Sobriety Season: Is it “if” or “when?”

Sobriety Season

For us imbibers, the calendar can be divided into three drinking seasons.


The holiday season starts about mid October for most. I am an overachiever, both as a lush and as a lover of scary movies, so my holiday season starts on October first, sharp. The holiday season runs through the fourth quarter of the college football national championship game when one SEC team that I don’t care about crushes the year’s eager victim. Between the bookends, the excuses to drink line up in an organized, dependable, evenly spaced out succession making sobriety unthinkable, and moderation a celebratory faux pas. Drinkers have plenty of reasons to drink during the holiday season.


Next comes the short days and cold nights of the seemingly endless season of winter. For many of us, especially those of us with a regimented commitment to the consumption of a powerful depressant, winter is a battle to keep our mood and attitude out of the pit of despair. It is during the winter season that our drinking is the most medicinal and seemingly necessary. Drinkers have a subconscious need to drink during the winter season.


We are now on the precipice of the third season of the drinker’s calendar: summer. Schools take a three-month hiatus, public pools open, and mowing the lawn makes its triumphant return to our weekly routines. Memorial Weekend is like a starter’s pistol at a track meet propelling us forward into a season of neighborhood barbecues and pool parties with insulated plastic coolers full of frosty adult beverages. If a drinker can’t constantly find a reason to drink in the summer, well, he must be suffering from sun poisoning or heat stroke (probably brought on by passing out at high noon in a lawn chair).


I’ve taken the ride around the calendar 49 times, roughly half of those circuits as a drinker. If you are considering sobriety, and you’re waiting for the timing to be right, I’ve got bad news for you. There is no easy sobriety season. The holiday season buts right up to winter, winter runs seamlessly into summer, and the holidays are upon us before we find the time to blow out the sprinklers and stash our adorable little drink umbrellas. The reasons to drink are relentless. And although the reasons to stop drinking scream with increasing volume right in our befuddled faces, we can’t hear them over the little carbonated explosion sounds as we open our beers and hard seltzers.


There is no good time to quit drinking.


Three hundred and sixty-five days is the perfect amount of time for our brains to scrub the trauma, shame and disappointment from our memories leaving us with glistening recollections of painless alcohol-induced joy. As we enter the summer season yet again, we don’t remember stumbling home at 3am after what started as a neighborhood front porch gathering, or puking in a friend’s bushes after a fireworks celebration that included endless shots of Fireball and Jager. That was so last summer. We drinkers are absolute masters of compartmentalization, thus the bad stuff gets tucked neatly away leaving only memories of sunshine and laughter and drips of condensation cascading down the sides of brown bottles of much-needed, much deserved refreshment.


But here’s the rub: If you are reading this, some part of you knows that you, or someone you love, needs sobriety like a hot charcoal grill needs hotdogs. No one gets 600 words into an essay about sobriety without knowing that the first word in the question isn’t “if,” it’s “when.”


If you are wondering “when” as we approach Memorial Day – the unofficial start to summer and the best time of year to buy a matress – at least you’re asking the right question. That “if” question throws us into a spiral of irrational internal argumentation and mental gymnastics. “If” is utterly exhausting, and a professional alcoholism status debater like me (and maybe you) can make a soul-crushing career out of pondering the merits of sobriety. “If” is for the weak and indecisive. “If” is for people who lack the strength to climb the mountain of sobriety. “If” is for the reality denialists who think freedom is being shackled to a debilitating addiction. If you are reading this, let me be the first to welcome you to the promise afforded only to the askers of the question, “when.”


There is no good time to quit drinking. And also, anytime is the optimal time to quit drinking.


Much internal debate, and thus much wasted time, can still be had when the question moves from “if” to “when.” But for “when” askers, the calendar analysis above offers sweet relief. The Gregorian monk responsible for the  calendar must have been a big drinker, because there are no gaps of time suitable for the initiation of sobriety. Anytime is Miller Time. In fact, for a drinker like me, everytime is Miller Time.


If you are asking “when,” and you are staring at weekend after relentless weekend of outdoor concerts and backyard parties, with maybe a week of vacation or two sprinked in, you might be scratching your head and trying to find a place to wedge sobriety into you social planning. You might be thinking it will be easier to wait for fall. You might be wrong, because there is nothing easy about sobriety. Timing is just the tip of the iceberg of the life-altering challenges of sobriety. It is hard, but so very worth it. So why not get the easiest hard part out of the way – choosing when to start – and start right now?


There is no good time to quit drinking. Except, now is the best possible time to quit drinking.


Do you really want to go through another summer season of playing off your intoxication as normal and celebratory and just a “boys will be boys” one-off from your normal existence? Do you really want to make your relationships worse and risk leaving a permanent stain on the mental health of your kids? Do you really want to break shit and sleep away every Sunday morning and add to the pile of shame and regret just because it’s summer and you can’t imagine grill tongs in one hand without a beer in the other? Do you really want to make life worse before you start the daunting task of making life better?


The calendar offers no respite. I’ve checked. I’ve searched. I’ve wasted a lot of time wasted. You can believe me now, or you can believe me later, because the answer you seek is not a question of “if,” it’s all about “when.”


Ready or not…


For your sake, I hope the time is now.


At SHOUT Sobriety, we believe that you’ve got this, and we’ve got you. Check out the support we offer when you are ready to leave the pain, and the booze, behind you.

SHOUT Sobriety

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  • Reply
    Matias Gomes
    June 7, 2023 at 6:17 am

    Hi Matt, thank you so much for the reminder that in any time of the year there are always “good” excuses to drink. In Portugal it’s exactly the same. In Lisbon we have a full June of festivities in Lisbon, and during the summer there are all kinds of festivals everywhere and most are sponsored by brands of booze, mainly beer. I’ve been sober for one year and a month now and I still wouldn’t dare to put myself in situations that could easily jeopardize my sobriety. That doesn´t mean I don’t have fun. I do. And I do it in a more relaxed way, not thinking about the next drink or if there’s alcohol enough, or even by not worrying about driving. I’m 51 and my life is so much better now. So I’d like to thank you once more because some time ago you were the trigger for my decision to quit drinking. Such a precious gift. Thank you, Matt!

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      June 7, 2023 at 11:05 am

      Wow Matias! What a wonderful comment. Thanks for confirming that the influences are similar around the world, and congratulations on your sobriety!

  • Reply
    Vonalda Utterback
    June 7, 2023 at 10:19 am

    Powerful words, Matt. You are a great writer with an amazing ability to cut to the heart of the matter with surgical precision, without beating anyone over the head – both informing and captivating us with the truth, so we want to keep reading. We want to know what you have to say, because it may, just possibly, save us.

    • Reply
      Matt Salis
      June 7, 2023 at 11:06 am

      That is an incredibly rewarding and humbling message to receive, Vonalda. Thanks for reading and sharing your feedback!

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