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.

Sensi Magazine Freelance Work: Pre-Pandemic Digital Declutter

Today I’m sharing a piece of freelance work I wrote for Sensi Magazine, North Bay after roughly six months of research, and one month of executing my “digital declutter” plan for the month of January.

For those of you that followed me at that time, it will come as no surprise to learn that I had all but eliminated unnecessary technology use from my life. This included but was not limited to: texting, social media, internet surfing, television, and email. I’d use these things for work (during very limited and designated time slots – and only on my computer), or for personal reasons if only 100% necessary. I had researched my way into a routine that I was more than happy in.

I was reading more than ever, taking time for quiet introspection and meditating regularly. I felt grounded for the first time in a decade, and planned to continue minimal tech use moving forward. That is where this article came from.

The reason why I’m sharing this now is because 49 days after coming to these liberating conclusions as a digital minimalist, COVID-19 forced my brick and mortar business location to shut down and overnight I chose to pivot to stay afloat. I switched from a service-based business to one that was retail-based, instantly. Suddenly all the technology I had happily left behind was my lifeline. Social media, online meetings, email and texting kept us open for the fourteen weeks our literal doors were closed.

Now that we are open, I’m navigating both worlds and trying to find my balance, grounded-ness, and answers again. My plan is to write about this new journey, starting with today’s article. In February when I wrote it, it was simpler times for small business.

Full Issue: https://issuu.com/sensimediagroup/docs/2020_08_mag_nb/24

Two Years No Beers Follow Up Questions

Today’s post is a follow-up to my One Year No Beer and Two Years No Beers posts written specifically about my sobriety journey. I decided to ask you what you were most curious about, and these were the most commonly asked questions. I hope you enjoy reading my responses. I plan to write more about this topic moving forward because if I’ve learned anything in the last two years it’s that many of you are sober curious – very sober curious. If I can help just one person by shedding light on living an alcohol-free existence, then I am happy to do it.

Did you “relapse” and start drinking again after you quit?

This question is interesting because after thinking it over I came to the realization that I had been “quitting” for years, I just hadn’t realized it yet. My husband and I had tried a few strategies to reduce our drinking, like limiting a night out to three beers. Strategies like these inevitably fail because three beers is just enough to inhibit your decision making capabilities and sabotage a plan. My husband quit alcohol for a while years before we both quit, but I did not, and because of my inability to see alcohol consumption outside of the “alcoholic / normal person” binary, that ultimately failed as well. However, because I was still living under the assumption that alcohol is safe and in denial about it ruining my mental health as long as I drank it in moderation, I did slowly reduce my consumption and stopped drinking anything other than beer, or champagne on a “special occasion.”

I give all of these examples because over the years I did everything except actually quit. Because I was afraid of what life would be like and because I was afraid of what that might mean I was. Not because I was actually physically addicted. When I look back, I can see someone who was desperately trying to break free of alcohol, I just didn’t have the tools to do it yet.

Once I made the decision to quit, after years of alcohol being more of a problem in my life than something “fun,” I did so with 100% certainty and conviction. It was like going vegan. I had that symbolic last drink and that last slice of cheese pizza and off I went into the unknown – happily. To say that I quit “cold turkey” in either situation would really be a lie. I had been quitting alcohol for years, and I had been quitting all animal products ever since I went vegetarian. It was only a matter of time. So no, I have not “relapsed” since making the decision to actually remove alcohol from my life. And because I have never questioned my decision, I will remain sober.

Was it hard to quit?

There are two things I want to say on this topic. One: Not quitting and continuing to live a life you know deep down is wrong for you is exponentially harder than the very temporary discomfort of quitting. Two: It is hard at first, but that passes quickly.

What is actually hard are hangovers, and wasted time and potential. Fighting with your husband for no reason. Emotional instability, repressed trauma, depression, missed work, horrible periods, sabotaged healthy eating, and not exercising because of lack of energy. What is hard is letting your sense of creativity, imagination, and sense of wonder die in your skull. Work days that never end because of your fatigue and brain fog, and regularly hanging out with people or in places you can’t stand without the use of alcohol to numb you. Not being able to find joy and happiness in the “little things” (which are actually the big things) because your dopamine receptors have been trained not to – by alcohol. Those are the hard things. What is hard is knowing you could just stop but choosing not to, for years. I really want to emphasize that those things are what are actually difficult, because you’re perpetually trapped.

Quitting, on the other hand, was hard at first but is very temporary. It was not difficult on a daily basis, but the “firsts” were an initial struggle. The first wedding you attend sober, the first family gathering, the first party, the first holiday, the first night out with friends. Those will be hard. In the beginning I constantly had a mock-tail in my hand that I used as a safety blanket and a way to deflect conversation away from my not drinking. As a woman, this can be especially challenging because if I ordered a diet soda I got the: “Are you pregnant” question more than once. So I would go to the bar before anyone got there and order a soda water with a splash of cranberry and a lime. No one would even know it wasn’t a cocktail.

