Who knew? 13 Kick-Ass benefits of Sobriety
Who Knew? 13 Kick - Ass Benefits of Sobriety
After a decade or so of failed attempts, I finally got sober to end my spiraling self-hatred instead of my life. Beyond that singular goal, I had no capacity to consider less existential but nonetheless kick-ass benefits of sobriety. Here 13 of my favorites in no particular order.
1 - Abandon self-control
When it's a foregone conclusion that you'll feel like shit in the AM — that's its just a matter of degree — drinkers need to consider morning responsibilities like work and parenting, and moderate (in theory) accordingly.
How hungover can I be?
8 am presentation? Better drink like a normal person
8 am training? I can tolerate some pain.
Field trip with toddlers? Damn it!
Limits are set and continually adjusted as needed to deny failure. Fueled by alcohol, we continue to tell ourselves lies about self-control with no awareness that these never-ending negotiations weigh down every heavy minute.
Imagine that you’re stuck in a dental chair and no longer feel the bulk of an X-ray apron on your chest. Now remove it, abandon self-control and go do something crazy.
2 - Run for your life
People who ran - or otherwise exercised - in the evening struck me dumb.
Post 5 PM exercise conflicts with prime socially acceptable drinking time. No hiding required. Is that even fair? Nonnegotiable.
Post 5 AM exercise conflicts with prime hangover time, so that's just not a thing.
On rare occasions when I forced myself to run in the evening, I focused only on how much time and distance stood between me and a glass of Merlot. I saw people run as if they had no better place to be as if this was the place to be – their means to an end of daily stress. They looked like I wanted to feel.
Sobriety refunds these hours.
Let's say that alcohol directly or indirectly trumps fitness from 5 pm - 9:30 pm and 5 am - 8 am. To err on the conservative side, we'll assume weekend hours remain the same. By flipping the power structure, we gain 50 + previously unavailable hours per week for improving our health and clearing our minds.
3 -Meet you at the food truck
Some of the best food in my town is authentic, ethnic, international cuisine doled out from truck windows in a gravel lot or closet sized store fronts with a laminate counter. Happy diners straddle picnic table benches and line the curbs clutching black plastic baskets or plain paper containers brimming with untold depths of yumminess. It’s generally cheap. And rarely can these startups afford a liquor license. Nope nope nope. I was completely bias blind until sober.
How stunned I was when I heard myself suggest a quick bite at the trending Cuban hole-in-the-wall.
Bi Bim Bop at Bell's diner? Sure!
Want to grab $1.50 tacos at Chela's? Let's go.
4 - Take the damn call
Admittedly, this isn't a great hook for the telephone adverse. I hate chatting on the phone as much as the next introvert, but it's good to be able to talk your Mom when she calls to tell you she gave her credit card # to a stranger. Knowing that I’m too buzzed to speak with my mother at 9 PM comes at a cost. Avoidance comes with a price.
Guilt is to alcoholism like water to a fire hydrant.
With sobriety, you choose. You don’t have to talk to your mother* but you know you can.
*Or anyone else that's likely to detect your sliding sobriety and pass judgment.
5 - Adulting
It's hard to admit that important, at times critical, conversations with my spouse about our relationship, finances, the house, or challenges with our daughters, were often postponed until I could fully participate. Or forgotten, downgraded by rationalizations, or buried.
As a parent, It's hard to find time and space for difficult emotionally charged conversations without interruptions or extra ears. Unfortunately, for many, that time is early mornings and late evenings. You see the problem. Of course, communication is critical in all relationships and alcoholism spares none of them. With the benefit of sobriety, discussions happen when they need to. Ish.
Sober humans struggle with timely and transparent communication too. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. Better is good.
6 - Cake and coffee with a caveat
If you’re reading this, you most likely wave away the dessert menu, proudly demonstrating to yourself that you control what you eat and drink.
“I drink my dessert” is a useful phrase that both acknowledges the obvious and scores points in the I have nothing to hide category.
As you pity your friend who orders chocolate cheesecake one week into a sugar free diet, you struggle to comprehend the recklessness of wasting calories on buzz killing food.
When getting drunk becomes the fixation, dessert is like eating an orange after brushing your teeth.
Dinners that evolve into extended coffee chats vs. rousing story slams can trigger anxiety attacks. In a pinch, you can sip Drambuie or Sambuca, but this requires dire circumstances for me. Without disposable income or a cultivated appreciation for jazz or poetry, this move can backfire and make my desperation transparent.
As an artificially manic child, I maintained a perpetual sugar high with daily candy consumption equivalent to a six pack of Red Bulls. As an adult, when I was unable to drink enough alcohol, for whatever reason, I supplemented with sugar. Two beers and a 25 saltwater taffy. Two glasses of wine and a jumbo pack of skittles (original - don’t even get me started).
Three months into sobriety, my sweet tooth kicked down the pantry door.
