Things No One ever Tells You about Quitting Drinking
Daniel, sober for three years, shares some of the surprises.
Sobriety is the finish line, the goal. Reach it and you’ve won. But life doesn’t stop after the drinking stops. All the focus has been on quitting, and there were a few things no one told me about quitting. Here are the ones I found most troubling.
No one cares
I don’t mean no one at all – my wife certainly did, and my mom (my dad is deceased). They were very supportive and my watchdogs. What I mean is that no one in my day-to-day cares. For whatever reason, I thought it would show. Like a bright, shining badge of honor, like an Olympic gold medal around my neck. But buying gas or talking to my coworkers, or not buying a 12-pack at the party store on my way home… nope. No one cared. It was a little disappointing.
I wasn’t me anymore
There are a lot of people I only see rarely. Extended-family type reunions, the sales reps I talk to on the phone but don’t see much, people who know me but don’t get regular updates. Those are the people who notice – the ones who would be surprised at a substantial weight loss because they didn’t see you lose it. Drinking changed my public face and not drinking brought me back. But to those people (my pastor was one) it appeared as if something significant had happened – I was a different person. They’d only ever known the “drinking me.”
More than once, someone asked my wife on the sly if I’d had cancer and recovered. I guess, without the booze, I became more mature or spiritual or something. Weird.
You get status with drunks
By status I mean the fact you are sober means something to these people. I found it’s one of two things. Either they think you are looking down on them because they still drink, or they slyly come to you seeking advice, as if successful sobriety makes you a kind of guru.
People who drink want to talk about drinking as a topic of conversation. While they drink! They’ll confess all the problems they are having and look at me for, I don’t know, validation or something. And, even knowing you are on the wagon, they’ll ask if you want a drink. Sometimes it’s cute, in a, “I-just-passed-gas” kind of innocent/embarrassing way. It gets irritating when you realize they just want it to be about them and their problems. They don’t care about your sobriety.
Eventually, I drifted away from a lot of folks I would have counted as friends. They were drinking buddies only. Without the drinking part, we just didn’t connect anymore.
No one told me about the hole that not drinking would leave in my life. The amount of time I spent either drinking, thinking about drinking, or recovering from a tear is now mine. And it can weigh heavily.
What’s worse is that some of the leisure activities aren’t fun without drinking while doing them. So, for example, I used to sit for hours and hours, drinking and playing online games. Turns out I don’t really like doing it that much without the drinking part. So that’s even more time on my hands.
Eventually, bit by bit, my life filled up with other things. The hole is more or less patched up now. But no one warned me I’d have all that extra time (and energy).
Sex, music and food
I used to like hard driving music. I suppose the bass line was all that got through the drunken haze. Now, I can’t stand heavy metal or loud music. My tastes in music changed. Same thing with food. I taste my food now and I get hungry more. No more calories from the alcohol I guess.
Sex is good again. I didn’t know how bad it had gotten. Granted, it wasn’t worthless before, but when I was drinking, I never really paid that much attention to my partner. It’s much, much more intimate now – and more frequent. For some reason, my wife wasn’t all that attracted to boozy breath. That’s been really nice, falling in love again.
No one mentioned the regrets and the worry. I can’t repair some of the stuff I did when I was drinking or recover the years I wasted.
Thinking about that stuff is painful. But along with it, I worry about people I know who drink too much. People I care about. One of my nephews drinks. He’s had his first DUI at 22 years old. And there’s nothing I can do about it but worry.
When we talk, it’s like I’m talking to myself at his age. The excuses and the denial. So I worry. I worry about him and others who might not survive.
It really bothers me to see it all cycle through again in someone else’s life. I see them building up the same regrets that sometimes keep me awake. That’s hard.