I don’t drink but don’t call me sober.

This week I had the pleasure of attending my company’s Sales Kick Off. I’ve been in sales for 10+ years so this was probably my 20th event of this type but for those of you not in the business/sales world here is the rundown: These events are typically 2-3 very long days of intense trainings and rah-rah during the day and then an all night booze-fest in the evenings with 200-500 sales people who don’t get to see each other often. You give a bunch of outgoing, gregarious, sales people access to an open bar and they’ll make the company regret it.

Early in my career, I was one of the first to saddle up to the bar at these events. Free Tito’s! Heck yes. I took it as personal challenge to give myself a bonus in the amount of free drinks. I had my share of embarrassing moments of a little too many but, was always comforted by the fact that the people around me were on the same level. Well, or so I thought.

In the last few years, I’ve really taken stock of the things I do in my life and reflected on why I do them, how does it make me feel when I do it and if I don’t like it, why am I still doing it. Alcohol was one of those things that I really started to realize, I just don’t enjoy. To the point where I don’t drink now. But, please, for the love of God do NOT call me sober.

When I’m at these sales events, the first thing people notice is that there isn’t a drink in your hand. Or, they quickly pick up that it’s really just club soda in your glass. And then the barrage of questions begin: Are you pregnant? Oh, are you in recovery? Did something happen? Did you have a problem? Is it ok if I drink around you? Are you going to judge me for drinking? Aw man, are you going to be a wet blanket?

It’s amazing how all personal boundaries go out the window in these situations. When you try and say “I just don’t drink” no one buys it. They always assume the worst. They NEED a reason. WHY?! WHY ARE YOU GOING AGAINST SOCIAL NORMS?! So I usually give some BS around health reasons and that gets them off my back.

Now, this situation isn’t just regulated to sales events but it is one where it occurs on a mass and very annoying scale. I still deal with this within my own family. They think I am hiding something (I’m guessing a DUI is their suspicion) about why I stopped drinking a couple years ago. They’ve semi-accepted it but still seem skeptical. Sigh.

For the record, no DUI, I never got in trouble, I’m not pregnant, I’m not in recovery,  it was not court ordered, I’ve never attended an AA meeting – did that cover all of it?

For people who knew me in my 20’s, there is a 99.9% chance they’ve seen me black out drunk, multiple times. I am an outgoing social butterfly with a bad case of FOMO. Once the party got started, it was hard to stop. But some of that was also due to immaturity and age. So I can see how the shift seemed abrupt to some people. But, this was a shift that was longtime coming.

After my first marriage ended – a marriage in which I single-handedly kept Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc in business during it – I partied a bit. I was single, in my mid-late 20s, it was time to let loose! But I quickly realized, I drank as much as I did in my first marriage because I was miserable. It was a crutch and a coping mechanism. It wasn’t fun drinking. And I always hated how I felt the next day, physically, mentally and emotionally. When I didn’t need the crutch, I realized I didn’t really enjoy drinking. So, it started to taper off naturally.

It started with not buying wine for home, or only drinking when I was out with friends or a social event but even then, it didn’t feel good. It felt like an obligation. Me not drinking would make it awkward and invite questions so I just ordered a damn glass of wine. Then I took the introspection to another level. Why? Why did I care if it made other people feel awkward if I didn’t drink. I don’t care if they drink or not, so why was I so concerned if they would care. I was doing something I didn’t enjoy anymore to please others. Well, that’s fucking stupid.

So I stopped.

Going out with friends for dinner, there was always little awkward moment when they would be surprised I didn’t order a glass of wine along with them. But then, we had better things to talk about and the moment would pass. Our bond wasn’t over getting wasted. I did have friends who the only thing we really had in common was drinking and those friends just kind of fell off. But, if that’s all we had to connect us, were we really friends? (ooo, that’s deep)

I am an outgoing enough person to not need alcohol as a social lubricant, thankfully. I am sarcastic and liable to put my foot in my mouth already without booze. I don’t need alcohol to help me along and really jam that foot in my mouth.

It helped solidify my life choice not to drink when I met my husband. When I met him, I was in limbo about drinking. I wasn’t quite confident enough about it yet to declare it to someone I was just matched with on Tinder. Or with anyone, really. At that time, I would still order a drink at work dinners to avoid questions and unwanted attention. I’d nurse it all night uncomfortably. But, I wasn’t really drinking outside of those occasions.

