One of the main missions of AfterParty Magazine is clearing up the stigma that all sober people are boring, straight laced, Big Book thumping bad times. Contrary to popular belief, removing drugs and alcohol does not mean the end of any and all fun. Although, it totally feels like that in the beginning and—of course—some stuff isn’t as fun sober, but that’s okay.
Early on in sobriety, I basically pictured myself waving bon voyage from an ocean liner as it pulled away from Fun Island. Everyone on Fun Island was drinking margaritas, eating chips and guacamole and planning where they were gonna dance that night. I was headed off to some mainland hellhole of 12-step meetings and dry weddings for the rest of my life. Why the hell did my Fun Island visa have to expire?
I’d tell myself I really had no right to be upset, that I’d had way more than one lifetime’s allotment of fun. Normal drinkers know how to spread theirs out respectfully over time. Alcoholics burn the fun fuel three times as fast and there’s still never enough gas. Our tank is constantly bone dry ’cause we have a spiritual void to fill, get it? (I am slaying with these metaphors right now.) I have to remember that I did have a lot of fun times before things got not so fun. Before the excitement of, “I’m drinking, what’s gonna happen tonight?!” became, “I’m drinking…what’s gonna happen tonight? Seriously, I have to cut myself off after three drinks. I’m not blacking out again.”
A lot of this revelry I’m missing now that I’m sober was dead to me a long time ago. It just took me a while to come to grips with that fact. I remember toward the end of my drinking days, being out at bars just didn’t feel as exciting as it had when I was newly legal or with a bunch of other single girlfriends. The last few months, all wine—from the rot gut boxed stuff to Napa Valley’s finest—started to just taste like orange juice to me. The hangovers were certainly more potent.
So now I find myself asking, were those allegedly good times, before the drinking became problematic, as fun as I thought? Or did the vodka convince me they were? When I first stopped drinking, going to events or places where I used to imbibe felt like a monumental challenge. Eventually, it became a non-issue. I will be at your Christmas party and I’ll be sipping sparkling water. I won’t be coming up with an excuse for why I can’t come because I don’t want to face the ice chest full of Michelob Ultras. But I wonder, will certain activities, while now tolerable sober, ever be as fun sober?
When I reflect on all the occasions or rituals I deemed “fun,” it’s hard to decipher whether it was because it was new and exciting or because it involved alcohol, or both. Weddings were so exciting to me when I first got out of college and free booze was a big part of that. These days, I get a wedding invitation in the mail and, as much as I adore my friends and feel honored to be invited, I borderline dread going. Is that my sobriety, bitterness about being single or straight up boredom with the whole wedding rigmarole talking?
Another example is when I first started traveling to do stand-up, it felt like my “work” was a party each night. I was contractually obligated to perform an hour of material but that didn’t feel like labor, by any stretch of the imagination. Dealing with getting to and from the gig was the hard part. When I was finally at the club, I did a job that felt like fun and I got to reward myself with a beer when I was done! Then I’d drink while I watched the other comics as well as between shows if it was a two-show night. Being at a comedy club or casino felt like a night out for me too, sitting amongst the crowd and laughing, or perched on some oversized loveseat in the greenroom pummeling chicken fingers. “I love this job,” I’d think, as I sipped my red wine or draught beer, free of charge.
Now, almost 10 years into stand-up and a year-and-a-half into sobriety, I’m singing a different tune (telling a different joke?). When I go on the road, the nights feel really long and the greenroom feels really depressing. If I’m not working with people I click with, circumstances feel even bleaker. There was a time when alcohol could mask my distaste for the (most likely middle aged white male) comics I’m usually stuck in these small, dank rooms with, but not anymore. Even worse, if my set doesn’t go well, I can’t drink the bomb away. So now, my refrain is more like, “I don’t know about this job,” as I sip Red Bull or another damn bottle of Fiji. But that’s telling. My sobriety has given me the gift of reality. I’m seeing this job for what it really is. I have to ask myself if it is what I want. I am still trying to decide.
Sadly, this brings me to another harsh reality thrust upon me by sobriety. One of the most difficult parts of getting sober hasn’t been the social anxiety of only drinking Perrier at a house party, the white knuckling through boozy holiday celebrations with my family or the uncovering of my deepest, darkest character defects in an attempt to heal my shattered soul. The hardest aspect of quitting drinking has been accepting that I am actually not a good dancer. Truthfully, I don’t even like dancing very much anymore. It was really painful to write that but, alas, it’s true.
This figuring out who I really am stuff is legit! I think it’s ultimately a good thing to have experiences sober and reevaluate who are you are in the aftermath. I’m uncovering the real, rhythmically challenged me. The more I learn about what I really like and don’t like, the easier it is to make decisions. And I care about factors besides whether or not alcohol will be served.
Learning what I truly care about has been a whole new ballgame. I am excited to discover new hobbies (I basically had none when I was drinking), figure out what “fun” really means to me and mock other Caucasians who think they can actually dance. Come on, how else am I gonna muscle through the next wedding sober?
Photo courtesy of Mary Patterson Broome (as she survives a bachelorette party sober)