I Fell for This Huge Lie About Drinking – Just Like Everyone Else
How an Addict Overcame her Fear of Socializing Sober
For most people contemplating quitting drinking, a primary concern is how am I going to do the things I used to do sober? It can seem daunting to even sit on the couch and watch Netflix without a glass of wine in hand let alone go to a party and God forbid, socialize sober!
My first big challenge came 10 days after I quit drinking when I had to perform stand up comedy. I wouldn’t have done it but I’d already agreed to the gig before I quit drinking. I couldn’t remember the last time I went on stage without at least a few drinks in me. I’d never thought that indicated a drinking problem (despite having embarrassed myself on stage quite a few times) – I just thought that’s what comics do. I was edgy! – like Lenny Bruce if instead of getting arrested for tirades against fascism, he had been telling dick jokes at open mic nights.
Sitting backstage that night, I felt nervous and exposed and pretty sure I was going to suck. But once I was introduced and hit the stage, experience kicked in and it went fine. The worst part had been the anticipation. That became a theme for me in my first year sober. I’d gotten so used to drinking to avoid any uncomfortable feelings that doing normal things without the crutch of a glass of wine felt awkward and foreign at first, including: eating sushi without sake, having sex with my husband, dancing, going to parties, girl’s night out and especially, my first New Year’s Eve.
I would have just stayed home that night and watched the ball drop from the comfort of my couch, but I had the misfortune of being invited to a wedding. Who gets married on New Year’s Eve? I tried mingling among the guests but it seemed like every single person had a glass of champagne in their hand except for me –well me and my sister-in-law, but she was pregnant. But I was just boring. I managed to white knuckle my way through it and I have to say I was thankful when I woke up on New Year’s Day to another first: no hangover.
Eventually, not drinking almost started to feel more normal than drinking. Almost.
One night I went to hear a band for the first time sober and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible to enjoy a concert without alcohol. I admit I started to pity myself sitting there with my stupid bottle of water and soft pretzel instead of the customary plastic cup of beer. I felt jealous of the crowd, these people who could drink as much as they want whenever they want. They didn’t have to deprive themselves. But as I looked around I noticed a bizarre thing: tons of people had water bottles just like me. It didn’t make sense. I actually started counting and I was shocked that the number of water drinkers way outnumbered the beer drinkers. Finally I turned to my husband, “Do you think this is some kind of sober show?” I asked him. He looked at me funny. “I don’t think so. Why?” “Well, so many people are only drinking water. I don’t get it. They have to be alcoholics!” “It’s a Monday night. They probably have to work tomorrow.”
Oh. Yeah. That never would have occurred to me. And that’s when it finally hit me: not drinking every night didn’t make me abnormal; it actually made me normal – and healthy. Nowadays, I rarely think about drinking and seeing people drinking doesn’t make me feel left out. I have no problem going to parties, drinking green tea when I go to sushi and I even had fun going bowling. But I still prefer to stay home on New Year’s Eve and if that makes me boring, I’m fine with it.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor is an author, blogger and podcaster. She’s talked sobriety on Dr. Oz, Larry King Live, Dr. Drew, GMA, 20/20 and The Today Show. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three sporadically charming children.