Monday, 17 October 2016

Leaving the Fold

It's been a strange sort of week. Stupidly busy. Busy, but somehow flat since the crescendo of my 40th a week ago. I'm still more than a little chuffed about how that went, how relaxed I was about the whole thing. However, during my sleep (after the 40th) I must have done the old teeth grinding again, because I've had tension in my skull and a sore jaw for most of the week since. I thought I was relaxed, but subconsciously I must have been under some strain.

I haven't blogged since last Sunday, but to be honest I haven't been thinking about the drinking thing much, if at all. Life is good. I've got no complaints about anything really. But it seems the more solid and sorted I get with stuff, the more restless and unsettled I become in other areas.

I decided a while ago to pull back from the awesome Living Sober community. But I thought I'd tell them yesterday, not just drift away quietly. If something has been so valuable then why leave?

My instincts told me it wasn't the right place for me anymore. I stayed logged in till the end of the day and read people's comments. Mostly people were kind and supportive, even though I felt/feel like a bit of an arse about it all.

Gerry said:

"I find it odd how after a few months of blogging that people think they don't need this site, like they are cured. Imagine if people in AA thought like this there would be no 'old timers' to keep the message of sobriety going and probably no AA. A big thank you to the old timers on this site who keep coming back. Good luck."

I've been thinking about Gerry's comment, and I see where he's coming from (also I wondered, oh hell, what does he know that I don't?). I imagine it's coming from long-term experience of seeing people drift in and out of Living Sober, leaving when they think they're sorted and reappearing after a fall, or when things get tough. I get that. People often view the situation of others through their own prisms.

I didn't join because I was addicted to alcohol, but rather because I felt uncomfortable about the negative aspects of my drinking and because I had built up a negative view of alcohol in recent years. I reached a tipping point rather than a rock bottom. I think there's a difference, and I'm aware that by trying to make that distinction risks making a value judgement about myself and others. I don't mean to say I'm better or worse than anyone else, or that one person's experience with alcohol is less or more valid than another's. Or even that I do or don't have a problem. We all occupy a position on a very wide spectrum. I'm merely trying to describe my own truth and take control of my own narrative. I can only be myself.

There are plenty of moderate drinkers who join Living Sober, just as there are those who have had more chronic drinking habits. In a lot of ways it's irrelevant. Whether AA is the vehicle or logging into a community such as LS, or taking the solitary road, it's not easy to give up alcohol; to question the habits of a lifetime, to retrain a brain set on auto pilot for so long. You have to do what works for you.

At the moment I want to keep things as simple as possible. Engaging with Living Sober feels wrong for me now. It reached the point where it was putting my life slightly out of balance. Was I helping myself anymore? Was I helping others? Was I going through the motions? Was I merely being sucked into the vortex of other people's drama? Was logging in becoming a compulsive unthinking action in the same way alcohol used to be? It's not that I don't care about the people in the community. I really do. How do you say goodbye to friends? Should you? Will I log back in and ask for help if I need it? Of course.

New members of Living Sober will still be welcomed and receive the wisdom of the long-term members regardless of whether I'm there or not. Mostly I felt I couldn't relate to a lot of the experiences and feelings I read about on LS, and that other people were more qualified in giving advice to those people. I'm going to continue to keep the message of sobriety going in other ways; through this blog (till it runs its natural course and sinks into oblivion) and through my own example as a non-drinker to my children, friends, whānau and strangers. I want to continue to shine a light on sober living through writing articles. That can reach many people. It's not like by logging out I have un-met my sober peeps: Prudence, Mrs D, Seedynomore, Wildchild, Vwlheel, Morgan, Enzedgirl, Mtedenmummy. The list goes on. I'm sorry if some feel like I have abandoned them.

The indefinite logging off from Living Sober led me to question why I should even continue to write this blog? I started in order to navigate my early angst of giving up alcohol. I felt I had something to say and the training to say it. Writing is what I do for a living, but it's more than that. It is an important part of who I am. I love the creative process of writing. I've only been writing the blog for a few months, but to me it feels like a lifetime ago that I was a drinker. It's carried me on a wave of uncertainty to a new way of living. It's led me on a bit of an adventure, connecting me with people around New Zealand and the world. How great is that!? That in itself defeats the buzz of alcohol. 

I've been thinking about the concept of certainty a lot lately, and about how I'm certain I want to live sober for the rest of my life. How do I know I am never going to drink again? Well, if I wasn't sure then it wouldn't really fit into the category of certainty would it? But how can you be totally certain about anything?  

In 2004, my wife and I watched Morgan Spurlock's documentary Super Size Me in which he ate a shitload of McDonalds every day for a month. While it left him fairly unhealthy and confirmed what we already knew about excess eating of fast food, the McDonald's child-targeted pervasive advertising campaigns left a negative impression with us. We vowed to boycott McDonalds and haven't eaten it since. Neither of our children have ever set foot in, let alone eaten, McDonalds. Rightly or wrongly, my negative attitude towards McDonalds was swiftly added to my core beliefs and moral code.

Alcohol is the same for me now, it's just taken longer to adopt the sober ethos and, as my friend Katrina says, kick that shit out of my life.

I've boycotted it. It's off the table. I deplore it. I regard it as a poison. It's in the same category as Roundup (weed killer) as far as I'm concerned. I'm certain I'm not going to drink weed killer so why would I drink alcohol? I'm not sure I know how to truly quit Living Sober, and whether that will stick, but I do know I've left alcohol behind for good. 

For me that's certainty.



  1. Hello Soberman. I understand, and each person has their own way to do this sober gig, and we all must do what feels right for us. As I said on Living Sober it is a big loss for the site, as you are very well liked and respected, and a beautiful writer. We will miss you there, but many have left without a word and it was nice of you to say Goodbye. At first it made me feel quite confronted, due to the obvious fact that I am still there after more than two years! I asked myself "how lame am I, still here after all this time. Hardly anyone else is. Is there something wrong with me?". Haha well no, I don't think there is. I think this is a place where I belong, at this time in my life. It is a place where I can express my feelings, and where I can give service, which helps me with my staying power, and hopefully helps some others as well. It is something I can do, in my busy world, and it feels right for me to still be there, for now. I am very lucky in the knowledge that I have made a good friend in you, and I'm so grateful for your help in turning my Mother's prayers into a book for my brothers and sisters, and our children. I love your certainty, and it will be fabulous to watch the green pastures of your life roll out before you. Love to you Soberman xo

  2. Lovely post as always and one that resonates with me strongly. I, like you, blogged almost straight through my 100 days missing a day or two along the way and then I felt "done". I still post occasionally but not with the same fervour or need. I am not as adamant as you about not drinking, I don't want to but I sometimes am slammed upside a massive craving and imagine writing my post about how I drank because of XYZ. Having said that I still understand you withdrawing from Living Sober, to me reading blogs and commenting and even writing my blog seemed to keep me focused on drinking when if I didn't do could lead to days not even contemplating it. I intentionally opted against AA because I didn't want my life to be sobriety first and everything else second, it works brilliantly for others but for me as a contrarian it made me obsess MORE about alcohol. The more dogmatic something feels the more I tend to want to rebel. We each do what we have to do and you need to do your thing to stay true to yourself.
    I enjoy your writing and will continue to stop by and check in periodically even if you chatting about work, life, kids etc. That too is part of living sober, getting on with the day to day, Good luck to you whatever you end up doing, you withdrew from LS in a gentlemanly fashion and respect to you for that.