My Sober Second Act
Back when I was still drinking, I went out to meet up with an ex of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while. We met up at what used to be the Capitol Club on Capitol Hill. I made sure to down a couple shots beforehand at Bill’s Off Broadway, of course.
This is a whole lifetime ago when, in a different incarnation, I was a punk dyke.
When we met up, I noticed that she looked all healthy. She said she was in recovery. I forget the details, but she told me about how, instead of going out drinking all the time, it was easier to save up and go on vacations, meet new people, read books, go back to school, and have hobbies.
“My life got so much cooler once I quit drinking,” she said.
Yeah, right, I thought.
Drinking was part of my identity. I didn’t know any sober queers or punks. I mean, wasn’t that the point? To be queer, and liberated, and fucked up, and have a lot of drunk sex? I thought I was pretty liberated and free when I was drinking almost every night.
I was the kind of drinker that chased obliteration. But that meant there were other parts of me I couldn’t see – like the trans-ness I was numb to, and my creative dreams that were slipping away.
I tried to control my drinking. I took time off from it. I only drank on certain days. I limited myself to a certain number of drinks. I kept calendars on my wall, and wrote different color X’s on the days I didn’t drink. But, after my behavior started taking a toll on my relationships, I decided it wasn’t worth it anymore. It had turned into an ugly and tired script that I kept repeating, with miserably predictable results.
I decided to give up drinking for good. Forever.
There are so many things that numb us to who we are. Alcohol is a big one. Minority groups, including queer and trans folks, have higher rates of alcoholism. It makes sense that we’d want to reach for a substance that provides an escape. But where’s the line between temporary escape and self-sabotage, playing right into the hands of those harmful stereotypes forced on us? America has told us in so many ways that it wants us dead, and the statistics have been consistent for years: alcohol and tobacco are more deadly than illicit drugs.
The biggest gift of sobriety was getting myself back. This sounds cheesy as hell, but some folks say it’s like getting a kind of innocence back when you quit drinking. That felt true. But it didn’t mean everything was fixed instantly (or ever). Being sober may feel like a superpower, but it also feels, well, sobering. I still say and do dumb shit. I still have to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I still go to counseling. I am still learning because, if drinking provided a small relief for social anxiety, being sober forces me to meet it head on.
Now that I don’t drink, I actually take care of myself, though. Or, try to. I started addressing health issues I had been putting off. I saved money that I would have spent on drinking and put it toward gym membership fees, massages, vacations, and things that improved my mental health for the long-term. I go to shows sober and actually remember all the bands that played. I’ve had the time and resources to write a book, take classes, and start a business.
A bit gift of sobriety, though, has been meeting the other punks and queers who don’t drink either. There’s a lot of us out here rewriting our relationships to alcohol and substances in radical ways.
I recently had my seven year sober anniversary. I’ve lived through many lives and incarnations so far, and I get to be here for all the chapters to come. Making the radical choice to be a sober trans person is like getting this whole extra life, and I can personally vouch for the fact that it’s a hell of a lot cooler than any bar I’ve ever been to.