Monday 8 September 2014

8 months sober! Thanks for being a sober oasis in what looks like a booze-soaked world.

Nearly three weeks have passed since I last wrote here. So first I'll assure anyone who's reading along, all is well. I'm still sober--8 months as of yesterday. Hooray!!! Last year it seemed impossible for me to go one day without wine. I can't come close to articulating how pleased I am that I took the leap and quit drinking for good.

Part of the reason I didn't write is we took a little late summer vacation on which I fell off my bike and injured my arm (hitting garden hose across slippery path=serious road rash + deeply apologetic landscapers) so I had to do as little computer time as possible. The cuts and bruises are healing now and I can do most things again. There was no irreparable damage to either me or the bike, and I bought myself a fetching new bike helmet because you really should do that after a crash. (And I find it kind of funny that, a few weeks after a big, difficult bike trip, I was knocked sideways on an easy little urban bike path that I've been on hundreds of times. There's no knowing what to worry about, which I guess means no point worrying, right?)

But the bigger story is, I just started grad school. Scary stuff! So far I love the courses and I expect it will be interesting and challenging and all that. I could say a million things about it, but I want to talk about this: school and booze. It's astonishing! I should have expected this, but I didn't--university life is awash with booze. During the last week, both my classes included multiple mentions of alcohol (including "what a normal person does when stressed.") I received emails inviting me to "keggers" ("free beer and vodka" and "bring other fun drinks, like wine.") I attended a professional development day where we discussed social inclusion and dealing sensitively with people, and were encouraged many times to attend the closing social ("get to know each other and have some fun with the two dollar beer, cheap vodka, and free burgers.") At that social, soda water cost three dollars (yes, a dollar more than a beer) and the bartender was oddly surly about it. In addition to that, every single meeting and social event included several conversations about drinking (the allure of a perfect martini, the problem of balancing social drinking with the inevitable hangovers, who can hold their drink, etc.)

By the end of the week, I was a little bit exhausted with that whole side of things. I'm really glad I've been sober as long as I have. Because it's not that I wanted to drink. I didn't. Well, sometimes I did, in that way you want two things at once. After the first day--which was 15 hours long and involved several episodes getting lost in buildings I should know, and one spell wandering outside in the dark and in the pouring rain because I was hungry and disoriented and my injured arm was hurting so I couldn't ride my bike home but I couldn't find the bus stop--I recognized that this was the kind of thing that would have sent me to a drink. I kind of longed for one, but at the same time, I was so grateful to be sober. Because I didn't cry when I got lost. And I didn't lose patience with myself. I was kind to myself, and coached myself along to do what I had to do, and I managed to get myself home and sitting with a cup of tea before I had a good old weep.

I'm so grateful to be sober, and I need to be sober to do this school gig. It's not that I cope perfectly now, but I cope a lot better. But being immersed in such a strong alcohol culture will take some coping. I don't want to drink. I'm not going to. That's not what I'm talking about here. But I see how alcohol is something people use as a way to break the ice and develop camaraderie and signal fun and inclusion and a whole lot of things, and it's simply something I don't share with the others, which is one more way of leaving me on the outside of what's happening. It's alienating, being around all that booze talk. Mostly, I don't want to engage with it. (Though I did suggest to the event organizer that providing a sponsored non-alcohol option would be a more inclusive way to host people, and that felt like a good start, even though she took up my comment as a way to be sensitive to people not drinking "for religious reasons.")

I'm also amazed and grateful that you're here, fellow sober bloggers are readers and lurkers and people who say nice things or just click and read or whatever you do. It's a whole other world in here, and I know being in it is a huge help to me in the big outside world. I don't have my time organized yet, but I know for my sanity I will have to make the time to keep reading and commenting and writing and responding to comments. Because being part of this sober blogging world has been a huge blessing to me, both in helping me figure out how to live without booze (and seeing how much better life without booze really is) and offering me a much needed place to belong. Thanks for being here with me.

Peace and love and happy September to you all!


  1. Good for you going back to school. What are you studying? I just finished my degree last year, but it took me 10 years, as I did it extramurally. University life is certainly awash with alcohol. It must be difficult to be around at times. I like the idea of being kind to yourself and coaching yourself along. I'm still learning to do this.

  2. How utterly weird and stupid and thoughtless the booze-soaked world looks when you've been sober for a while. I felt horrified reading your descriptions of university life, and yet when I think about it, a few months ago this would have seemed normal to me, and had I been in your shoes starting a new course, I'd have been thrilled at these booze and schmooze sessions. Thank goodness you have 8 months behind you before tackling this. Three dollars for fizzy water and two for beer! OMG! And how f***ing thoughtless and insensitive. In an age where we are culturally sensitive about age and gender and sexuality and religious beliefs, to be so sodding insensitive to people who are in recovery or (shock! horror!) PEOPLE WHO JUST DON'T DRINK, is frankly dumbfounding.
    I think I need to calm down. Had too much coffee this morning ;)
    Good luck with grad course! How wonderful and exciting to be starting something new. Hopefully the boozy thing will calm down once everyone has got to know each other and settled down to get on with some work. Silly buggers.

  3. Congratulations on the 8 months! I reintroduced myself to society-at-large at about 9 months and I too found the reintroduction into the seemingly 360º, 24/7 alcohol world to be a bit of a culture shock. Very happy that you had the tools to navigate through it now.

  4. Lovely to read your post as usual Thirsty. You're so right about this sober community here on the internet. It can be a freak show out there (yes, I'm the freak in that show!) but in here it's great to feel normal among other non-drinkers. Sorry to hear about your accident -- hope you stay on the mend, and all the very best for your studies. XX

  5. ...."I didn't cry when I got lost. And I didn't lose patience with myself. I was kind to myself, and coached myself along to do what I had to do, and I managed to get myself home and sitting with a cup of tea before I had a good old weep." Oh, I love that. Love it. I know just what you mean-

    The booze stained world! Gah, it is every freaking where. And if you weren't drunk or planning to be drunk last weekend you are as weird as weird can be. Which just baffles me since being sober is a mile better by far.

    Yay school. Yay 8 months! YAY YOU!!! *hugs* and woot woots!

  6. When I first started uni, more than 20 years ago, I did things in the first week thanks to that cheap booze culture that haunted me throughout my degree and still make me uncomfortable now. I say the first week, my brain is now filling with horrible experiences that I'd mostly forgotten. I really don't think students are prepared for it: it's different to school friends, they've known you since you were a child. When you start uni you're making new friends and your behaviour can stigmatise you so easily for so long, and it's positively encouraged. This really does exclude a lot of people, and you know what? They're the lucky ones.