Dan Maurer wrote “I didn’t get sober just to write about recovery.”
Neither did I.
There was certainly a time when not drinking was everything. I knew that survival hinged on the fragile truth that I could not live through another spree. Saying ‘no’ was a well-rehearsed action. (Read here)
I have changed.
I caught the 3-minute podcast of Robert McClellan this weekend. I’ve heard folks argue whether to say they are recovered or in recovery. I prefer Robert’s take. Why would I claim either? Why would I want to restore my old self when I can grow into a new one? I am much happier as a man without those particular doubts, fears, and inadequacies that produced the need to drink.
I have grown.
I have grown beyond the person I recovered in early sobriety. I no longer define who I am by what I resist doing; I define myself by what I do.
This became clear to me this weekend. I was surrounded by drinks and drinkers. Drinking is a culture, and like David Foster Wallace wrote, “Culture is the water we swim in.”
I didn’t work Friday.
Instead, I attended a charity golf tournament with colleagues. While I technically “played golf,” “attended the event” is better phrasing. The beer cart offered me more cold drinks than I made clean hits of the golf ball. I am such a poor golfer that I didn’t reach my goal of one good shot in 18 holes.
With everyone else in my foursome drinking; with me hurling sod divots around instead of hitting the ball, you’d think the beer cart would become appealing. I heard the question “you sure?” with each pass. Surely the persistence of cold beer on a beautiful spring day while away from work and family would marinate in the ol’ alcoholic brain. But, the fact is
the role of alcohol has been completely eradicated from my life.
I don’t need the social lubricant; I’m quite comfortable (my wife says a little too comfortable) in who I am.
I don’t need to suppress my inhibitions; nothing feels like it’s ‘holding me back’ in social situations.
Free from needing alcohol, I find it amazing how little I want it.
The next night I celebrated my friend’s 5 years of sobriety at a dance party featuring Biz Markie.
The dance floor was a sea of Wu-Tang t-shirts, acid wash jeans, and fluorescent sweat bands. While it was 80s versus 90s night, every genre of music won: old school hip-hop, glam metal, grunge rock, gangsta’ rap, even boy band.
It was a night of throwbacks and samplers. One deejay played 15 seconds of each song before blending it into the next jam. The audience nodded knowingly at the first few iconic notes of “Billy Jean” or Blink 182’s “Please Tell Me” or Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right.”
It was like re-living my adolescence through song. Each tune was a new stroll down memory lane. Only memory lane for me is a dark, poorly lit street—the easier route home that you avoid at night. Cover bands raised toasts: “Whose drinking with us tonight!?” I recalled the songs through a former drunken haze, like staring at a distant fog.
Sober, I danced and sang along; I had a blast.
Watching the drunken revelry, I couldn’t stop wondering why. Why did I think I needed to drink to oblivion in order have fun? Why did I spend so much time eying down bartenders instead of dancing?
It reminded me that drinking would do nothing for me today. I am nonplussed by it. Alcohol’s existence or lack of existence is of no consequence to me any more.
Drunk and high, I was a fish in a fishbowl. Recovery showed me new waters. As a sober man, I swim in the great sea of life.