I haven’t had a single sip of booze in 6 months.
At the risk of sounding totally cliche- quitting drinking has improved everything in my life. Seriously, everything has for real gotten better. Mainly because, I have gotten better. I understand how I feel more clearly which has helped me understand how others feel more clearly. I’m more honest with myself which makes me more honest with others. I feel happier, healthier, less anxious, more in control of my emotions, more motivated, more content. I could go on and on.
None of this happened right away, of course. The first three months were a roller coaster of feelings I didn’t even realize I had. I literally had to relearn how to handle all basic emotions. Previously, if I felt anything too strongly, that was my clue to have a drink. Had a hard day at work? Drinks! Feeling super excited because basically anything? Drinks! Sad because my boyfriend just left me? Drinks! On a first date and so nervous I’m going to vomit everywhere?
Alcohol became both my reward and my therapist. The desire for a drink was triggered by any feeling more than nothing. But now, if I feel something, I have to embrace it, handle it, and pull through. That’s some tricky shit.
So to most people, not having a drink for a whole 6 months- well, that’s a lifetime, and normally they are so aghast when I say how long it’s been, that they stumble back a little, put their hand to their chest, and in a half-whisper ask “but what do you do on Friday?”
Which is a valid question, I guess because you could ask that of anyone. No, I don’t go out to the bar anymore. So most likely on a Friday night, you’ll find me at home sitting on my couch in underwear, splitting my time between half watching every animal documentary narrated by David Attenborough on Netflix and half taking quizzes on the internet to find out what my cheeseburger picnic spirit animal is. I don’t drink 978 calories of wine in a 4 hour period. I never text an ex like an idiot. I haven’t done that weird white girl drunk thing where you take your shoes off and ask the closest stranger to hold them for no apparent reason and I can’t even remember what it’s like to wake up hungover.
So far so good. But one thing I never really thought about when I decided to quit drinking was dating. To give you a little background, pretty much every single boyfriend I’ve had in the last decade has been a direct result of waking up next to them enough times in a row wondering how I got there that I just decided to give them the title of “boyfriend” and call it a day. And it started to become apparent to me recently that I don’t really know how to date someone without incorporating alcohol. Is this a thing that can even happen? I don’t know.
Dating is a totally different game sober and it’s a version I am totally unfamiliar with. I do not know the rules. Apparently, copying and pasting Eminem lyrics and texting them to some dude right before dropping my phone like a mic and shouting boom- it’s out there- your move playa! is not an acceptable way to throw the idea of a date into someone’s universe. Or like if I’m totally nervous because I’m on a first date and his hand accidentally brushes up against my thigh which immediately prompts me to picture him naked 576 times, how do I manage to just smile and say “this Chilean sea bass is delicious” without either running away as fast as I can or throwing the whole dinner table aside and mounting the poor guy right there? Before- a quick sip of wine and I could bury the moment and be back to being falsely confident, but now? I gotta ride it out.
Basically, if I ever end up back on the dating scene, I got nothing. Essentially, by scrapping alcohol, I scrapped the previous script for the romcom that is my life, and opted for a script I’ve never read before.
The Leading Man
Everything I’m looking for in a dude is different. If a dude drinks a lot and smokes cigarettes- I’m not interested. (It’s still weird to even write that and also means I pretty much just crossed off dating the entire restaurant industry.) Yeah, I’m still looking for the guy that’s going to be super comfortable sitting around half naked, playing Super Mario Bros. 3 while feeding each other chocolate bonbons and drafting business plans together to open an ice cream pizzeria, but now it’s very important to me that he doesn’t have a drinking problem that hinders his motivation to actually act on starting up that ice cream pizzeria.
Just last week, a guy was staring at me a lot while I was working -which is understandable because I’m a babe- and finally he works up enough courage, and he comes over and says the basic hey, what’s up, blah, blah and then asks so, do you want to get a drink after work or sometime? And when I said I don’t drink- he froze. He just froze right there. He literally stopped and stared at me for a full awkward minute and it became obvious he didn’t know what to do aside from drink with chicks. And it became even more obvious that I will now always need a guy more clever than that. I need a guy that’s like hey, so I drive by this donkey like 6 times a day and it’s a really fucking cute donkey and I was wondering if you wanted to take a drive sometime and check it out. (If you’re wondering how the eff I came up with that donkey idea, it’s because 2 days ago, I drove by an adorable donkey, and there was a man in the field with it so I stopped and asked if I could pet his donkey and he obliged. -Shout out to the guy who has a donkey.- And I thought as I spontaneously was meeting this donkey out of nowhere that it would be a moment better shared.)
