Sobriety has changed my friendships and health, and helped me create a more relaxed, predictable and safe environment for my kids

I went to a play date the other day at a new preschool-friend’s house, wrestling my five- and three-year-old boys through the big doors of a strange new home. Almost the moment I stepped through the front door, the mom giggled “Mimosa time!” and my body froze .

I wasn’t prepared for this.

Preparation is key

As a relative newbie to sobriety, I’ve learned that preparation is key. Mostly, when I’m heading to a social gathering, I have time to prepare mentally, physically (I always bring a drink with me) and emotionally.

I think about what I will say when someone asks why I’m not drinking. I think about how deep I want to get in the conversation, because sometimes I’m ready to go there, and at other times I want to talk about anything but that.

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This day, I was caught off guard. As I watched the host mom try to pop open the champagne with a towel, I almost said “yes” and thought about just pretending to sip it. Instead, I said, “Not right now, I’m good thank you,” and the conversation veered to something else.

But it came up again about 15 minutes later. And again another 15 minutes later. And I was practically banging my head against the wall thinking, “Why don’t I just tell her I don’t drink?”

But I didn’t. I was afraid she would think I wasn’t fun. I was afraid she wouldn’t want to have more play dates with my kids and me. I didn’t know this woman well. I didn’t feel inclined to reveal to her that I have a very toxic relationship with alcohol. I didn’t know her well enough to tell her that I can’t stop at one drink. In the past, one mimosa easily led to three, followed by returning home to pop open a bottle of wine or whatever else was around, just to keep the buzz going.

I’ve been sober for a year and a half, and I wasn’t even comfortable telling my friends and family for the first year. I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with my sobriety. Is this permanent? Is this a break? Is this normal or am I the dreaded “A”-word – an alcoholic?

The sober-curious movement is a welcome departure from the “mommy needs wine” culture

My questions align with a dynamic newly referred to as “sober curious”. More people are choosing alcohol-free options, as the pressure to drink in a heavily booze-oriented culture feels more cumbersome and comes with significant, possibly fatal, consequences. It’s a decision led less by the “rock bottom” generally tied to alcoholism and more of an “alcohol fatigue” in people tired of the hangovers, poor sleep, regrets and poor choices that come with drinking.

The sober-curious movement is a welcome departure from the “mommy needs wine” culture that has practically taken over social media, “This Might Be Wine” mugs and paraphernalia encouraging heavy drinking, particularly for moms.

As a society, we are absolutely drinking more than ever

The “mommy needs wine” memes, the TV shows with matriarchs gripping a wine glass, and the movies – most recently Netflix’s Wine Country, starring Amy Poehler – all have a part to play in the significant increase in female drinking. Because as a society, we are absolutely drinking more than ever.

Everyone is doing it. It can’t be that bad, right?

High-risk drinking – more than three drinks in a day or seven in a week for women – is on the rise among women by about 58%, according to a 2017 study in JAMA Psychiatry, comparing habits from 2001 to 2002 and 2012 to 2013.

Personally, besides finding wine references all over my social media to be extremely triggering, I used them as justification to drink, and then drink more. Because, clearly, everyone is doing it. It can’t be that bad, right?

Whether I was just sober curious or dangerously bordering on alcoholic, I wasn’t quite sure when I finally decided to quit drinking. But I did know one thing: I couldn’t parent little kids with three or four glasses of wine in my system, and the possibility of something horrible happening overcame any desire to keep drinking my mommy juice. I knew it was time to end the game of “How long can I keep drinking like this before something far more serious than just an ugly hangover occurs?”.

So I quit cold turkey. I never went to an AA meeting. I never went to a doctor. I just stopped. It took weeks to break the habit of pouring myself a drink before dinner, and even more tenacity to turn it down at social functions, but my spirits were lifted, my energy grew, and I found new life in this choice to abstain.

Once I got my sober footing, the hardest part of my journey has been navigating in a society that plans gatherings, holidays, networking and yes – play dates – around booze

Alcohol is the only drug you have to explain not using, and I’m still not sure what my explanation is yet. Am I just sober curious? Am I an alcoholic? And why do I need to explain myself to anyone, especially around something so deeply personal that even I don’t know the answer?

“No” is not a complete sentence when people offer alcohol

“No” is not considered a complete sentence when people offer alcohol. They want more. In my short time as a sober person, inquiries have ranged from “Oh! Really? Not even one?” to “Why not? Do you have a problem?” It’s awkward, it’s demeaning, it’s prying. It’s also very common, and most of the time I don’t think it’s meant to be offensive at all. People are generally curious, even intrigued.

At this particular play date, I eventually did fess up. “Actually, I don’t drink. I quit over a year ago. I found that I can’t stop at one.” The mom was surprised but did not pry further. She was on her second mimosa now, and she could probably hear the angst in my tone. We quickly moved on to other topics.

Most people are cordial about my decision to stick with juice or water, but I do see fewer party invites

I read a meme the other day that said, “I choose my kid’s play dates based on which moms I want to drink wine with.” I often wonder if my decision to be sober has affected the number of play dates or parties to which we are invited, and the number of friends who reach out to me at all now. And I do feel more isolated by this choice. Because, while most people are cordial about my decision to stick with juice or water, I do see fewer party invites, and receive fewer texts from friends to just hang out.

I know it is due in part to my decision to quit drinking. But it’s also based on my decision to go to fewer parties in general, to be pickier about with whom I want to spend time, and ultimately, to make social decisions around logistics and not based on whether there will be an open bar. Because while my sobriety has played a role in my changing friendships, social calendar and extracurricular activities, it has also played a role in my health, in being more present at home, and making an overall more relaxed, predicable and safe environment for my kids.

That makes all of it worthwhile… even the awkward conversations.

Article by Celeste Yvonne, first published on ‘Washington Post’.

Author: ANA Newswire