Inspirational Song of the Day: Toby Keith – You Ain’t Much Fun
“I sobered up, and I got to thinkin’, […] you ain’t much fun since I quit drinkin’ ”
– Toby Keith
I was sober for four years.
In those four years, I can count on one hand how many times I went out. I’m not talking about showing long-distance visitors around town or grabbing lunch with coworkers. I’m talking about happy hour, the club, house parties, anywhere people congregate for the sole pretense of taking a break from their busy lives to socialize. Visitors have nothing else to do, and coworkers need to get out of the office. Festivals, concerts, even interest groups have another form of entertainment than sitting around talking to each other.
For the most part, all of these social gatherings include alcohol. Besides the pressure to partake, there’s a sharp contrast between the token sober person and everyone else. We’re quiet and still compared to the loud, fumbling drunks. We don’t share much of the humor. We get annoyed when conversations are impossible and may not bother starting them at all. We leave early because we’re bored. We’d rather be sleeping or petting our cats or even sitting on our couches binge-watching Netflix by ourselves than waste energy trying to follow a conversation that doesn’t make any sense to begin with.
We’re “not fun” anymore. We get left out of plans, our interests and boundaries decided for us, and eventually we’re left behind completely. Did we do something wrong? Are we bad friends for putting our mental and physical health first? The answers are no and no. Often, these are the same people who have expressed concerns about our problem drinking in the past, or even experienced negative interactions with us when we were inebriated. Ironically, these important relationships are part of the reason we’re getting sober.
We’re not the ones who aren’t fun anymore. They are.
Almost three years ago, I started drinking again in hopes that I would like my then-partner more. Naturally, it didn’t work, but it sure made me happy. After we ended things, I went out and I met new people. In the last year alone, I’ve doubled my Facebook friends, many of whom were randos I met at a bar and wanted to keep in touch with. (On a side note, Facebook is an excellent way to weed out the creeps from actual decent people. If they can tolerate or even participate in my opinionated statuses and shares, they’re keepers!)
Drinking gave me an automatic connection with strangers, an opening to further conversation. Moreso in concentrated environments like karaoke bars. “What are you drinking?” “What are you singing?” Not to mention, the alcohol acted as a social lubricant to alleviate my natural anxiety and intolerance of problematic behavior. It was easy to talk to people. I was always laughing and having a good time, even in frustrating situations.
Then it stopped being a good time. Instead of the alcohol suppressing negative thoughts, they amplified. I would have emotional hangovers the next day, where I obsessed over everything I said and did the night before, which I unfortunately remembered in vivid detail. Sometimes, I didn’t remember, which led to awkward conversations and belated anxiety after I was informed. I didn’t believe it at first, but as time went on, I became more and more distrusting of my memory. Near the end, people could tell me I did anything and I’d believe it.
When I joined MM, I did a 30 right away. The initial reaction of my friends was better than I expected. A few of them offered to stay sober with me, and everyone I spoke to said they were proud of me and glad I was cutting back. My first night out was particularly memorable, as it was the last day of my 30 and I was as detoxed and refreshed as I’d been in two years. Strangely enough, I found caffeine to be a suitable alternative for alcohol, although I will argue that just replaces one addictive coping method with another.
After a couple months of alternating between moderating and abstaining, the social invitations diminished. I started making holiday plans to go out of town to avoid house parties. When I was in a different state, the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) wasn’t as strong. I desperately wanted to keep the friendships that I had worked so hard to make and maintain, but I no longer had any interest in large gatherings where the only thing to do was drink. Even those who attempted “game nights” ended up a hot mess of loud drunks who couldn’t focus on any game for longer than five minutes.
Karaoke is all I have left, and even that is pushing my sober tolerance limits. I don’t like soda enough to drink it every weekend or pay $2.50 for a glass with no refills unless I also buy food, plus tip. I don’t want to wait until 9pm to go out and park down the street in the cold. I don’t want to wait in line for the single occupancy bathroom or put up with belligerent drunk people I don’t know. I’d rather Netflix and cuddle with my cat and go to bed when I’m tired instead of waiting until “one more song” to make the 20-minute drive home. I can see my friends another time.
Except that I haven’t seen very many of them at all. I can count on one hand how many times someone has made the effort to see me since I stopped going out every weekend. This includes mod days. Regardless of whether I’m moderating or abstaining, I have the same level of expectations when leaving my home. There has to be something mentally or emotionally stimulating in it for me, whether we’re playing a game or simply having a conversation. I am even open to watching Netflix with others, assuming their availability allows for weekly binge sessions.
And my tolerance for belligerent drunk people is extremely low. Not all drunk people are belligerent. On the contrary, one of my friends will yell hilarious things at the TV after a bottle of wine. Another has jumped around my living room trying to catch a moth, much like a cat. A third is no different from when he’s sober, aside from sucking more at video games. These are the people with whom I still have fun regardless of which of us is drinking and how much. I even befriended a family member who never drinks and is just as crazy and fun as those who do, if not more.
If sobriety leaves me with only four friends, so be it. I have enough going on with volunteering, church, and practicing self-care (all of which I started after joining MM); I wouldn’t have time for an action-packed social life as well. I’m okay with bi/monthly karaoke outings, making small talk with people with whom I used to spend entire weekends, and I may make an appearance at the occasional party in the hopes there will be games or interesting movies. Failing that, there is always the opportunity to meet new people whose entire social lives and idea of “fun” don’t center around drinking.
In retrospect, it seems unreasonable to expect a relationship that was founded by alcohol to continue once one party sobers up. My logic had been: “Well, we weren’t always drunk together, so it should be no different,” except what was always there was the promise of becoming drunk. If I’m bored or disinterested in what’s going on, it’s okay, I’ll enjoy myself more after a drink or two. While day drinking didn’t appeal to me, I often bided my time between waking and whenever was a socially acceptable time to start drinking.
Let them say I’m not fun anymore. Let them have their drunken gatherings and loud messy game nights without my high expectations of mutually beneficial entertainment ruining their good time. We have different interests now, ones that clash with the other’s, and that’s okay. If I ever decide to jump off the wagon, they’ll be there with a bottle of bottom shelf vodka, and if they ever decide to cut back on their drinking, I’ll dig out a spot on my couch for them underneath the gel pens and the cat. #NoFOMO
Submitted by MM member rckaye