When I was drinking, I was sure that a sober life would be a boring, joyless existence with not a single scrap of fun.
I would never laugh again if I was sober, or so I thought.
It took a long time for me to understand that what I was experiencing while drinking was not joy or fun. Drinking was never more than an escape from how I felt about myself and my life. It was a way I could move past the turmoil in my mind, shed my social anxiety, and pretend that I was happy and having fun.
Nights in or out with friends blurred into one, with snapshot memories, if there were any at all. My drunk memories have the narrative coherence of a dream. I would struggle to remember a whole evening. Sometimes I would remember very little at all. It is now terrifying to me how much I accepted blackouts as normal.
When I stopped drinking, I was very happy to be embarking on a new adventure in sober self-discovery. At the same time, I was worried about what it might mean for my relationships, and my ability to have fun. I was scared by the idea that my life would change, and my relationships would too. And that is exactly what happened—my life changed in myriad ways, almost all for the better.
Even the crappy bits are better because I am dealing with them sober. I’m not making them a million times worse by getting drunk.
My relationships changed lots. I no longer fit into the wide social group of which I was a small part. Many of the people I would have had great fun chatting with in bars became like strangers. I realized I had never had a conversation with them sober, and more, that I had no idea how to.
I saw with painful clarity that I had created a social life entirely based around drinking. Now sober, I no longer wanted that. It’s not that I didn’t want to have fun, and that I no longer enjoyed the company of other people— couldn’t connect in that way anymore and I didn’t want to.
Some of the friendships I had when I was drinking have remained, but many fell by the wayside. Some have changed and become smaller but still important parts of my life. Others have deepened now that I am able to show up honestly in the relationship.
I now have many wonderful friendships with people who have never known me drunk.
On my journey to sobriety, I would look at groups of people drinking together in bars, and assume that they were all having the most wonderful time together. It would make me feel sad, and give me that awful sense of fear of missing out (FOMO) that can lead to bad decisions. Fortunately, I was always able to remind myself that I actually didn’t end many of those nights with happy memories. Instead, I would have blurry memories, regret, and sometimes a sense that I had put myself far too much at risk.
Last Friday night, I was out in the city with some friends. As we walked through the street full of bars with people out drinking, I felt none of that FOMO. I was glad we were passing through on our way to the car.
I was glad that I was not one of them, spending huge amounts of money to pretend to myself that I was having fun.
There have been many times throughout my sober years that I have felt that FOMO. But I know it is always more about feeling disconnected from the world, or myself, than any real desire to drink. It is the sense of connection that drinking with my friends gave me that I miss. But that connection was never real. I have a deeper connection with people now—I can have more meaningful conversation in two sober hours than I ever did in my all-night drunken binges.
When I feel disconnection now, I get in touch with a friend and connect. Or I go out in nature, or to my yoga mat, and connect to myself. Alcohol lied to me for years about how important it was if I wanted to enjoy life. I have seen through the lies, and am so very grateful for it. I no longer fear missing out, because I know that sober, I experience far life in far brighter colours than I ever did when I was drinking.