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Why I chose a pandemic, of all times, to get sober

At the beginning of the pandemic, I had sort of a "whatever it takes to get through the day" mentality towards substances. If it was the apocalypse, I reasoned, might as well go down a little lit. As someone who is in recovery for drug addiction, I am usually pretty careful about substance use, even for things I'm not addicted to, like alcohol. But I, like so many others, quickly saw one glass of wine a night turn into two and then maybe three, and then ah, fuck it, a bottle is fine. The whole bottle phenom actually only happened once, and it was way back in early April, but because I've been through cycles of substance dependency before, it didn’t take long for me to catch on to the fact that I was being pulled into a potentially problematic relationship with alcohol. So I quit.

As of now, I haven't had a drink in over three months. It’s the best decision I’ve made since I impulse texted my long-distance crush in March and unexpectedly initiated the healthiest romantic relationship of my life. It may sound like some woo-woo sobriety cult logic, but I don’t think that these two circumstances are unrelated. To my mind, I am only capable of connecting authentically with another human if I am fully present, and I am better able to maintain the focus it requires to be present when I’m sober.

As a sober person, I trust myself to clearly state my needs and boundaries and also to be receptive to another person’s. Drunk, not so much. Tipsy Tracey Anne sometimes thinks clear communication is a lot less interesting than coy and elliptical emotional allusions. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a sly coquettish encounter, but it’s not what I want to build a relationship on.

Romance isn’t the only part of my life where sobriety is a boon. Being hungover makes me tired, headachey, and more than usually consumed by existential angst. Psychologists call this kind of post-drinking depression, “hangxiety,” and it happens because consuming alcohol in excess wreaks literal havoc on the neurons in your brain. I don't need any of that these days.

Not for nothing, but I am also probably in the best shape of my life. I was active before I went straight edge, but now I have some next level energy. I run for at least an hour every morning and I practice yoga for two hours a day. That’s not everyone’s idea of fun, I know, but I get a lot of joy and stimulation out of using my body in these ways. My body is capable of more sophisticated, and also quicker, movement, when I don’t have alcohol in my system.

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Feeling healthy and strong during a viral pandemic is an important perk, and that combined with increased awareness means that I feel good most of the time, and when I don’t, I know pretty quickly that something needs to be addressed. None of this protects me from the virus, but it does make me feel confident that if I get sick, I will have the wherewithal to attend to my body’s needs in a responsible way.

A lot of people I know are pretty drunk right now (I can’t confidently assert this, no matter what time of day you’re reading this post), and I don’t judge them for it. I have taken all the drugs and explored every possible indulgence and I know how tempting it can be to check out instead of checking in. You do you, but this is really working for me — because it’s not that I think that being sober is better, it’s just that I think it’s better for me in this particular moment.

Some people can imbibe and still perform at really high levels, but I usually can’t. When I indulge, the energy I end up using to metabolize either the physical or psychological impact takes away from other parts of my life and, right now, I don’t have time for it. It feels really valuable to be able to self-examine my patterns and behavior.

Look, I am no bright sider or productivity fascist and I am not expecting to come out the other side of this dark moment with a multimillion dollar book deal or abs of steel. I would, however, like to walk away from this pandemic with my health, happiness, dignity, and the sense that when shit hits the fan, I can trust myself to set frivolity aside and focus. So cheers to that.