6 Benefits of Sobriety (That You Might Actually Care About)
How Sober-Curiosity Opened the Door to Self-Discovery
When I drank, I liked to imagine that I was unearthing some deeply repressed version of myself. The fun version. The loving one. The one who might jump in a fountain or run the wrong way up an escalator or (expertly) choreograph a dance to Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract. (Yes, THAT ONE.) This version was also the one who knew the answer to all of your life’s problems, the one who would stay up til 4am crying with you while we redesigned our entire lives, the one who would drunk-dial you seventeen times in one night just to say hello. (Yep, hi, so sorry about that.)
The value I found in this version of myself shifted over time. She was, undoubtedly, more fun than everyday-me (free from the plagues of anxiety, depression, paranoia, self-doubt). But pulling her up, and keeping her there, seemed to become harder over time. The disparity between who she was and who I wanted to be, who I thought I was, seemed to grow further and further apart…the transition away from her, back to me, increasingly more chaotic.
When I decided to leave this version of myself behind, decided she wasn’t worth the heartache, I assumed I’d be leaving behind all of the best things in my life, as well…all of the freedom and the fun and excitement. Real me was safe, made good choices, followed the rules. (How would I ever bear being her, all the time?!) What I didn’t realize then was that everything I’d created in the land of drunkenness, was available to me in the land of sobriety, I just had to work for it.
In time, it became clear that, with a little intention, I was in complete control of every facet of my life, every experience I had. And when something didn’t feel right? There was no escape. I either had to feel it or fix it, a realization that sat somewhere between extremely overwhelming and incredibly empowering.
Having now made it through one entire year of sobriety, I can only assume that I am the authority on the advantages of such a lifestyle. The following are the Top 6 benefits I’ve managed to work out.
Ok, this may come as a shock to you, but you have preferences. Yes, your very real need to be loved by every person you come in contact with is still VERY intact. (Gotta work on that.) But now, NOW, you have a chance to curate your company in a more intentional manner. Better still? You’ll have to! Because, eek, you probably don’t like most of your friends! (Whoop whoop!) I will tell you this…there is one sure-fire way to realize who you like to be around and it is to endure the potentially mind-numbing monotony of their company without the aid of alcohol.
As you may have predicted, everyone seemed much funnier when I was drunk. (Myself included!) The result? One million surface-level relationships that I’d convinced myself were more than they were. (And an entire stand-up routine that would make you cringe very, very hard.) Sober, I’m able to decipher behaviors I appreciate from ones I was simply entertained by. Yes, those friends who entice you to dance on tables and take shots at 2 am are “fun” but have you ever sat with someone you genuinely like and laugh-wheezed your way through an entire season of Bachelor in Paradise without so much as a swig of mouthwash? It’s fucking amazing.
You’re likely thinking that I’m referencing the money you’ll save by avoiding nights out, or the mass amounts of money you’ll save simply by not purchasing alcohol (and yes, all that money is yours too—hurrah!) but what I’m really talking about is the guilt-induced online shopping that happens in those wee hours before dawn, those hours when you’re wide awake and tired of googling “do I have a drinking problem?” (Yeah girl, buy that face mask that makes it look like your eyes are about to pop out of your head. You don’t have a problem, you just need a new juicer and fourteen bath bombs. This is the path to salvation. This is the jam.)
As it turns out, this sort of spending is not novel. As revealed in a recent survey, last year, American consumers were said to have spent a staggering 40 BILLION dollars while drunk. As expected, the bulk of this money (52%) was spent on snacks. (Feels safe to assume that most of that 20 billion went to fries, but that’s more based on personal experience than science.) While the idea that people are spending any money while drunk is entertaining, the more outrageous categories are truly a treat. The breakdown? Somehow, “10% of people surveyed said they bought a ... car while drunk.” (Please zoom straight into this hole in my heart.) “14% caught wanderlust and booked a whole vacation.” (If an escape isn’t the answer then WHAT IS?!) Then “there was the man who reportedly bought a pig, a peacock, and a giant salamander while drunk online shopping." (The three best friends that anyone could have.) And, naturally “the couple who got wasted and purchased the hotel they were honeymooning at in Sri Lanka." (YOLO!)
Whether it’s the relatively innocent, “guess I smoke cigarettes now” type purchase, or the more serious, “I just purchased an entire fucking resort” situation, the jury is no longer out: we cannot be trusted to spend money wisely whilst intoxicated.
