Sobriety sucks. Now that I don’t drink, I’ve been stripped of my alcohol-induced intelligence and infallibility. I used to be right all the time. That’s why I talked so loud and repeated myself so often. I had a lot to say, and I was proud to bestow on everyone within earshot my slobbery wit and careless observations. They talk about the health benefits of moderate drinking like poise, attraction, decision making and better-smelling breath. I’d like to add another one. Alcohol made me smart. I was always right. Now I’m wrong a lot.
I blame all this damn listening I am doing now in sobriety. Taking in the verbal observations and opinions of others, processing the words without prejudgement, and considering the relevance and potential accuracy of the people around me is a real drag on my opinion of myself. How can other people have good ideas? Since when do other humans possess perspectives worth considering? How can I be right all the time if others can be right some of the time? Not only did alcohol make me smart, it also made me impervious to the alternative viewpoints of almost everyone I encountered. I stop drinking my intelligence potion, work on myself for a few years, and whammo! Just like that, my ears are more than just sunglasses holders. Nobody told me this side effect of long-term sobriety.
I remember when I was considering sobriety, and I carefully crafted my opinion of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was convinced they were just a bunch of sad sacks filing into damp church basements to sit on cold metal folding chairs to drink bad coffee and smoke cancer sticks while whining to each other about their lots in life. Losers! I mean, who finds a group of empathetic people with shared traumatic experiences and tries to work through their issues through a set of processes with proven results over decades of trial and error, anyway? Who does that, when instead, we all have the opportunity to do the same things, over and over again, and just expect different results? That’s the key to successful alcohol moderation. Take some compulsiveness, stir in some chaotic mind syndrome, sprinkle on some childhood trauma, and finish it off with a heaping dose of insanity. Salt to taste and bake to perfection. Oh, and don’t forget to stunt your emotional growth with alcohol from a very early age so you’re completely incapable of managing the normal ups and downs of the human experience (that last one deserves masterclass-level training and certification).
And another thing about sobriety…who would want to know what his spouse thinks of him? I mean, now I have to be considerate and show at least a minimum level of compassion to foster a thriving relationship. Alcohol made my marriage so much easier. I just told my wife what to think and when to think it. I ignored her frustration with me, and rather, focussed on all the things that made me frustrated about her. When she rejected my omnipotent advice and instruction, and raised up in defiance of my clear superiority, I just massively increased the dosage of my dominance potion until she retreated in defeat and questioned all the important decisions she had ever made in her life. Those were the days. After a heated exchange of opinions where I spent all the time when she was talking as preparation periods for what I would scream next, I napped for a while, then woke demanding sex as a reward for all of the incoherent knowledge I had previously spat at her. What a lucky girl. Now, I consider her physical and emotional wellbeing before suggesting physical contact. What a waste of my perfectly good perpetual horniness.
And oh how I miss my ability to control the mood of an entire room of people merely by my presence. Actively drinking or not, as an alcoholic, I could put my family or my employees on pins and needles without even opening my mouth. It was a look. The way I drooped my shoulders. How I could ignore people who were right in front of me, sharing the same oxygen, as though their very existence was an unwelcomed hindrance. All of this acknowledging, conversing, mutual respect and admiration, and occasional laughing I do now with the people I like and love is a royal time drain. I don’t have nearly as much freedom to sulk in isolation as I did as a drinker. Who knew all of these joyful relationships would spring magically from years of sobriety and effort in recovery?
Do you know what else sucks about sobriety? I can’t remember the last time I woke with a massive headache, still wearing my clothes from the night before, and dug into my pockets to find ATM receipts and no cash. That experience always inspired me to dig into my other pocket in search of my phone to explore a litany of incoherent texts and unanswered phone calls placed long after the hour of polite conversation. I mean, what a sign of love for my wife to see how many times I had called and woken her up the night before. I don’t know how she even knows I love her anymore now that I sleep lazily beside her almost 100% of the one-o-clocks in the morning. Sleep-filled nights, and a relatively good idea where our money is and what we’ve both spent it on, is boring. Where’s the panic-inducing adventure in sobriety?
Oh, and all these accurate memories. Who needs to have a clear, coherent, chronological catalog of the events of all of his waking hours? Sometimes it feels as though I might forever know what I’ve said and what I’ve done leaving no embarrassment, shameful investigation, cautious reading of my wife’s mood, or hiding from people for weeks at a time. Questions remain for the exploring, delightful conversations give me a little tinge of joy for days, and polite interactions leave me without doubt or fear of pending catastrophe. It’s as though, in permanent sobriety, I am doomed to walk the earth with the kind of intact memory of someone fully engaged in the human experience. Alcohol certainly freed me from all of this connecting and remembering bullshit.
No panic. No shame. No chaos. No dreadful gaps in memory. No financial drain. No eggshells or gaslighting. No dysfunctional relationships. I know what sobriety has stripped from my life. So what, exactly, does sobriety and recovery work have to offer?
I would tell you, but now that I’m not always right all the time anymore, I’d just be guessing.
And that’s why sobriety sucks.
If you are ready to explore the suckiness of sobriety with a bunch of former high-functioning alcoholics who know what you’ll be leaving behind, and are tolerant of your new-found imperfection, why not give SHOUT Sobriety a try?