of how deep my void felt, and how many resources I exhausted in my attempts to fill it. Eating, not eating, drinking, drugging, dating, spending, saving, sweating, going out, giving up…it had been years of trotting on an endless hamster wheel, but my endurance hadn’t built at all. I had to acknowledge I was being delusional in making the same decisions over and over again while genuinely expecting a different outcome.
It wasn’t just me being a hot mess, though. Because of ADHD, both my best and worst quality is an obsession with consumption. People, places, and things are constantly getting absorbed by all of my senses. On the one hand, I’ve been able to experience about 10 incredible lives by the age of 25; on the other, it’s difficult — near impossible — to function while unstimulated. While such a quality has allowed me to create a career that revolves around connecting with and understanding others, I’m less talented at drawing my own boundaries. You can imagine how that played out in the context of substance abuse.
I spent about a total 9.5 months of 2018 sober, and it didn’t get me locked in damp rooms; instead, it heavily alleviated the dampness I felt inside. I found that the coolest thing about saying buh-bye to booze was learning to trust my instincts again, and that has bled into every facet of my life. Consider this…
Not drinking while on a first date is petrifying, and then totally empowering. (Kinda like skydiving…or so I’ve heard. Can’t afford to risk that windburn on my face.) You can show up and immediately know whether or not you’re into the person. Where they work or if they have money or who your mutual friends are means shit; for something to be worthwhile, there needs to be pheromone-drenched sexual chemistry. When our senses are sharp, we sniff it out right away. Plus, no need to worry about revealing too much too soon, or waking up the next morning wondering what the hell you even said.
Is it lit?
Similarly, you can rock up to a party or club and quickly determine whether or not it’s actually worth losing sleep for. The DJ’s playing “Call Me Maybe?” NAH fam — you’d do a better job with the aux in the Uber home, where you can then reflect on how dumb and sloppy drunk people are. Gross.
The domino effect
When you start realizing your capabilities, it turns you ON. First goes vodka, then goes sugar, then goes refined carbs, then goes the shitty taste in men (if you’re lucky). It’s not in an obsessive, orthorexic way — you just start to realize how good you’re CAPABLE of feeling if you sacrifice a teeny tiny bit of pleasure. Or, on the flip side — at least in my case — realize how much worse alcohol makes pre-existing problems, instead of glossing over them like we think it will.
On that note, when alcohol is eliminated from the equation, you’re forced to look at what the deeply-rooted issues really are. Remember what I said about my consumption? I didn’t realize the scope of it, or that it was ADHD-fueled; I simply assumed I was an alcoholic. This was the first time since 9th grade (!) I’d been dry long enough to examine myself thoroughly, without any clouded judgement or distraction. What I discovered is that I devour alcohol with the exact same excessive fervor I do books (reading 4 at a time), desserts, new friends…
I have very addictive tendencies, but I do not have to live in fear of being addicted to any one thing. That determination — especially coming from doctors — has been the greatest gift of all.
So as we begin 2019, I am no longer sober. I’ve talked openly about how medical weed changed my life, and an Adderall prescription made it socially acceptable to take a low daily dose of amphetamines (for better or worse). Plus, life’s greatest pleasures most CERTAINLY include sharing top-shelf liquor with men who can teach me a thing or two about it — and pay. But I respect my limits now, having seen them with 20/20 vision. 3 drinks is the absolute maximum, no excuses. I’ve gotta eat well before, and no noshing after. Water is imperative in between and after beverages. Even if it’s painful, I’m waking up early. Most importantly, I treat boozy nights like holidays — they come rarely, and must be taken very seriously. All stops will be pulled out. If done right, I don’t feel the need to do it again for awhile.