When I got sober I lived in a foreign country where being sober was basically unheard of. I didn’t know what any of this crap meant - “pink cloud,” “90 in 90,” “sponsor,” “people, places, things.” I was truly on my own from the get-go with my sobriety. I paved my own way and I never considered that some people get sober and stay in a sober bubble, sometimes forever. I was thrown into the fire in the first week of my sobriety. I attended a birthday dinner for my mother-in-law and there were bottles of wine. My family indulged while I could not. It felt horrible. I felt sad, angry, and annoyed. I felt like the odd man out. Shortly after that experience, I attended another birthday party for a friend which took place on a boat in the Caribbean Sea. On this trip, I was accompanied by a pregnant friend who also was not drinking, but I still felt like I was crawling out of my skin. I felt uncomfortable and I felt like a liar for telling people I wasn’t drinking because I was running a 5K in the morning (true, but not all the way true).
As time went on I became more uncomfortable in social situations, but I also avoided a lot of them in early sobriety. I was doing the sober thing, but there was always a separation. There was me and there was everyone else. When we moved to Florida in 2014 and I started attending AA meetings, I realized what it was like to have real-life sober friends and contacts. I learned that they had AA meetings for young people, conferences, special women’s day events, celebratory dinners, even themed Halloween parties and dances!
At first I thought this was amazing. Where had this been my whole first year of sobriety while I was holding my breath at New Year’s Eve celebrations birthday parties while everyone around me drank and I clutched my sobriety? I’ll never forget all the cool people I saw and met at several AA conferences. Many people meet their significant others in the rooms, their best friends and their mentors. And this is great! But it didn’t take long for me to feel like I was living in a secret world. A world slightly removed from reality. A word that Fer would never know because he wasn’t sober and he wasn’t in AA.
And I know this doesn’t happen just in the rooms of AA. Some people find their sober circle and they immerse themselves, and never really think about the outside world again. For me it didn’t happen that way and even when I felt immersed, something didn’t feel right. I have always been slingshotted back into reality and have learned the constant lesson that I do not live in a sober bubble. I’ve always been slapped with reminders that we live in a society that is flooded with alcohol marketing, that being sober in a unique trait, and that this world is not built for or sensitive to people who are trying their best to stay sober.
When you’re on the outside of the bubble, you know it. It can feel like everyone around you is drinking or the beer aisle in the grocery store is closing in on you. It can feel like there isn’t one sports team, exercise activity, or family event that isn’t centered around alcohol. So I get it. I get why some people stay in the bubble. Some people live very healthy, happy fulfilling lives and never leave their sober bubble. Some people don’t have any friends that drink, or at least ones that they socialize with. Others go in and out of the bubble, as they please.
Last year when I decided to stop attending AA, I made the choice to leave the bubble and take what I’ve learned out into the real world. I prefer to live as a sober person in a drinking world. Why? You might ask. Because this is the world we live in. A world I’m attempting to change. A world where people need to see more sober people, living, laughing, loving, and thriving in a world where people think it’s a fact that you can’t have fun without alcohol. I didn’t get sober to hide away in basements attending meetings or to only attend parties that don’t have alcohol for the rest of my life. I didn’t get sober to tiptoe around the substance that ruled my life for years. Fuck that. Alcohol won too many times in my life. It doesn’t get to dictate what I do now. That’s why I decided to live outside the bubble. I want to live life to the fullest. I want to go places, do things, and feel things that I never could while I was drinking.
Look at me alcohol! You couldn’t keep me shackled to my addiction and you can’t force me to remain in a sober bubble for the rest my life. Sobriety should intimately change ever part of who you are. It should be a healing process that encourages you to be the best version of yourself. It should be the time for you to look within, to reflect, to analyze, and to take everything you learn and immerse yourself in the world. For me, it’s the first I’ve felt alive since I was a kid. I finally feel like myself.
Alcohol you served a purpose. Sober Bubble you served a purpose. But now I’m out there busy being me.