Basically, in the event that I was looking, I’d be looking for a man I don’t know how to find.
The Meet Cute
Pretty much that means, I’m not going to meet the men of my wildest dreams at a bar.
But I’m going to let the whole internet in on a little secret: I DON’T KNOW WHERE ELSE TO FIND DUDES. Now before you suggest the internet, I tried that and no. It was impossible for me to form a strong enough attraction using only text platforms (you can’t give head in a text message, blah) and also I can’t bring myself to meet strangers because I have legitimate fear of being raped.
So maybe I should just creep around the aisles of Dick’s Sporting Goods and hope that I’ll accidentally run into an adorable goofball whose like “on a scale of Chinese communism to ten, how free are you tonight?” And I’m obviously free because otherwise I wouldn’t be predatoring at a sporting goods store, so we’d end up walking the railroad tracks by a lake and I’d admit that I know every word to every Britney Spears song in all of existence and he wouldn’t even care.
All I know is that unfortunately, I’m not going to find a guy choreographing dance routines to the Pussycat Dolls by myself in my apartment every night of my life- as dreamy a life as that is.
The Sex Scene
I’ve always been a very sexual person. Little can be done to change that I’ve realized, but I assumed when I quit drinking it would at least calm down my drive to like regular people sex drive. Even my friends were like maybe this will calm you down a little and you won’t want to fuck everywhere. Right? Maybe.
Nope. It’s gotten worse. I walk around in a perpetual state of arousal. My personality traits are listed as funny, outgoing, and always horny. If you were to open up my mind, you’re just going to find a 24/7 live streaming porn feed and now I know for certain that I will blow my boyfriend on a ferris wheel drunk or sober.
To be quite frank, my accelerated hormones are pretty much awesome and not really a big surprise because duh, science. Alcohol has the ability to kill an erection or dry up a lady faster than picturing George W. Bush having sex. The problem? Everyone knows that sober sex is better, but no one actually starts a relationship with sober sex.
Alcohol is used as a lubricant for the unavoidable awkwardness that comes with banging someone for the first time. Just as it makes it easier to ask so what’s your favorite hot dog condiment at your first meal out together, it also makes it easier to ask so are you into butt sex the first time you’re naked together.
I can’t decide if this is the scariest thing in the world or the most exciting thing in world. It makes me obscenely nervous, but at the same time, I want to try it with everyone. Regardless, if ever I have a first kiss again, I’ll be 15 for it.
Getting the dude to agree to letting me walk down the aisle at our wedding to the song I’m Real by J.Lo and Ja Rule without getting him hammered drunk and having him sign a contract seems tricky.
The Happy Ending
In our society, we’re often warned to be content with where we’re at. We use phrases like the grass is always greener on the other side to advise people to stay put, to explain away longings, to not change their everything simply because they desire more of a situation, of a person, of themselves. That holds risk.
Leaving behind alcohol is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. That may sound stupid, but honestly, it is. It’s kind of like leaving that person you knew was good enough but not the greatest for you. Starting all over is frightening and even though you know it’s going to change your life- to what extent you’re never really sure.
When I was a little girl dreaming of being a grownup, I pictured myself being fiercely independent, being able to drive myself to the movies after dinner, wiling away my hours reading novels and eating Goldfish and brownies, all while looking damn good. I pictured myself happy, healthy, laughing and alcohol was never a part of that picture.
And now for the most part, that’s my life.
And so as unprepared as I may be if I ever date again, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter if I ever have another first date or if I ever figure out the best place to predator dudes sober, because I’ve already learned that as scary as new beginnings can be, they also can be better for you; I’ve already learned that sometimes the grass is much greener on the other side.
Because that’s where I found the best version of me.