When he and I were first exchanging messages, he got right to the point on the 2 most important things I needed to know and had been deal breakers with other ladies:

  1. He hates cilantro
  2. He doesn’t drink.

These were to establish  if our lifestyles would even be compatible before pursuing it futher. The first is fair – it is a disgusting and soapy herb. People in Austin love it and put it on everything. The second made me pause. My last long term relationship was with someone who didn’t drink. His was sober for alcohol and substance abuse reasons. So, I had some PTSD from that relationship (never mind I drank heavily throughout that entire relationship) but there is a lot of emotional baggage that comes along with being in a relationship with someone like that. And I didn’t know if I was ready for round 2.

So I dug a little further and realized that he was a completely different person with a very different reason and different morals and values so it wasn’t fair to judge him on that one little fact.  I agreed to a date..after making him chase me for a month.  Spoiler alert! He’s amazing and I married him.

You can read about his story here.

Because neither of us drink, we don’t have it in the house, it’s not a part of our daily lives, it’s really not something we think or dwell on. For those that are wondering, he never told or asked me to stop drinking. It’s a lifestyle choice we both chose individually for ourselves.

People seem to think when booze goes out the window, so do good times. Which a stupid correlation but it happens. We live our lives to the fullest, go on adventures, laugh till we cry, it’s a magnificent life. We’ve had several parties where we invite friends over and they are more than welcome to bring their favorite adult beverage. We don’t care what other people do*.

*Caveat: if you get drunk and drive you’re a worthless piece of shit. So really, I don’t care what you do as long as it doesn’t put other people’s lives in danger.

By observing how my husband navigated life with conviction on his principles, it helped me with the confidence to no longer hide that I don’t drink.  Side note: how fucked up is our society when not drinking means you’re weird or something is wrong with you. People judge you negatively for it. Jesus fucking christ people.

I never made a grand announcement about quitting drinking when I did. I can’t even really tell you for certain how long it’s been, I can guesstimate about 2 years.

I don’t know if I can say I quit forever, it’s not black and white for me. Right now in my life, I am choosing not to drink. If the mood or inclination ever strikes, I would like to enjoy a glass of champagne but it’s on my terms. Which is why I hate when people try to label me as sober.

I had a celebratory glass of champagne at our wedding. I drank on my 30th birthday. All choices I made. I didn’t break any rules BECAUSE THERE AREN’T ANY. That’s the other reason for no grand announcement. I reserve the right to do whatever I want without having others question it.

Sober also implies that I have to stay away from all mind altering substances. And well, that’s no fun 😉

And in all honesty, my life has improved drastically since I gave alcohol it’s eviction notice. I lost weight. I’m healthier than ever, physically, mentally and emotionally. I never wake up feeling like shit or wondering what I did last night. That awful shameful, guilt feeling is one I haven’t felt in a very long time and I don’t miss it. My bank account is happier. And most importantly, my life is so full of joy.

There have been so many positives that it’s almost impossible to imagine going back to a life where I drink on a regular basis. But that’s just my experience. It doesn’t make me better than anyone else. It’s a personal choice.

Moral of the story, if you’re out with someone and they choose to abstain, let them live their fucking lives and reserve your judgement for people who really deserve it. Like people who love cilantro. What the fuck is wrong with them?

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2 thoughts on “I don’t drink but don’t call me sober.

Add yours

  1. Super Super blog post! My parents gave me and my sister shit the entire month of January because neither of us were drinking. We were also eating much cleaner, so Ma was VERY defensive about what to feed us (on Sunday dinners, etc,). The peer/social/family pressure to hoist a glass is awful. As you said, just leave me the fuck alone to drink or not. MYOB ! You go, girl.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well done. not drinking cane be socially isolating, I too found I was raised in a world where everyone drank my parents were alcoholic. I often have drinks when I am with family and a couple of friends I feel safe with, until I noticed most of my friends drank a fair bit. If is a funny line where if you drink you are normal if you don’t you must be in recovery. I too suffer this problem. Cheers to just not having alcohol as a part of you life.

    Liked by 1 person

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