2 Things I’ve Realized While Being Sober in 2020:

1) When you’re sober during a crisis, social media starts to look like a really bad, really desperate reality TV show (you know, the kind I love to watch).

As a society, we rely on booze like the comforting friend most of us are taught to look to in times of trouble, and social media is their highlight reel. Being sober in 2020 feels like peering into a whole news feed full of inside jokes you just don’t get anymore. Scrolling starts to feel like a voyeuristic maneuver to spy on a club you quit – a sorority you told your friends “wasn’t for you.” It’s like waking up and choosing to take the red pill over and over again, sometimes because you know it’s the better choice, and sometimes out of morbid curiosity. Maybe social media has always been like this – a big, long booze commercial starring nearly everyone – and I just didn’t notice before because I did my best to avoid scrolling. And before that, I was in on the joke.

Instead of feeling left out of the club, I feel good. I’m now an observer rather than a subject. I escaped a cycle that looks like fun, constantly reaching out with magnanimous hands offering relief and ease, but it fails every time. It’s a bully, a mean girl – after a night on the inside you somehow feel worse, until it comes around the next day promising to fix the problems it created. Get in bitch, we’re staying mildly cloudy at all times to avoid reality! This abusive cycle becomes particularly obvious when you’re no longer participating. Booze fixes problems just as well as Regina George values feminism (before she got hit by a bus and had an awakening).

I read an excerpt on social media that I screenshot about the differences between the underlying fears in George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. After doing some basic research, I found the quote as part of a forward in a book called Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness, by Neil Postman. I’ve never read it. It was written in 1985. I’m surprised no one in journalism school mentioned it.

“Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no big brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think… What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

It’s been years since I’ve read these books, and plan to reread them again soon. After becoming sober this analysis seemed to resonate with me and pair beautifully with my reality TV theory. At this point I believe booze and social media work concurrently to produce the results Huxley feared, because no one is forcing us to partake, we choose the numbness for ourselves, and it takes work to escape it. Now, my challenge seems to be more in the looking away from the booze-induced denial fest, but we’ll delve into that topic another day.

2) Your brain off alcohol and drugs is capable of some crazy shit; good luck sorting that out. AKA: Everything is now an existential lesson in living… yay.

Seriously. There has never been another time in my life where I have gone through a significant amount of life-altering experiences and been sober enough to observe how I feel and respond in that moment, and then remember enough to be able to reflect on it later. It’s unsettling how much introspection and time is lost to alcohol consumption. I go to weekly therapy, workout about five days a week, eat healthy food and take vitamins. I don’t even take an Advil unless the situation is dire. You’d think my brain would be clear, my memory vivid, and my understanding of reality better than when I was drinking or taking anti anxiety drugs. Well, in some ways it’s not, but my recognition of that fact is new.

This is probably confusing, so I’ll attempt to explain using a recent example. When I got the news that Humboldt County was issuing a stay at home order and my business would be mandated to close, I literally do not remember much of the next three months. I remember staying late to work on one last client, packing up my car with all my retail products, and driving home. After that, it goes blank, or at best, spotty, until I started working in person again on July 1st.

That shit is confusing as hell.

In the past I would’ve chalked that up to nightly alcohol consumption. No big deal; it happens to everyone. Things got blurry; life was stressful. I drank more to cope with my crushing new reality. Now I look back and am forced to reckon with something much more complex – I get to unpack what stress does to my brain, how I react and respond, and what implications that has on the rest of my life. Awesome. So while things get clearer, they become more confusing. Instead of wallowing, scrolling social media aimlessly and letting my business die, I did the exact opposite. I used 100% of my brain capacity (ask my husband, he could probably tell you what actually happened during my three month out of body experience) to grow my business during what continues to be the most challenging time for me as an entrepreneur. But I don’t remember three months of it.

I think the lesson I’m taking away from this realization is that we are complex beings in a complex universe who understand very little, but without booze I’m awake enough to really think about that.

My Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drinks

When I first quit drinking alcohol, I think the key to successfully staying sober was maintaining my rituals. Instead of coming home from a long day at work and cracking open an ice cold beer, I got creative and replaced it with something equally as delicious and refreshing. Mentally, I get the same calming effects of a “wind down” period without the mental and physical repercussions that come along with consuming alcohol.

