Having Fun Sober, Oh Joy
A friend of mine who is struggling with alcohol problems recently asked what I did for fun once I stopped drinking. It took me a minute to think about it and I didn't really have much to say. Everything running through my mind was going to sound really lame to someone who revolves everything they do around drinking. Or at least I would have thought so before I stopped drinking. So, I'm thinking to myself, come on...think, Allison. Tell her all the fun things you do so she will want to get sober too. And still, nothing. I have fun. I have a lot of fun. So, why couldn't I think of anything?
I think one the biggest fears of getting sober is that life will be boring without alcohol. It was certainly a fear for me. Drinking became a part of everything I did. I didn't know how to have fun without it. In fact, I didn't know how to do much in life without it. Alcohol was no longer fun for me. There were years that I thought I was having the time of my life. I know now, that was the delusion of alcohol. It made me believe I was having fun, but I wasn't. How could there be any fun in going out, spending a lot of money on alcohol, losing keys, losing my cell phone, getting locked out of my house, sleeping in my car, getting sick in my bed, ending up in the hospital with a concussion, having to look through pictures and text messages the next day to remember bits and pieces of my night, being horrified of what I might have said or done to embarrass myself, waking up hungover, and ridden with anxiety. The moral hangover was often worse than the actual hangover. Trying to piece together drunken nights was horrible. An absolute nightmare.
I didn't start drinking until I was 20 years old. So, for 20 years, I knew how to have fun without alcohol. When I was a kid, I loved riding my bike, going on picnics with my family, swimming from sun up to sun down in the summer, going to work with my Dad, helping my Mom cook dinner, fishing with my Grandpa, going to visit shut-ins with my Grandmother, and just something as simple as catching lightening bugs in the front yard with my brothers and sister. As I got a little older, I loved going to football games, coaching my little sister's youth league cheer team, spending summers at friends lake houses, and having slumber parties with girlfriends. As a kid, these things were fun to me, but they also brought me a lot of joy. As an adult, I didn't find joy in many things. Alcohol slowly removed the joy, and I no longer found these simple pleasures to be fun. The only thing I found "fun" was drinking.
I turned everything into a reason or occasion to drink. I wasn't a part of anything if it didn't involve alcohol, or if I couldn't incorporate it. I would "hide" my drinking when I was around my family for something as simple as a family dinner. I would need a buzz to pretty much go anywhere other than work. Vacations revolved around drinking. I would sneak wine into movie theaters. I would drink at home before going out with friends...to drink. The number of concerts, movies and shows I went to but don't remember much about, due to my level of intoxication, is just stupid. Why was it I thought I needed to get wasted to see Dave Chapelle? Did I think he would be funnier if I was wasted? No, I thought it would be more fun if I was drunk. Same thing for the Nora Jones concert I went to. Did I think she would sound better if I was drunk? No, I thought I would have more fun if I was drunk. Ironically, neither were fun because I don't remember anything about either of these events.
I've been racking my brain on what I do for fun, and what I have come up with is that, the things I find fun are the things that bring me joy. Simply being sober brings me joy. I have found a way of life that allows me to have fun doing things without alcohol. Sober, I am a better Christian, a better daughter, a better sister, a better aunt, a better niece, a better cousin, a better friend, and a better member of society. That brings me joy. I enjoy life. My life is fun, because there is joy. I look forward to waking up and being present for the day ahead of me. I focus my attention and energy in the moment, whether it's enjoying a cup of coffee, working out, talking on the phone to a friend, or playing ball with my nephews. I am not worried about getting a buzz before I do it...sneaking to hide alcohol while I am doing it...or obsessing over my next drink when it's over.
Living in the present is a pretty awesome way to live your life. And let's face it, it's really all we are guaranteed.
“Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It’s a feeling inside that can hardly be contained.”
-Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky