I used to drink a lot, now I don’t drink at all
That’s what I tell women on the first date. They order a glass of wine, and I order a soda water. I get a little sideways look, but most don’t care. It’s not an issue for them. I attract people who don’t care.
I bore sloppy drunks and sloppy drunks bore me. We have an understanding to stay out of each others way.
Every now and then people are curious about why I stopped drinking alcohol. I tell them a short story.
It was love at first sight
New Year’s Eve, 2AM. I was leaving the party when I saw her, peeing next to my car. I was speechless, and smitten. We spent the rest of the night together, going from one party to the next.
We dated for 4 years and had a blast together. Both new to San Francisco, we explored the city. We spent a lot of time in bars, clubs, and after hours. We liked to stay out late enough to see people heading to work.
It was fun until it wasn’t
We needed help. I lost my temper often. She would cower and run. It wasn’t healthy but we didn’t know any better. We were 23. We didn’t have the tools to deal with conflict.
Something had to change.
Someone suggested therapy. Having a third party might be a good idea.
Couples counseling is no joke
One of the hardest things I’d ever done. We often left the office crying.
We’d take turns ganging up on each other. The therapist and me against her one week. The therapist and her against me the next. That’s how it felt anyway.
It all got aired out. The time I grabbed her wrist and left a bruise. The time she lied to me about seeing her ex boyfriend. The yelling matches on Mission Street. Our relationships with our parents.
And eventually our daily drinking and drug use.
That might have something to do with it
The therapist said the drugs and alcohol were making it difficult for him to do his job. There were underlying issues he needed access to. The drugs and alcohol were the underlying issues but I wasn’t ready to hear it yet. I was only 24.
He asked if we’d be willing to stop drinking for a bit. Just long enough for him to figure out what the problem was. Or long enough for me to figure out what the problem was.
Smart guy. Not paying him for nothing. Let’s do it.
We stopped for 30 days
It worked. Then we tried it again for another 30 days, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay sober so I drank at home, alone. And I didn’t tell anyone.
I felt like an asshole. I was depressed, ashamed, and had low self-esteem. I hated my body and I couldn’t feed myself properly. Burritos everyday. I started to look like a burrito.
After a particularly low night of drinking alone in my underwear, I had an epiphany. A moment of clarity.
Alcohol was preventing the progress of my life in every aspect. Physically, emotionally, personally, professionally. Everything was being stunted because of alcohol. That night I decided to quit alcohol and drugs for one year.
I got sober at 25 years old
I told the therapist my plan to stop drinking for a year. He told me to go to AA, find a sponsor, and work the 12 steps.
I went to AA, found a sponsor, and worked the 12 steps and I haven’t had a drink or a drug since. That was over 8 years ago.
My girlfriend and I broke up 9 months after I got sober. I found recovery in AA and she found it in Alanon. We weren’t the young party kids we once were. We were growing up and starting to heal. I’ll forever be grateful to her. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.
I was getting my mojo back
I was barely 26 and loving life. I’d started working out and taught myself to cook. The baby fat was finally starting to melt. I felt good. The depression lifted and the self-esteem rose. I was single for the first time in 4 years.
Things were looking up.
Except for one thing.
Sex was awkward
I mean. I hadn’t even had sex and I knew it was going to be awkward. I’d made out with a few women and it felt weird. I didn’t know what to do, or how to act. I felt like a virgin again.
I’d never done this before. I’d never been intimate with anyone without at least having a drink or two first. That’s just how it was. I had sex at night, and I drank at night.
I was getting my mojo back but I was also second guessing my every move. It was exhausting. I wasn’t cut out for sex without alcohol. I needed help.
I turned to my therapist.
He didn’t cost $1,000 an hour but his advice was worth twice that. To me at least.
I sat down and told him everything. I told him about second guessing my every move. About my anxiety being naked with new partners. About not knowing what to do, and how I’d never had sex without alcohol.
I told him how awkward sex without alcohol felt.
He looked at me and said three words:
Awkward? Or natural?
Sex without alcohol
Having sex without alcohol was natural. That’s how it all started out. People did it without drinking. No liquid courage needed, just regular old courage.
And so I did it without drinking, trying to remember that it was natural. It was natural to feel weird, to second guess, and to not know what to do.
Sex without alcohol was natural, but it was still awkward.
And that was OK. Sex is awkward. We’re rubbing body parts together to make good feelings. How can that not be awkward?
It got better. I learned to trust myself and my partners. My communication around sex improved. I learned to ask for what I wanted in bed and learned to ask my partners what they want. I learned to laugh at myself, and at sex.
Sex eventually started to feel a whole lot less awkward, and a whole lot more natural. But let’s be real. It’s still awkward. And that’s perfectly fine.