A Beginner’s Guide to Teetotaling

I recently decided to go sober, just a little over five weeks ago.  After much dabbling in drinking less or even taking long, extended breaks, I decided, shit, it’s time to just part ways with alcohol completely.  Part of sobriety, though, is you have to read a lot of stuff.  You gotta read other peoples’ accounts, you gotta read helpful tips, success stories, failures, all that shit.  Sobriety is a lot more reading than you’d think, but it’s all good.  It’s all helpful stuff.  You get to read about other people sharing some of the stupider fears you thought were wholly unique just to you.

One of the most common things I see is, “It’s okay to be sober, it’s not okay for people to ask you why.”  Or, “It’s no one else’s business why you made the decision.”  And it’s great advice!  People have a comfort level, and what got them to the point of sobriety can be a dark place filled with a lot of shame so, yeah, for the love of god, if someone says they’re not drinking, don’t ask, “Why not?”  Because, come on.

But… BUT… there’s always a but… you can totally ask me.  Only because I’m a nosy motherfucker who wishes obituaries had the cause of death listed.  In fact, I think on my own obituary I’m going to dedicate a couple sentences just to how I died.  I know how it is.  I’m nosy as hell.  I wanna know things—not because of genuine concern, but because I wanna know.  So, you can ask me and get it out of your system.  Even if you’ve already asked me before, I might change up my story just so it’s like a fresh, new dose.  “I slapped a baby, and that’s when I knew I had a problem.”

Not drinking, mostly, has been totally fine.  One of the weird things you deal with, at first, is this depression that people are going to think less of you, and I think a big part of that is because we all knew an alcoholic who had to quit drinking and was really pissed off about it.  Don’t be that guy.  Don’t be the guy at get-togethers drinking nonalcoholic beer and asking to smell real drinks because, I don’t know, you like the scent or whatever.  And don’t glower at the people who are buzzed, because that shit makes you look bitter as hell.  And creepy.

Instead, just enjoy the benefits of not drinking, and there are a ton.  Yeah, yeah, you have a problem and you’re not ever going to be the kind of person who can have two beers and call it a night.  Or maybe you can be that guy every now and then, but mostly, if you’re like me, you’re like, “Maybe another six beers won’t hurt?”  And that’s fine, because now you know on Saturday morning you’re gonna be able to get up early and do that thing that’s going to suck ass but you know Future You is gonna be glad you did it, because you won’t be hungover!  Hell, now you might even have some extra money in your pocket, so if you’re not getting some fancy-ass cocktail when you go out for dinner, you don’t have to stick to the “sandwiches” portion of the menu, maybe you can finally look on over at entrees and get something fancier.  That’s kind of cool!

One of the biggest benefits I’ve had from not drinking is probably one of the dullest sounding, but it’s been that drinking hasn’t been wreaking havoc on my serotonin and dopamine levels.  I don’t have incredible highs followed by grouchy-ass, self-loathing lows.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a human and I have lows and bad days and still have a temper, but because I have a reliable energy level these days, I can count on being able to do things.  When you’re hungover, or at least when I’m hungover, some of the most basic things that can give me joy sound like such a goddamned chore and so I sometimes just didn’t do it.  Just little things like watching a movie I’ve been looking forward to—at fucking home, how easy is it to watch a movie at home?—just sounded awful, so I’d opt for something more familiar, more comforting.  Sometimes I didn’t even like playing video games because it’d hurt my head or it felt like it required more attention and energy than what I had available.  So, I was officially too much of a sack of shit to even play video games.

If you’re not drinking a ton and getting shit-faced hammered at things like concerts, or even the movies, you also have to piss less, so if I wait in line to see, say, Patti Smith, front stage, I won’t be like, “Uh-oh, gotta piss,” like two songs into the show and have to navigate all those angry elbows and disapproving faces.

I know my stomach approves, too.  I never thought of myself as a particularly heavy drinker, but I guess I was, because eating spicy food no longer runs the risk of me waking up at three in the morning, grasping my guts and deciding if I’m gonna try to sleep through the pain, or wait out a game of constirrhea (constipation-diarrhea) on the toilet, twisting, stretching and leaning.

I have a lot of work yet to do.  I think it would be best to see a therapist as I delve deeper into sobriety and as the process goes on, because I know there will be difficult days.  I’ve had difficult days so far, but I know there will be more to come.  It’s nice to have my wife on my side during all this for a lot of reasons.  She’s someone I can go to whenever I need to talk about something (she’s the first person reading this, so I hope she doesn’t have a problem with longwinded parentheticals), and she’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve decided to go sober.  I want to make her proud and I never want to disappoint her again.

Not with drinking, anyway.  I’m going to be super annoying while sober, too.