This is no fucking joke, guys. The morning is glorious. It’s like the world’s best kept secret! Beautiful lighting, industrious little birds, infinite possibilities lying ahead. Just wow.
The first morning that I set my alarm for 5am I literally woke up hissing. Who in their right mind would subject themselves to this frigid, inhospitable start to the day? I thought. Is this what it feels like to live in Alaska? Or one of those other places that is dark for like a billion hours a day? (I was not with it.) I struggled to understand why anyone would ever do this to themselves. Didn’t people know they could set their alarms for 15 minutes before they had to leave, put some make-up over last night’s make-up (a gorgeous layered effect) maybe throw on some new clothes and head out?!
It took some getting used to, but soon, being an early-riser transformed me into one of those people who cannot help but tell you about the benefits of being an early-riser, a compulsion so strong that I’d literally risk any friendship just to get the message out. (Please email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk more about these benefits. I will probably have gotten more done in the infinite hours I’ve been awake than you’ve ever gotten done in your entire life, so should have ample time to talk.)
I’d like to say that in sobriety my workflow has morphed into something admirable and machine-like, but I still fumble through my to-do list like I always have. The difference now is, I know who I am, I know what I want, I know how to get there. (Ok, full disclosure I don’t *totally* know how to get there, but the answers are feeling increasingly more clear as the days go on.)
There is truly nothing like alcohol to dampen and deaden all of the negative feelings you have about yourself/your life. (A real selling point when things feel shitty, but not so great if you’re actually wanting to make a change and live your best life.) When drinking, I found it easier to stay in undesirable circumstances, accept less-than-ideal arrangements and fall into the after-work drink culture that essentially perpetuates an entire industry. Sober, I’m forced to look critically at the way I spend my days because I know there isn’t going to be an escape later. This same principle seems to crop up over and over again as I work towards actively creating a life that feels good.
I’m not just talking about the time you spent drinking/drunk/recovering (which, ugh, huge “ew” to that last one which really seemed like it kept holding on longer and longer as I got older) but also:
the time you spent in the middle of the night googling “what is addiction?” or “yoga for beginners” or “Will a pig, peacock and giant salamander fight?”
the time saved from not having to explain bruises you don’t remember acquiring.
the time spent wondering what you said/did the night before.
the time spent wondering if you’ve got a problem.
the time spent knowing you’ve got a problem but convincing yourself that it’s not a problem.
the time wondering why you keep spending so much time having the same fucking conversation with yourself.
Lots of time to be saved!
SOBER SEX SOCIETY
Ok, Sober Sex Society isn’t real* but if it were, I would appoint myself president and create a flag and, while I was at it, an embroidered jean jacket and I’d throw them both at every person shopping for La Croix at Safeway on a Friday night. (Ay-o let’s be best friends!)
Truly though, I’m at a bit of a loss as to why the sober community has been holding out on us here. Consistently sober sex is, and I cannot stress this enough, THE BEST SEX! (fr)
Over are the days of half-hearted “ooooo uh-huh”s. Over are the days of inaccurate fumblings and clouded judgements. These are the days of knowing what you want and GETTING IT.
It isn’t as though I’ve never had sober sex (though plenty of people haven’t, and the fear that they feel entering such a vulnerable arena without the aid of alcohol is real and valid and not to be down-played) but when I say “consistently sober sex,” I’m implying that, in a version of your world where escape is not ever-present and readily-available, it is on you to find ways to create your own escapes, to mimic the sensations you were seeking in the first place (preferably in happy/healthy/well-adjusted ways). And in order to do this, you’ve got to know what you want. You’ve got to be able to say it, or hint at it, and, in some cases, articulate it via fast breathing or morse code or well-timed hair-pulling (??) so that you can be in control of your own pleasure and your own body.
There is an inherit complacency that comes along with drunkenness, this idea that simply being in an altered state is the joy. Sobriety, on the other hand, requires a level of intention. What am I actually looking for? And how can I find it? It makes sense then that we’d have a vested interest in figuring this shit out. There is literally no one else watching out for you and your joy and your pleasure. It’s all you, babe. And if we’re going to be left here, shackled to our own bodies, we might as well figure out what makes them feel good.
*Oh my god, but what if it IS real???