Does Sobriety Mean Giving up the Places You Loved?
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Does Sobriety Mean Giving up the Places You Loved?


This post was originally published on July 6, 2014.

Over at Salon, Tyler Gillespie wrote an interesting coming-of-age-as-a-sober-man essay. After quitting booze at age 24, Gillespie didn’t want to give up going to gay bars—those bars were one of the only places he ever remembered feeling truly at home and like himself. Those bars even shaped who he was as a person! So for a while he steered clear, but eventually he realized that those gay bars were more than just bars to him—they were part of his identity, part of what made him him.

Of course, he eventually pretty much grew out of those bars as he got more “sober.” By the end of the piece, he wrote about still missing and appreciating those good old gay social hubs, but mainly he preferred to hang with a bunch of new friends who hadn’t known him before his sobriety.

The piece raises interesting questions that I think most sober folks have struggled with—”Who are my true friends?” “Who am I without alcohol or drugs?” “Was the drinking me—part of who I intrinsically am, or was the drinking just something I used to help me tune myself out?”

Personally, I lost any desire to hang out at bars almost as soon as I quit drinking. At first it was out of necessity and not wanting to feel tempted. But as I sunk deeper into an alcohol-free life, the more I realized that I never even really liked going out to bars; I never really liked going out, period! I’d always kind of forced myself because I assumed that’s what people my age just did. That’s where we were “supposed to” socialize, bond with friends, meet men. But once I got sober, hanging out at bars just felt awkward and forced and weird and entirely less than fun. So I gave myself permission to embrace quieter forms of socializing, like dinners and movies and hanging out in parks. Shopping. Walking around. Basically, doing the things I’d always enjoyed doing when I was younger—before I started drinking in the first place.

I can’t say I don’t have the occasional pang for a night out on the town—the mystery, the spontaneity of not knowing your plan for the night, not knowing where you might end up. It felt like anything could happen. Because it could! Including waking up on your bathroom floor with a stranger, or with a puddle of puke next to your pillow…ew, now that I consider it, no thanks.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.