Over six years ago, I had my last drink. I don’t remember that drink, but I knew it was my last hurrah, so I did it up right. Or at least, I think I did. The memory’s a bit fuzzy.
I didn’t quit drinking because I wanted to take a moral stand against alcohol. I didn’t quit drinking because of Jesus. I quit drinking because alcohol and I were just no good together. We’d had some good times, but now our interactions were characterized by shame, reckless behavior, and occasional bodily injury.
To put it bluntly, I hated myself when I drank. I had finally pulled together a life I loved— a partner, a job as an instructor at a university, great friends. But I still loathed myself when I woke up from a blackout, frantically checking my phone to see who I’d called or what text messages I’d sent. I decided I was done. I wanted to like myself full-time. So I went out with a bang and ushered my new life in with a wicked hangover.
Still, when people find out that I don’t drink, it sketches them out. Sometimes they feel like they shouldn’t drink around me, or they suddenly find a pressing need to justify their alcohol consumption. Here’s the truth: I don’t care if you drink. It doesn’t bother me, tempt me, or in any way impinge upon my sobriety if you order a cocktail.
Here’s a quick rundown of the reasons why I don’t drink, but that it’s OK with me if you do:
1. I like waking up in my own bed.
My bed is cozy. It’s located, conveniently, in my house. My partner sleeps there. It is where I want to be when I wake up and stumble toward the coffee pot. But if I drink, I may wake up anywhere: the backyard, the beach, Tokyo, or in someone else’s bed. And I won’t know how I got there. It’s likely that when you drink, you still can be certain that you will wind up in your own bed, or that you will remember your choice not to. But for me, there was no guarantee.
2. I like to keep my house tidy.
Sometimes I fail miserably at this task, but that is a pretty common human failing. When I drink, not only does the furniture not get dusted, but I am exceedingly unlikely to do laundry. Or buy toilet paper. If you can have a drink and still manage to keep clean underwear and toilet paper in the house, good for you — but I couldn't.
3. I like to run.
It took me many years to be able to say this truthfully, but I enjoy lacing up my shoes and going for a long morning run. I feel connected to my Higher Power, balanced, and grounded when I run. If I have a drink, I can’t run. (And not just because I am against running drunk.) When I drink, sitting on a barstool dominates my attention. I will imagine myself running, or hiking Everest, or becoming a world champion cyclist — drunks are often great egomaniacs — but I won’t actually do anything.
4. I like to read.
I devoured books as a child, and I majored in literature. I even went to grad school and finished with a Master’s in Lit. Reading is intrinsic to who I am — unless I am drinking. During the worst of my drinking years, the longest piece of writing I read was an online news piece. For several years after that, it was a triumph to finish two novels a year. I heard about people reading, but I couldn’t figure out how they found time for it. Now I know: I just needed to put the beer mug away. Still, if you can have that drink and still have the intellectual capacity to read something over 350 words, cheers to you!
5. I like being a parent.
It took two years to conceive our daughter. I lost one pregnancy before she was born and two after. Each day when I look at her, I know I am looking at a miracle. She makes me laugh, she drives me insane, and I adore her. She is four, challenging, and crazy-making — but she is pure love.
I love being her mom. It is who I am meant to be. But I can’t be her mom — not in the way she deserves — if I have a drink. Not even one. Because I can’t guarantee that one drink will be just one. That risk is certainly not worth what it would cost me in the end.
6. I just don't want to anymore.
Here’s the truth: I don’t want to drink. I wake up each morning filled with gratitude that I get to live my life the way I choose. I have made great in-roads towards growing up (finally). I have good friends, and I am comfortable in my own skin. I owe all this to my recovery. Alcohol was never my problem: I was my problem. Alcohol just blurred the edges and made me feel (temporarily better). Recovery gave me myself back, and I have no plans to let that go.
So please, if you can drink and be happy and healthy, go ahead. Enjoy! But no thanks for me. I am good.
Images: Lotus Carroll/Flickr; Giphy