"Are you boring?"
"When are you due?" (I'm not)
"I can't BELIEVE you don't drink, what's wrong with you?"
"So, when do you think you'll drink again?"
"That sucks....." (said person ignoring me for the rest of the evening)
"Come on, you don't have a problem"
"Wow, you must hate your life"
In the last six and a half years, because of my decision to be sober...and publicly sober, I have had the interesting experience of mentally collecting people's reactions to my recovery. And in doing so, I have become too aware of how people react when I tell them I don't drink.
When I first became sober, I was twenty seven. In the world today, particularly in our society, there are not many twenty seven year old women who can manage sobriety and being social without feeling the wrath of discrimination. Even twenty something starlets have a difficult time in the celebrity obsessed media realm handling their own recovery. At that age, it was difficult. I was newly single after my divorce. I wanted to maintain my social life, but being sober was my first priority. To do this successfully, I cut out many of the old haunts and the majority of my toxic friends. Even still, I found there to be a great stigma suddenly attached to who I was.
People wanted to know what made me like this. What possibly could have happened to me to cause such a drastic change in my life. Had I gotten a disease? There were times I flat out lied....."I'm training for something" or "I am taking a break". It was as if there needed to be a horrible, melodramatic explanation to cause me to cease a life of total irresponsibility.
There were some people, and still are, that would look at me sideways. I have gotten high fives to looks of disgust. I have had to answer questions, tell my life story, dodge out of places and look to other people for conversation. "Oh, you must have had a difficult childhood" or "You graduated from college and are an alcoholic?" I cannot tell you some of the crazy questions and perceptions that I have gathered over the years. It blows my mind.
Six years later, aside from battling the fact that every day of my life I would like to drink, I battle my own insecurities about being sober with the perception that others have of my choice. It's no longer as easy as early sobriety because I am fully integrated back into my life. I work in the advertising industry, with all its bells and whistles. I travel to hotels with mini-bars (I call and have it restocked with Diet Coke). I allow myself to go out where alcohol is served. I date men that drink normally. These are all choices that I have made to allow myself the freedom of living responsibly in the life that I want.
And with this, I live with discrimination every day. There are still parties that I am not invited to for fear that I may relapse (I don't plan on it, but telling that to some bigwig throwing a high end party doesn't work). I find that it has become my task to ensure that other people are comfortable with my decision at times.
In all of this turmoil, however, there is a drive that being sober has instilled within my core being. I am public about being sober and this works for me. I am convinced that I can change the perceptions of the people I meet. And I am determined to exist in this very hyped drinking world and remain a pillar in my own recovery beliefs.
It's not a stigma. If something doesn't work in life, one generally tries to fix it. Same with being an alcoholic. I was a broken, shattered twenty seven year old woman that would have either lost all my marbles or died if I didn't change the variables. So, I became the proverbial tool girl and gave myself the resources and strength I needed to stop.
While I live with all the conversations, perceptions and stigmas, I knowthat I am the only one who is responsible for my happiness. And to be happy, I cannot drink. I believe that being sober is a great existence. The self awareness and love for my life overcome most of the difficulties associated with being sober. The people I've met on my recovery journey are some of the most creative, articulate, passionate and successful people in the world.
And the resources and publicity that surround recovery, if it keeps gaining more respect to be sober, will overcome the negativity that people associate with the choice to be sober. At some point, I am hopeful and optimistic, being sober will be viewed by those people who still drink, as simply a good, healthy choice.
If not, I will personally continue to crusade the fact that recovery is amazing and very very cool. And I will continue to listen to the ridiculous reactions from people in hopes of compiling one of the funniest anecdotal books ever. And when I make my first million off of it, I will laugh.