A crowded subway platform in New York City.

Sober in the City: I Want To Drink To De-stress, But I Can’t. Now What?

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Staying sober in NYC, even when life gets stressful.

Last Friday, I worked 8 hours on my feet at my retail job in SoHo. As much as I love people, it’s emotionally taxing to be “on” for an entire day with a smile on my face. Toward the end of my shift, I was pretty grumpy. On my train ride home, my grumpiness continued when I realized the train had no seats left. I had to stand for 20 more minutes, shoulder to shoulder with stinky strangers in a crowded little box.

I stood there, with my eyes closed, picturing myself taking a bath while drinking a big glass of wine. This delusional thought was so relaxing, I may have even smiled. When the train slammed on its brakes, and I had to get off at my stop, it brought me right back to my reality: I. Can’t. Drink. Wine was never even my drink of choice—I was always more of a Jack-Daniels-straight-from-the-bottle kind of gal (#classy).

I’ve been sober for over a year, and I still struggle with the fact that I can never drink again. This very thought can be overwhelming sometimes. On the 10-minute walk home, I listened to a few tracks from Coldplay’s first album, Parachutes. The piano intro to “Trouble” was the soothing melody that I needed in that moment. It calmed me down. It helped me accept the fact that taking a bath and enjoying a glass of wine are not viable options for me because my apartment doesn’t have a working bathtub and I have a terribly unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

In recovery, I’ve had to learn new ways to de-stress

As soon as I got home, I made a warm cup of tea and put on some comfy clothes. I sipped my tea in the comfort of my bed while writing in my journal. In this moment, I remembered how, for years, I chose to drink until I forgot what was stressing me out. Now in sobriety, I choose to pause and reflect on the madness of my day. I identify my stressors and how they made me feel.

After journaling, I meditated for 20 minutes. I lay there in my dark bedroom, as I felt the day throb through me. My body ached. My mind was mush. I took a series of deep breaths, desperate to find relaxation. The sirens, honking, and yelling outside my window are customary now. My mind has accepted these background noises as non-negotiable. This is urban city life. It hurts. It’s loud. It’s triggering. It’s not for everyone. Sometimes, I have to remind myself why it’s for me.

New York City life is tough. Sobriety in this city is even tougher. Somehow, the two came together and worked for me. As much as I sometimes wish I could come home to a relaxing glass of wine, I’m happy that I chose to unwind in a different way.

I do wish my bathtub worked though.

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Tawny is an NYC-based millennial also known as The Sober Sexpert. Her book, Dry Humping: A Guide to Dating, Relating, and Hooking Up Without Booze comes out September 19, 2023. Her work is featured in PlayboyMen’s HealthWriter’s Digest, and two essay collections: The Addiction Diaries and Sex and the Single Woman. She is the co-host of Recovery Rocks podcast and the story developer for the Webby-Award-winning podcast, F*cking Sober. Tawny has shared her recovery story on stages all across the world: IOGT World CongressNew York State Recovery ConferenceUnited Federation of Teachers, and more. She’s the founder of the Readings on Recovery reading series and her blog, SobrieTea Party. She’s a charity volunteer with Road Recovery and an award-winning filmmaker of the recovery documentary, Fixed Up.

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