Yesterday, one of the #recoveryposse on Twitter asked “what’s your number one reason stay sober?” Without hesitation, my initial response was “Because I’m genuinely happy now even when things aren’t always great or don’t go my way.”
It’s a great question because the answer to it holds meaning for those who are sober as well as those who are interested in getting sober. When I was drinking, the idea that I might live without drinking was foreign. I could not conceive of a happy life without alcohol — despite the fact that I was profoundly unhappy. But when I started to explore the world of sobriety I heard people talk about what it was like to be sober, how their lives were changing for the better, how they enjoyed their days and were not bored. I heard about the gifts they’d received in their new lives and I desperately wanted those gifts.
In the end, I’d lost hope.
It wasn’t easy. When I first put down the bottle, I struggled mightily. There were days when I couldn’t think about anything other than a drink. There were times when I lost my shit — Like the time that I got angry at dinner and threw a half eaten hamburger across the kitchen before storming out to go to a meeting.
But I kept hearing messages of hope.
When I heard people talk about the richness of their sober lives, I heard hope. Hope that things could and would get better. Hope that I wouldn’t live my life in quiet desperation, waiting for that chance to come when I could take a drink with impunity. Hope that I wouldn’t always be on edge, that I wouldn’t lose my shit and throw hamburgers across the room. Hope that I would feel better. Hope that I’d have fun again. Hope that all would not be lost. Hope that I’d be happy.
Now that the moon has orbited the earth more than a few times since I gave up the bottle, hearing the answers to this question is a good reminder to me of why I must remain sober. When I hear someone say, “I need to stay sober or I’ll die,” I think to myself, “yes, yes, that’s it.” When I hear someone say, “I stay sober for my kids,” I think “Yes, that’s it too.” When I hear another say, “Because I can. Never could have imagined my life free from that prison, and I’m not throwing away that gift,” I think to myself, “That’s also it.”
There are many reasons why I stay sober. But as my friend Sean says, the biggest one is because “my life is better without alcohol.” Sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of that. Sometimes the appeal of the sweet release of whiskey sounds good. Sometimes the idea of a cold IPA on a hot summer day sounds wonderful. But when I really stop and think about it, my life is better without those temporary releases — that’s why I stay sober.