Three years later, I rarely miss dessert. It scratches the sugar itch and signals that I’ve safely made it to the other side of drinking. A strong espresso topped an aromatic caramel colored frothy crema is the perfect ending.
Caveat: Sugar and alcohol are inextricably linked. Most recovering alcoholics crave sugar. Pay close attention to your emotions. Familiar feelings of guilt, shame, or lack of control, are warning signs that you may be switching vices. Be wary of the sugar backfill.
7 Let’s talk calories
Not sayin’, just sayin’.
Short’s Huma-lupa-liscious India Pale Ale - 230 calories
8 oz (no judgment) goblets of red wine - 240 calories
Rye Manhattan - 140 calories
These are my units of measure. I did some scary math. In sobriety, I consume 9,000 fewer calories per week. Try your own honest calculation. No one needs to see but you.
Make of this what you will.
8 - Don’t worry about the worry
If you think that sobriety may be right for you, chances are someone is worried about you. Thanks to expert manipulations, the severity of our drinking problem is likely underestimated, but more detectable than we can bear to believe.
People care about you. Family and friends love you. Even if they’ve never voiced concern, they worry.
It’s a burden to know a friend or loved one is worried about you. It’s more of a burden to pretend that they’re not.
I knew my mother, hurricane Gladys, was concerned about my drinking.
She stopped by my house one day to map out our genealogical history of alcoholism. In a poorly executed attempt to conceal her motives, she told me she shared this random family trivia with my brother.
While I was training for a half-marathon, she told me about an old friend who was very fit and ran every day but drank too much and died. Isn’t it odd, she said, to know you can be so fit and yet unhealthy?
I chose a public place to tell her I quit drinking to contain the extent of my undoing.
She smiled and said only “I’m so relieved to hear that. I’ve been worried about you, you know”.
9 - FEELINGS
Alcohol is used to celebrate as much as to medicate, so the full range of human emotions is muted. Sobriety strips away the anesthetic agent, leaving you adrift with foreign feelings that SHOUT AT YOU IN ALL CAPS. The shock is like walking from pitch black into blazing sunshine. And without the most basic skills to process them, scary.
Over time, you learn to label emotions and devise coping mechanisms that don’t involve alcohol. With sobriety at 49, I learned that I had been numbing extremely high anxiety which I negotiate daily and with the help of a patient saintly therapist.
There is an honesty to full strength emotions that makes one feel grounded in the moment. The present is a healthy place to be with all its pain and sorrow, love and beauty.
10- Duh, but hear me out
No hangovers! I had no intention of including this because duh. Hello.. Never drinking again is always possible in the holy hell of mornings. Promises are made daily and broken. Repeat.
My fantasies involved pain-free mornings without raw self-loathing. I imagined a neutral place void of the horrors of hangovers but the pendulum swings far past center. I wake up feeling refreshed, proud, and healthy. But wait, there’s more!
Sobriety is Pilates for marinated organs.
Since retiring my body as a pickling jar, my liver is feeling buff.
Relaxing after decades of using alcohol to unwind is a learned skill.
In early sobriety, there is TIME. So much time. These are hours that were spent stewing in the epic saga All Things Alcohol. Every cell in your body wants to grab a drink and relax. The void can be terrifying and somehow must be filled. I exercised obsessively - walked, ran, trained for a marathon, ran a marathon, took yoga classes, joined Orange Theory fitness, and plowed through books as if they would not last to see another day. It was purely manic, and my life depended on it.
After a year of so, I could engage in extended conversations, spend hours browsing in a bookstore or people watch from a downtown cafe with serenity. I still read a lot, run erratically, and occasionally Netflix binge a new season of The Crown or Man in the High Castle. I’ve also discovered a new passion which is both therapy and a much needed outlet for creativity and anxiety. Writing.
What do you like to do? How do you relax?
12 - Let’s be honest - guilt begets shame begets secrets begets guilt ….
Alcoholism is a malignant cancer of secrecy.
Little white lies and strategic maneuvers layer like avocado leaves and cling together in one trembling facade. When the first big lie is blown up — I’m an alcoholic — I have a drinking problem — I need to quit drinking— the layers peel back like a peony blooming in time-lapse photography.
Secrets so deep they’ve barely bubbled up past your own conscience pour out like out like water. The spigot is open. Honesty also begets honesty. It’s shocking how easy it is to find kin folk once you speak freely and to discover that your darkest secrets are in fact, universal, common, and nothing to be ashamed about.
Honesty is a potent agent in learning about, accepting, loving and being our authentic selves with all of our inherent human flaws and beauty.
13 - The endorphin wheel
This is the opposite of the spiral of self-hatred. It’s a monumental accomplishment to meet a sobriety goal, whether that be an hour, a day, a week or longer. After circling the drain of failure and broken promises, This. Is. Huge. Endorphin bump.
You feel kinda proud and light and go for a walk on a beautiful day. Bump. You come home refreshed and lend an ear to your kid or partner or cockapoo. Bump.
Keep going. You get the idea.