fun bobby was wrong: the unexpected lightness of being five years sober

January 03, 2017

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Yesterday in the woods behind our house. Awake, grateful, sober, and still occasionally, quite fun.

Do you remember Fun Bobby? He was a very minor character on Friends. He was *super fun*. And then he got sober and became stiflingly earnest and dull. And we never saw him again.

I was terrified of becoming Fun Bobby.

I had no idea who I would be without alcohol.

How would I cope with the debilitating stress of work, with the endless pit of grief and loss at Mum’s sudden death, with the fear that at any moment Ash would leave me?

Somewhere in the far recesses of my mind, I knew drinking wasn’t the healthiest coping mechanism, I knew it was actually creating a lot of trouble, but I didn’t know how to stop, and most of the time, I didn’t want to either. Everything that caused me stress was so much easier to deal with after I had fallen into the sweet numbness of drink.

One morning I woke up feeling desperate. I was sick with shame at things I had said, the state I had let myself get into. Again.

I don’t know if it was rock bottom, but I just couldn’t see an end to that rinse and repeat life. I quietly decided I didn’t want to drink anymore.

Today I have been sober for exactly five years. It is without a doubt, the most important, proudest achievement of my life. I could cry with gratitude when I think of what it means to me to be sober.

I’m all me, all the time.

I’m consciously myself in every context, with every person, at any given moment. I trust myself to show up as me every single time.

This is a world away from often feeling like a sham fortune teller, trying to read body language clues to help me figure out what I said or how someone reacted. I spent a lot of time apologising.

I’m not constantly looking for a cork.

I grew up in a family where any big display of emotion was part of our ‘gipsy, Italian, Scottish heritage’: we were people with big feelings. And we had them all the time.

But the power of these emotions seemed to overtake my reasoning, I was emotionally ‘leaky’ and often felt out of control. And because I had few tools to be with my feelings, I was constantly looking for corks to bung the leaks.

Drama filled relationships, constant spending, travel adventures and vodka: all excellent ways of dulling and distracting me from any emotion. When I drank, I often felt as if my emotions were a short distance away from me.

In the last five years, I’ve learned how to access my life – to feel the full spectrum of my emotions. I’ve found that no emotion is permanent, and few require an immediate response.

Mostly, I’m so fucking awake.

Particularly in that first hour of the day, just before the sun comes up. That’s my time to connect with myself and the vast mystery of everything. It’s when I tend to have the best ideas for what to write and share and create.

My mind is undoubtedly sharper without the dulling effects of drink; I have no idea if I would have been able to go back to grad school if I wasn’t sober.

I always feel awake, connected, alive (I promise I won’t use double exclamation points).

Everything is just better.

I love my life now; it’s immeasurably better because I stopped drinking. Within a few weeks of this decision, I experienced an ‘awakening’ that I still can’t explain. It woke me up to all the ways I was betraying myself and set me on the path to the second half of my life.

Still, sometimes I really miss that first sip of an excellent Central Otago pinot noir. But not enough to ever take one.

It just feels like too big of a risk and for such a comparatively tiny payoff.

Instead, I choose me.

Don’t get sober to be good. Do it to be free – Laura Mckowen

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8 Responses to “fun bobby was wrong: the unexpected lightness of being five years sober”

  1. julia says:

    25 yrs ago, i wanted to see a shrink because of boyfriend troubles. i i was told to stay sober for 2 weeks before they’d take me. “WHAT THE HELL DOES MY DRINKING HAVE TO DO WITH IT?!” i thought that was completely unreasonable. But then We users have no idea how deeply drinking affects our thoughts and reactions, beyond the hangovers and regrettable behavior.

    i wasn’t able to string two sober weeks together, and that’s when i came face to face with my alcoholism. once i did get sober, i was able to see how i put myself in the victim role with men, every time. i would never have been able to see this, much less begin to change my behavior if hadn’t gotten my head and heart clear in sobriety.

    • Sas says:

      Yes! I so relate. I always thought my drinking was a way of coping with all the crap in my life – it took getting sober to realise my drinking was a huge cause of it. So glad you stopped by Julia.

  2. sue r says:

    “…no emotion is permanent and few require an immediate response.” Thank you for this. I’m 12 years sober. I quit smoking and drinking on the same day after a debilitating flu that had me bedridden for 3 days. I thought, okay, I’ve got 3 days in, the most I’d garnered despite the usual various strategies of “cutting back”. No AA, no counseling, no drugs of calm or uplifting variety. I do have the support and ear of a sister who quit quickly after me. Lost both my parents within months of each other and then the young friend who is the mom of my “grandkids by proxy has had a recurrence of breast cancer. Regular life happenings I know, no one is exempt. Lately I have thoughts of ugh, if I could just have a glass of wine to ease this, or, If only I could drink normally, maybe I can now! But…the glass, then the bottle, then the gin, one drink being both too much and never enough. Well that’s the long version of why reading your article and in particular that one sentence listed at start of this too long diatribe of mine means so much! I thank you for sharing, I’m deeply grateful

    • Sas says:

      Sue – I’m so glad you stopped by.
      I also got clean without help – what is it with us not asking for help? 🙂

      Just before Christmas we had some really painful family stuff happening – someone I couldn’t help was in real distress and there was nothing I could do. I’ve never had the temptation to turn to wine quite as strong before. And yes I had that same realisation – that one is never enough. Eventually, it didn’t feel quite as shitty, and I am so so grateful now that I just let the feelings happen.

      Sending you a massive hug of solidarity.

  3. Ali says:

    Congrats my dear!!! This is so beautiful, breathtaking and TRUE! This is how I feel about ending my battle with food. While I still eat “bad” food (I don’t see it that way..I just see it as eating), I have that same gratitude for not being dependent on something to numb me out from the blowing winds of life. And in that process, found my true life and self…which of course, is now always evolving since I’m no longer stagnant in a battle with myself.

    I adore and celebrate you!

  4. Mary Beth says:

    Wow, this is exactly how I feel.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you for being you.
    You’re one of my biggest inspirations.

    • Sas says:

      I was inspired to write this after your instagram yesterday. I see you friend. You are bloody magnificent.