Updated: Jan 1
Recently, in another conversation about sobriety, the topic of fun emerged once again. I have written about this before but maybe it is worth another look. Interestingly, like most things alcohol-related, fun is subjective and wholly lies in the eye of the beholder. What I mean is, we decide what is fun and what is boring. We do. Noone else. Well, the entire world tries to convince us what fun is through media, movies, literature, coworkers, friends, and family but ultimately, the choice is up to us. We not only have the ability to choose what is fun, but we also have the power to make whatever we want fun too. If you think about it, choice is one of the only reasons incredible things get done. Why? Because incredible things are a lot of fucking work. It is very difficult to trudge through something we hate and come out victorious on the other side. So, how do incredible things get done? People choose to love them, they choose to enjoy them, and they choose to do them even when others tell them they shouldn't.
Let's start with an anecdote about alcohol-related fun. I believe it was a Christmas party about fifteen years ago. My partner, at the time, and her son went to a work-related holiday party. We were both bartenders at the time. The party was in a small town with one main street which housed all the restaurants and bars in the area. We started at an Italian restaurant. While standing at the bar and talking to friends, the bartender, unbeknownst to me, kept filling my glass. Before I knew it, I was wasted. I was totally unaware because I had no idea how much I had drank. The night had only just begun. The beginning of the evening was intended for family and then the rest was intended for adults. Before I had become fully aware of my inebriation, I drove my stepson home. Thankfully, it was very close. By the time I got home, my inebriation was in full swing and so too was my inability to make good decisions. In my alcohol-induced fog, I drove back to the party.
Once back at the party, the alcohol continued to flow, and I continued to imbibe. Eating, dancing, and the normal debauchery ensued. Somewhere in the evening, I did shots of something that threw me over the edge. I have no recollection of that time. The next thing I remember, I was at home with my partner who was having some kind of reaction to whatever she drank. She was emotionally distraught and physically out of control. She ended up in the bathtub after vomiting. I did what I could to assist her, but I was of little help. I don't remember anything after the tub. The next day, I experienced one of the worst hangovers I have ever had. I somehow managed to get up because I had to go to an important class at UW. On the bus ride, I ended up exiting before my stop because I had to vomit from all the alcohol I consumed the night before. I was still drunk. I ended up going home and passing out the rest of the day.
I had so much fun...
Let's break the evening down a little bit, but here is a caveat. Let's identify the parts of the evening we consider fun, but also, only those fun parts not possible without the aid of alcohol. I'll wait...
Let's see, there was the time I spent with friends and colleagues while engaged in great conversation. Oh wait, I can have a great conversation without alcohol. In fact, I can have an even more engaged conversation when sober because my brain is still functioning. There was the time I drove down backstreet roads while drunk without any worry of being pulled over. Oh, yea, I can drive anywhere I want while sober and never worry about being pulled over or killing anyone. There was the time of the evening where we were all dancing. Hmmm, I used to think I couldn't dance without alcohol. It turns out, I am a better dancer while sober because my motor skills are still firing. Also, I don't make a fool of myself any longer. There was the time... Well, the rest of the night and the entire next day really held no amount of fun whatsoever.
I know there are scientific reasons and chemical reactions present that facilitate our continued unconscious connection between alcohol and fun. However, I don't spend a lot of time researching the scientific proofs of how alcohol affects the mind and body. While I know this is important, and I also know it initially inspired my transformation away from alcohol, I have come to realize something else. All of the information and power we need to quit our addictions are already present within ourselves and our minds. Yes, alcohol triggers and plays off pleasure centers in our brains. Guess what? So too does making a three-point shot, getting an A on a test, falling in love, snow days, exercise, stimulating conversation, completing a difficult task, watching a great movie, reading a great book, and so many other organically available activities that have nothing to do with drinking alcohol. It's not an excuse. It's a choice.
Fun in Sobriety
Let's look at another anecdote, but this time about sober-related fun. I intentionally woke up at 6 AM on a Saturday morning. I know, who does that? I had a good night's sleep, and I woke up feeling refreshed and clear-headed. I made coffee and began preparations for the day of snowboarding on the mountain with my family. I started by laying out all my gear, and then I loaded it into the car. I then loaded all three snowboards on the car rack. After, I began waking everyone up. I made fresh coffee for my partner and rustled my eleven-year-old awake. While they got ready, I packed drinks and snacks for all of us so we didn't have to waste time in line on the mountain. We normally try to ride all day long. We loaded in the car and headed up to the mountain.
Once on the mountain, we got dressed and began our day of outdoor, unplugged, and healthy activity. As a family, we have a blast riding together. We challenge each other to go faster or take jumps we may not normally take. My eleven-year-old improves with each trip, and my partner and I have to stay on high alert to keep track of him. He isn't faster yet, but he is getting there. We rode through lunch to avoid crowds and then eventually took a break. On our break, we enjoyed coffee and hot chocolate while talking about our day thus far. I have come increasingly aware of the amount of alcohol consumed and the amount of advertising created to encourage further consumption. People even handed out beers at the lift line. I watched as an overserved man screamed at passersby to drink more beer. I looked at my son and immediately felt gratitude I no longer perpetuate the use of poison or negative behavior for him.
We headed back up the mountain feeling refreshed and ready to tear up the slopes for another couple of hours. By the time the lifts closed, we were exhausted but we were also having a blast joking about crashes or making up funny riddles. On the way down the mountain, we listened to our favorite music and talked about upcoming events or vacations. At home, I made homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. While I cooked, my partner and son began setting up and decorating the Christmas tree. We ate dinner together and then finished decorating. Once decorating was complete, we had a slice of leftover pie with ice cream from Thanksgiving. We then snuggled on the couch to watch "Elf" as a family holiday tradition. We went to bed, got a great night's sleep, and then woke up to do it all over again.
We had so much fun...
Yes, really. I remember every vivid detail. We spent an entire day together as a family. We willingly exercised to the point of exhaustion. We had great conversations. We laughed and joked around with each other. My son did his biggest jump yet. I slightly impressed my partner and son with my athleticism. My partner was happy to finally have people with whom to share her passion, even though she once crashed so hard her bra fell off. We stayed safe, healthy, and happy. We had an enormous amount of fun. Guess what? There was no alcohol needed or missed.
I talk a lot about choice in sobriety. I know this rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but I believe it to be the single most important thing we can do for ourselves in sobriety. If you believe you have a choice, you do. If you believe you do not have a choice, you don't. My partner and I chose to have fun, and we do. We also chose not to suffer in sobriety, and we didn't. We simply chose to live well, with intention, and with as much fun as we can.
Sobriety is boring? Yeah, whatever...
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