Find Your Tribe and Keep Sobriety Weird
One of the women in my online community asked for help last week to get through Drunksgiving without drinking. When did Drunksgiving become an official, unofficial holiday? When did moms who are trick-or-treating with their kids on Halloween have to start pretending that they have vodka in their coffee cups if they don't want to drink? We have become a country of bullies who make each other feel like we HAVE to drink to fit in.
An article in USA Today last week was titled Alcohol is killing more people, and younger. The biggest increases are among women. The statistics in the article are depressing but they didn't surprise me. I've been seeing statistics like that since I stopped drinking almost 4 years ago. When I was first sober, I expected other people to notice those statistics as well and maybe fight back or at least question the alcohol industry gleefully touting wine as health food. But sadly, the articles that tell you wine will help you lose weight and fend off heart disease get a lot more Facebook shares than those saying people, especially women, are dying in record numbers.
When I stopped drinking, I had no idea where to look for help. I have learned that community and accountability are crucial whether you chose to go sober for life, cut down, or just take a break. But where can you look for support beyond the traditional 12 step program? Fortunately, there's a huge and diverse online community. You can join us at BOOM Rethink the Drink on Mighty Networks, or if you prefer Facebook check out the Booze Free Brigade. Belle from Tired of Thinking About Drinking runs as a fantastic 100-day challenge. I would NOT be almost four years happily sober if I hadn't read Belle's blog in my first month.
If you don't want to become a statistic REACH OUT! We're here.
When I was 49, I was tired and fed up—and dull. I was dragging around a bottle of wine like a ball and chain that I thought I NEEDED, DESERVED, and had EARNED. Yes, it took some time to adjust to ending a day without a bottle or two of vino. But at almost four years sober, I am vibrant and free and I am never turning back!
I had the strangest dream last night. It was one of those complicated stories that goes on and on with just a flash of remembrance when you wake up. The kind of dream that always slips away unless you write it down quickly. In the dream, I was talking to my therapist (which I don't have) and we had been doing very deep intensive work. I was hoping that we were wrapping up and I could stop talking, but I had this sort of hangdog kid feeling—and she was looking at me like this…
Exactly like this picture.
I had just said, "So do you think we're done?" when she gave me this calm, somewhat ironic, but warm and knowing look.
She didn't actually say "What do you think?" but I heard those words as clearly in my soul as if she had said them out loud—and yes, my therapist was Kristi Coulter, which is brilliant on so many levels.
If you've never heard of the star blogger and author Kristi Coulter, let me introduce you to more than her photo. The blog Off-Dry she used to chronicle her sober journey caught fire when her post entitled "Enjoli" went viral in a way that inspired and outraged the world. Nothing Good Can Come from This is her recently published debut book, a collection of 52 essays sprinkled with Kristi's signature razor-sharp wit.
I had known about the "Enjoli" phenomenon from Ann Dowsett Johnston's Drink and Gabrielle Glaser's Her Best Kept Secret. I also knew that Enjoli referred to an ad campaign that gave a big push to birthing the Mommy's Wine Time generation. But all that aside, the reason that Kristi showed up as my dream therapist was the way her sobriety blog fortified and anchored my sobriety. Her voice is my all-time favorite for truly understanding and articulating what you need to do to stay sober.
"I’m saying, think about cutting yourselves some slack. Have a cupcake if you want it. Buy two cupcakes and eat only the frosting parts of both of them, which is a thing I have heard some other people do. Go to a movie in the middle of the day. Sleep late. Binge-watch something. Smoke a bunch of cigarettes, if it’s going to make not drinking a little easier.
Goof off. Fuck around.
This is not about being lazy for the rest of your life, or gaining fifty pounds or getting fired or resigning yourself to lung cancer. This is about giving yourself some space to just be sober for a bit until you’ve got some momentum. You’ll know when you’re ready to tackle the next thing–and you’ll be ready in a way that you probably couldn’t even recognize right now, so early on. It’s hard for me to describe what that readiness feels like, except to say that it’s wonderful and solid and when you get there, you may have a sense that you felt like this long ago. Before. Oh, and when the time comes, you get to decide what it means to be good. Personally, I ended up dropping ‘crafting expert’ from the list, but replaced it with ‘ability to have an honest conversation w/a human being.’ So it all balances out.
But until then: You do not have to be good. You just have to be sober. And the rest will come in time. I promise it will. And I’ve never been wrong about anything."
Kristi is the one I turn to for a dose of insight and humor. Her voice feels like the warm smile of a close friend who understands—one of many voices within a growing sober community who helped me discover that a life without alcohol is far from the boring, heavy slog I expected and feared. Kristi's brand of realism laced with wicked humor made her my therapist. Who else would have shown up in my dream? So maybe her voice will be the perfect thing to get a lot of people through "Drunksgiving" and weeks of holiday madness without caving into the pressure to drink.
With so many engaging, wise, drop-dead funny voices online today, no one has to feel alone or misunderstood in their choice to stay alcohol-free during the ”drunking" season. I feel empowered, happy, peaceful and free and so can you!
Thank you to all who have joined me on the road. For leading the way and walking beside me. For letting me turn and reach back to you. Sobriety truly does deliver everything that alcohol falsely promised—and so much more. In Kristi's words: "I got sober. Life got big."
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