The weird thing about this is that my real friends were aware I quit and were supportive – this charade was something I put on for my own comfort, and for the comfort of people who really weren’t my friends anyway. Isn’t it strange how we’re so conditioned to think drinking is normal that we protect the feelings of those around us that do drink? I didn’t want to “make anyone feel weird.” Would you act this way with cigarettes? Pretending to smoke so that you wouldn’t make your smoker friends feel uncomfortable? What a strange concept.

So it was hard in the beginning. I created rituals at home to replace my beer at the end of a long day. Usually some type of sparkling water in a fancy glass with lemon. It achieved the same desire – helping me wind down with something fizzy – it’s all just part of a ritual. After a month, I didn’t do that regularly anymore, only when it really was a tough day at work or a sparkling water just sounded good. And I stopped going to events I didn’t want to go to, and hanging out with people I didn’t like. I stopped staying up late (because I hate it), I learned to say no to clients and their fundraisers (I will still donate, just not attend) and I started having real boundaries.

And just like that, after a handful of awkward dinners or parties, it became easy.

And not only easy, it became AMAZING. When you’re the only one able to get up at five am the day after an event to workout, have a smoothie and a quick magazine read, it feels better than good. When you go to Pilates and work on your blog on a Saturday morning instead of laying in bed all day, it feels amazing. When you can get all your office work done in one block of a few hours instead of spread out over the entire week, it’s magic. When you’re so productive you knock your work week down to three and a half days, it’s almost hard to believe that that time existed before and you were just wasting it. And that’s just the beginning. I will tell you it gets better and better as you grow into yourself and heal those parts of you that you used alcohol to suppress. I can sense that even two years in, I’m only just scratching the surface of discovering myself and what I’m capable of.

How do you deal with friends and/or family members that don’t support you or understand? Or people who give you a hard time or call you “no fun?”

One of the ways I realize now that I was quitting alcohol long before I quit is through the company I keep. Several of my closest friends do not drink alcohol, or drink very little. Alcohol and drug dependency and addiction is common on both sides of my family, as well as mental illness. So I also have several family members who have quit alcohol and drugs. I am very fortunate in that way – everyone seems to understand, or at least on some level, get it.

Because I haven’t had to deal with this personally, I cannot give you advice on what to do aside from tell them it’s the healthy choice for you, and that they should respect that, just as you are not disrespecting them for drinking.

I do and have however, dealt with comments like that regarding my choices to be vegetarian and then vegan. All I can say to that is if you know in your heart it’s right for you, the judgments they pass on you are simply a reflection of what they see as flaws in themselves or challenges to their own moral frameworks. Otherwise they wouldn’t care so much. In other words, when someone judges you negatively for evolving, changing, or growing into a new (and hopefully better) version of yourself, it is typically not about you. It’s about them, and the fact that they are having to confront their own growth, or lack thereof. Hopefully looking at it in that way helps. The “you’ve changed” comment shouldn’t have a negative connotation. I’d rather change than be the same person for the rest of my life.

Before I wrap this answer up, I did want to mention one more thing that I have experienced, and that is weird. When you get sober and no one gives you a hard time, but also NO ONE talks to you about it. Ever. For me personally, I write because it helps me to be creative and expel ideas that would otherwise spin around in my head until they drove me insane… with the intention that maybe those ideas can resonate with, and help others. This topic (which by the way has exponentially more readership than any other topic I blog about) is no exception. I love talking about sobriety and my choice to quit alcohol, but to this day, no one has asked me about it directly, or brought it up in conversation. I’m not sure if this is because people are afraid this will offend me, or are not sure how to start the conversation. But I know it’s definitely not because of lack of interest or curiosity. You all want to know about it. So I’d say, in order to normalize not drinking alcohol, don’t be afraid to ask your sober friend questions, or just talk about it like you would anything else.

Do you just smoke weed now instead (or use other substances)?

No. But this question can get complicated. Depending on what school of thought you subscribe to, I could be considered not sober because I still consume things like caffeine, the occasional Ibuprofen or CBD. At this stage, I’m all about defining sobriety for yourself, and for me personally, I choose not to consume anything that inhibits my ability to be productive in ways that bring me joy. I know that I cannot get high or drunk (or even a tiny bit “buzzed”) and enjoy listening to a record, or drawing, reading a good book, or writing an article. I become a blob of anxiety with the capacity to basically only watch The Bachelorette and sleep, and nothing more. I want to be able to work on my business, enjoy time with my husband – drive somewhere. I want to be able to start a new project, hang out with my dogs, watch a documentary or reorganize the house with energy and awareness that I just do not have when I have mind altering substances in my body. I feel like it robs me of a lot of my joy, mental health, and self love, and does not align with my lifestyle or beliefs.

That being said, I am aware that caffeine and CBD also alter your brain and mood, but I choose to regularly partake because I enjoy them and do not feel as though they are a hindrance to these goals. I plan to write more about this in the future because it is a complex topic, but for today we will suffice it to say that no, I did not simply replace alcohol with other drugs.

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Other blogs you may enjoy:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/thereallifeveganwife.com/2019/08/17/one-year-no-beer/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/thereallifeveganwife.com/2020/09/05/two-years-no-beers/amp/