The other day, I saw a stand-up comic, Toler Wolfe, who blazed onto the stage yelling “Where my boys at?!” He was (ironically) preparing to tell some just-for-men types of jokes. Later in his set, he prepared his family-friendly numbers: “Get the kids in here! Bring in the kids!” I loved it.
I’m thinking I should start blog posts this way. “Where my moody introverts at!?” “Get my anxiety-ridden alcoholics in here!” Something like that. Something to create a sense of community. Something to show the optimistic extroverts the door. The world may be your oyster, but this blog post ain't for you.
If there’s one thing that triggers me - and I mean that mostly incorrectly, as I’ve mentioned before - it’s other people having a good time. During the winter in Wisconsin, that’s not a concern. No one’s having any fun. It’s -40 degrees with wind chill. Our cars are buried, and with them our sense of perspective. This is just how life is now.
Now the summer, on the other hand - the summer is triggering. People are having an alarmingly good time. In Madison, people are drinking on their porch, drinking on their lawns, the sidewalks, in bike lanes, medians. People are drinking by the lake, drinking in boats, on innertubes, on less-reliable flotation devices. The most athletic are drinking and just treading water. When I first stopped drinking, all I could see was the world barreling on full-force without me.
Five months into sobriety, this was my cue to leave town. As soon as the weather began to brighten, I convinced my best friend at the time to join me in a tour of rural Wisconsin. I’ve mentioned this before, because it mattered. A lot. Although, looking back, it is the reason I saved actually, genuinely zero money in my first year of full-time work, it also meant that I got to experience the best sobriety possible at the time, right when I was most at risk of totally hating it. Rather than wandering through downtown Madison and seeing the summer I couldn’t have, I was able to wander through cornfields and small towns and see the world I could have. The world that had been here this whole time.
Since that summer, I’ve had two summers sober. During neither one have I been nearly as compelled to skip town. During the second, I was taking summer classes and working as a research assistant. The person I was dating was out of town, so I learned how to feel properly sorry for myself. (Lol! Just kidding. Pretty sure I popped out of the womb feeling just a touch resentful that I couldn’t really stretch out.) And the third sober summer, I nannied, and wrote, and gave therapy, and even walked by old drinking spots with a sense of perspective. Just last Wednesday, on what felt like the first day of my fourth summer, I strolled by my old favorite dive downtown. Long islands are only $2.50! And yet, in that moment, I was perfectly content to be sober.
The summer will always be a time when drinking is especially visible, and perhaps I’ll always be vaguely aware of the fact that I’m not doing it. But my thoughts are no longer feeding the disease. The disease thrives off of notions like, This would be better with a drink. Other people are having more fun. I can’t participate. I am alone in this. In contrast, when I’m spending a sunny Wednesday after work walking around town with a friend and enjoying food at happy-hour prices, it’s hard to feel too bereft by drinking culture. In those moments, I am able to simply observe the world around me - which contains booze, yes, but also contains so much more - and the disease dies a little. Those moments feel oddly like acceptance.