And other questions to seriously consider before you get sober.
Since I got sober, my life has changed for the better in every way, blah, blah, blah. However, there are a few things that I wish people had fucking told me before I took the decision to quit drinking forever. Obviously, I’m screwed now, but in case you are still on the fence between AA and the beer garden, here are three things to consider before you do something you sincerely regret.
1. Your idea of fun will change irrevocably. Once upon a time I turned the music down at a party, stood on a chair, and told a room full of good looking adults that it was time for Musical Bumps.
“When the music stops you sit down! Last one sitting is out!”
Later, at a nightclub, I moonlighted as a student of contemporary dance, refusing to speak, except through the language of movement. For hours.
Another time, at a house party, I challenged a handsome stranger to a race down three flights of stairs on my hands. When I had beaten him, I bounded straight back up the stairs to find another stranger to race.
I can’t imagine what my hair looked like. I didn’t even think about it. I took stairs-racing seriously, developing a technique of sliding my body over the carpet so violently that I picked up enough speed to beat anyone in the house who dared contend.
I had developed a new sport, and I was at its forefront. The next morning I had the most innocent carpet burns of my life.
Since I got sober, fun is fleeting. Three minutes tops. An hour of fun might happen, but it’s an annual thing, and never at the appointed moment, i.e., your wedding reception.
When fun finally happens it is so rare and meaningful that I usually feel like crying with gratitude. FFS.
2. Your days will get longer. At the worst points of my drinking, I used to find the days intolerably long.
“Do you find they just go on and on forever?” I would politely inquire of acquaintances, receiving mildly alarmed, blank expressions in return.
This Long Day Syndrome was partly because I had been paid a lot of money to finish my first novel only to find my brain didn’t work anymore, and partly because I’d moved back to my childhood home where I had no friends because everyone else was actually busy.
Not being able to write is a special kind of torture — privileged, sure — but painful, none the less. Moving back in with your parents at age thirty is a less… specialist type of angst.
Trust me when I tell you that those days — when I drifted around like a newly-single dandelion seed — had nothing on my first days of sobriety.
Do you even know how long a day is when you don’t start drinking in the afternoon?
During the period between seven and nine o’clock, or whenever you would normally start drinking, time really puts the brakes on.
The first hour alone you can relax in a bubble bath, read the same passage of a book 15,000 times, and not quite learn half a chorus of a song you used to almost be able to play on the ukulele.
The second hour, you can hoover the sofa for cat hair, make, bake and burn a batch of banana bread, and debate what you want to do with the rest of your long, long life. (Remembering that drinking yourself to death is now officially off the table, sorry!)
Please don’t make me write about the third and fourth hours.
3. You will have no choice but to get fit. Once you’re sober, your body is like a dog by the door, with its lead in its mouth. Except it’s harder to ignore because it’s dangling from your head. It communicates its wishes through thoughts and nerve endings and feelings in your stomach.
Take. Me. Out!
You have no choice but to get fit. I’m serious. The days are so long now, what else are you supposed to do?
By five p.m. you’ve already cleaned your hair and body, been to work, done the laundry, massaged the cat, and written an essay.
Plus you don’t feel sick and tired anymore, which adds to your new awareness of this whole body thing, which seems to actually want to run.
So, please, before you do anything reckless, ask yourself these three questions.
Are you ready for the kind of fun that makes you cry actual tears of genuine gratitude?
Is having more time really so important?
Do you honestly want to get fit?
If I can’t dissuade you, then fine. Here are some resources that have ‘helped’ me.
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Chelsey Flood is the author of award-winning YA novels, Infinite Sky and Nightwanderers, a lecturer in creative writing and a dedicated truth-seeker. She writes about freedom, addiction, nature and love.