A sobriety challenge

Posted by in Life

I have always thought it would never be a problem for me to stop drinking. I’m a light weight: I get tipsy after a pint. I don’t do happy hour every day. I have the occasional glass of wine with dinner, or beer afterwork, or cocktail on a night out. But nothing too extravagant. So, I thought: how hard could sobriety be?

Earlier this year, I decided to put that to a test. And I made it easy for myself. I picked April to be my dry month. I knew I was going to spend a week or so with a friend whom hasn’t touched a drink in two years so, I felt it would be even easier since I wouldn’t be tempted. You guessed it… Boy was I wrong.

When the wine is in, the wit is out.
– Thomas Becon

The first couple of weeks went on like a charm. I proudly said no to beers while still saying yes to happy hour. I was determined to prove that your didn’t need to drink to be social. I ordered club sodas and tomato juices. I tried root beer and ginger beer. Lemonade. Discovered a realm of new options and flavors (well, in most places). Even enjoyed Shirley Temple cocktails with my pregnant friend and felt really good about not drinking alcohol in front of her.

That only lasted for a while though. At some point, I found myself at happy hour with another friend. A single friend. Not a table full of people that I could transfer social pressure onto. Just her and me. And the wine menu. That was the end of the sobriety challenge.

What happened? It’s hard to tell. I’m sure my friend would have been just fine if I had ordered a tomato juice. Maybe she would have gotten wine. Or maybe not. But I didn’t.

Instead, I let my head get the best of me. I didn’t want to be a party pooper. I didn’t want her to feel awkward drinking alone. I didn’t want her to ask questions about why I wasn’t ordering wine. I didn’t want to miss out on a good glass of wine and a good time with my friend because of a stupid challenge.

She never said anything. She never influenced me to order a glass of wine. It is a decision I made consciously. I knew I was giving up on the challenge. I didn’t care enough.

That’s the thing though. I didn’t care enough. I was not emotionally involved in sobriety enough to make it a priority over other options like enjoyment or social convenance. We didn’t get drunk that night. We had our wine, a nice conversation, some good food and we went home. And it didn’t feel like doing something wrong at all.

Since that, I have resumed my casual drinking: a beer here, a glass of wine there, a cocktail once in a while (I love a good cocktail). I’m totally comfortable with not being sober because I feel like I’m (mostly) in control of how much alcohol I’m having. But I also realized how much harder it would be for me to quit cold turkey than I ever imagined.

The level of commitment needed to achieve that break from a social convenance is not on the surface level. It’s not the mental strength of “winning a challenge” that has us take real shifts in life. This kind of a change needs a much deeper source, an emotional vulnerability that not many people are armed to embrace. And I can only show admiration and respect for the one who do.