One thing I felt so much of in early sobriety was remorse. As if we already don’t feel shitty enough because of the things we did while drinking and using drugs, those of us who quit drinking feel shame and guilt for doing so. If we say the word “alcoholic,” if we admit we are out of control, if we say we can’t drink anymore, we are automatically looked down upon. We are encouraged to stay anonymous for fear of rejection and stigma. So, is it any surprise that when I got sober I felt defeated? Inept? Like a failure? I felt like I couldn’t do something everyone else was doing - drink normally.
I run into this with so many friends and readers who get sober. They yearn to be a “normie.” And I too wished so hard that I could be normal at the beginning of my sobriety. I wished and prayed that I could change into a normal drinker, that this affliction would leave me and I would be happy once again with my dirty martinis and vodka sodas. Isn’t it crazy what we are willing to tolerate in order to be “normal?” I was willing to tolerate years of blackouts and horrible hangovers to avoid saying I’m a non-drinker. It’s kind of fucked up that we are conditioned to believe quitting drinking alcohol is abnormal. It’s sad that we understand as a society alcohol = cool and sober = alien-like. It’s heartbreaking that even when we make a life altering decision like quitting drugs and alcohol, we are still viewed by so many as “defective.”
A friend of mine just wrote a blog last week about wanting to drink. She’s been sober 4 years just like me and I admire her for her honesty and candidness in her post. One of the things she mentions is that there are times where she thinks about drinking again, and during those times she wants so badly to be normal. Normal in the sense that she could drink.
Like so many people I know, including myself in early sobriety, even my 4-year sober friend at times yearns to be a normie. If we could only drink like all the “normal people” our lives would then be perfect, or at least more tolerable. We wouldn’t be the odd man out at social gatherings. We wouldn’t have to explain ourselves. We wouldn’t carry around the shame, embarrassment and stigma that comes along with the words addiction, addict, and alcoholic.
But I can’t help admitting that I no longer feel this way. Unfortunately, yearning to be a normie is a natural reaction for many sober people. I wish it wasn’t that way. My hope is that one day no one will feel like that. My hope is that we will live in a world where people who quit drinking or simply choose not to drink will be the norm. My hope is that sober people won’t ever feel abnormal.
The truth is choosing not to drink, being sober, quitting alcohol and drugs for good - doesn’t make you weird or not normal. These facts make you a badass. I do not wish I was a normie. I love my life and I love being sober. I like being the only sober person in a crowd of people. I like answering questions about my sobriety. I like being an example of what fun, carefree, and young recovery can look like. I love being able to wake up every day knowing the worst I’ll feel all day is tired, or occasionally sick, or sad.
I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything because I’ve seen the destruction that alcohol and drugs bring. I know what it’s like to drink to excess. I’ve seen hundreds of other people drink and use drugs to excess as well. I know that being able to drink one or two alcoholic drinks would add nothing to my quality of life. I’d go far enough to say that binge drinking and destructive drinking are more “normal” in today’s world than anything else. Can the terms drinking and normal even coexist when alcohol is a poisonous substance that’s the direct cause of 7 forms of cancer? Is there any kind of drinking that is actually normal when our society is flooded with alcohol ads, when as women we’re encouraged to drink to cope with our problems, when pop culture includes ways to hide your wine and drink in every place at any time, when being sober is considered worse than getting a DUI?!
No, I want no part of that “normal” life. I’ve never felt more alive or “normal” than I do now, today, in my sobriety. I finally feel connected to life, to my emotions, to friends and relationships, and to myself. If being a normie includes putting poison in my body, whether that’s once a month or every day, count me out.
If you’re feeling left out, if you’re currently yearning to be a normie, remember this, normal is a social construct – one that we are working hard at changing. Remembering everything you say and do, living life hangover free, becoming the best person you can be, and living a life without mood and mind altering substances is the new normal. Waking up every day and choosing sobriety is not easy. You’re a badass and you should feel like one. You own it. You own your sobriety. You rock it like the coolest pair of new kicks, or latest hair trend out there. Embrace it as a lifestyle, as something to be proud of, as something to describe part of who you are, because that’s the only way it will stick and the way we collectively send a message to the world: Sobriety is normal, drinking is not.