"Fun" used to be double fisting at a concert with a million other people. A little over a week ago I received a detailed message from one of my readers about reaching two years of sobriety and feeling, well, kind of blah. She expressed that she felt that she was finally coming down off the "pink cloud" and that she had been thinking a lot about her former drinking life. She said she is grateful to not have to wake up with a hangover and not be the volatile, messy person she used to be who was surrounded my chaos, but that she did miss being carefree, fun, and spontaneous. As soon as I read her message I knew I had to write about this topic.
I could relate to all of the feelings she was describing. In my drinking life I was the same way. My life was a cycle of drama and chaos that was always changing. I never knew what was going to happen from day to day and I reveled in the excitement of the unknown. It felt good to be crazy, impulsive, able to agree to anything, or go anywhere, at the drop of a hat. In those moments I felt truly carefree. I didn't have to worry about anyone or anything and consequences of my actions fell by the wayside. With alcohol, I had the courage to do or say anything. I have to say I miss that feeling too. I miss that feeling of "anything can happen" and the insane stories it brought along with it.
My reader expressed that she felt this way too and that it scared her. She thought she was beginning to "romanticize" her drinking times and that it could convince her to go back to her old life. She mentioned how, for the first time in her life, she is a responsible adult who saves money instead of blowing it on a bar tab, doesn't get DUI's, and doesn't mind going to sleep at 10pm. She said her boyfriend sometimes refers to her as an "old lady." I too, have felt these exact same ways. I'm 30 and just now learning how to be responsible, how to pay bills on time, how to deal with emergencies, and succumbing to the fact that I actually enjoy sleeping more than staying up late.
So, is it ok to miss our carefree drinking selves? And more importantly, were we really ever carefree and wild to begin with? Or is that something drinking brought out in us?
I've asked myself these questions time and time again. How do I know the real ME? Am I losing a piece of myself by taking alcohol and drugs out of the equation? It's not unusual to feel this way.
I think we question ourselves because of what we have historically equated with being fun. We (people who overindulge in drugs and alcohol) traditionally believe that fun is equal to wild and long nights out on the town, socializing in new places with new people where alcohol is involved, and being spontaneous to the point where yes, bad things might happen. I know when I was drinking that I would be horrified when encountering someone who wasn't drinking. I would think they were eternally boring and that their lives must suck. Now that I'm sober I know this viewpoint was one that was born out of my love affair with booze. But I too have become conflicted with truly believing that staying in on the weekends and sleeping more, exercising, or doing chores around the house could actually be fun and satisfying. In my first year of sobriety I forced myself to attend a lot of events, birthday parties, and other nights out at the club sober, in order to keep up with my old persona. I wanted everyone to know that it's possible to be sober and still go out and have fun, and it is! But I've also had to learn how to tell myself that it's also ok to prefer to stay home and watch TV or sleep.
Will we ever be as carefree, fun, and spontaneous as we were during our using days? To be honest, it's hard to say, but I don't think we will. I'd love to tell you that YES, we can be exactly how we were when we were drinking, but that would be a lie. The truth is, when we get rid of the booze, we change. We change a lot. Most of us come to find that alcohol had been our liquid courage and we did and said a lot of regrettable things, but about 30% of the time we liked acting crazy and being free from consequence. I still do some spontaneous things, got a few tattoos, booked vacations on a whim, and overcharged my credit card. But mostly, I am required to think about the consequences of every action I partake in. Yes, this is a responsibility you can't get around when you're sober. Yes, sometimes it can be overwhelming and annoying because you want so badly to just NOT care. But you can't, because you're sober and you've chosen to take this responsibility on.
So I think we need to find a way to embrace this new role and this new concept of fun. Staying out until 4am, listening to loud music in the nightclub, and being extremely tired the next day doesn't appeal to me anymore and I'm ok with that. The shift from what we thought was fun to what actually is fun is what doesn't sit well with us. And there are days that I still struggle with it. You won't get over this change in one day or one year.
The answer is yes, we can still be carefree, fun, and spontaneous in sobriety, but what those look like to us will change and we have to be prepared for this shift.