These are my top three favorite non-alcoholic (cold) beverages that my husband and I have discovered. One for the days I want a beer, one to create a relaxing mocktail, and one to help with soda cravings. Because let’s face it- I love diet soda, but replacing alcohol with other chemicals is not much of a healthy alternative. Obviously these choices are all vegan and refined-sugar free. I hope these suggestions inspire you to try something new and delicious!

When I want a beer:

Lagunitas Hoppy Refresher / I find this at my local COOP.
https://www.lagunitas.com/story/hoppy-refresher

For when I want: To make a mocktail, to relax with some CBD, to enjoy sparkling water with anti aging skin and hair benefits. Seriously this stuff is amazing. Go get yourself some. I am clearly obsessed. Beauty Bubbles are my favorite, but Gingergrass is a close second.

DRAM Apothecary Beauty Bubbles Adaptogenic Sparkling Water + 25mg CBD / I order mine online at https://www.dramapothecary.com/product/beauty-bubbles-adaptogenic-cbd-sparkling-water/

Lastly, for when I simply want a soda or something crisp, carbonated, and delicious. I’ve tried every sparkling water available and these are the best. The watermelon is my favorite, but I also love the Black Cherry, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Grape.

Waterloo Sparkling Water / I purchase mine at Costco or my local COOP.

Monthly Resource Collection: September 2020

This month I found myself listening to music (the new Katy Perry album Smile, and the In the Heights soundtrack) and true crime podcasts (see: Weird on the Rocks and My Favorite Murder) during my morning workouts and makeup sessions. I don’t believe this was an attempt to distract myself from our current reality, but somehow it does feel nostalgic to listen to things as if we were pre-pandemic. To rest your mind as you prepare for another day. Fall reminds me of true crime podcasts and training for half marathons; running through the leaves and rain. It reminds me of wrapping up my wedding season at work just in time for a big vacation. This year is obviously different.

However, in between my distractions, mental “breaks,” or privileged lapses from reality I did go back to my morning ritual, complete with coffee, a lit candle, and a book, followed by fifteen minutes of meditation to absorb what I’d read. And this month I dove into Ta-Nehisi Coates, requiring extra time for absorption.

This month’s resource guide focuses highly on Coates’ work because I am fascinated by it. His writing reads more beautifully than anything I’ve picked up in a decade, like poetry with poignant edges. I cannot believe it’s taken me this long to sit with it and I hope you’ll join me.

Books:

Quit Like A Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed With Alcohol takes a close look at the normalized relationship most of us have with alcohol, it’s effects on our mental and physical health, and how the constructed “alcoholic / non-alcoholic” binary created and enforced mostly through Alcoholics Anonymous-style programs designed by white men, and for men is harmful for women looking to quit. Whitaker examines the ways alcohol is marketed specifically toward females, why women choose to drink in the first place, and why teaching women to give up their power, intuition, and control over their own lives in order to become sober is a damaging and patriarchal idea.
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes this book as a open letter to his teenage son, explaining the complexities and dual realities of navigating this world, and specifically this country, as a Black man, in a Black body. Coates explains that there is a separation between lived realities, or worlds. There is what is true, and there is the “dream” – an illusion of democracy built on stolen land using labor stolen from Black bodies. The dreamers continue living this comfortable illusion, given the truth but in denial or refusal of it, the reality that our very democracy and every institution therein exists only because of current and historical violence against the Black body. Are we capable and willing of awakening?
We Were Eight Years in Power is a collection of powerful essays written by Ta-Nehisi Coates meant to chronicle the years President Barack Obama was in office and the dangerous white supremacist backlash that followed. Fear of a Black President, The Case For Reparations, and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration are some of the works included. Each essay is prefaced with context and personal memoir making the collection even more compelling.

Notable Podcast Episodes:

The Rich Roll Podcast Episode 547: We are Water: Erin Brokovich on Pollutants, Politics & People Power https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-rich-roll-podcast/id582272991?i=1000491955278
In this episode Rich Roll and Erin Brokovich talk about her new book Superman’s Not Coming and discuss the roles corporations and government really play in protecting our environment and the water we think is safe.

Bookstores to support: https://www.semicolonchi.com https://eurekabookshop.com https://keybookstore.com