I’ve been thinking a bunch about the topic of fun. Do sober people have fun? Is it the same fun as before? What sort of fun is it? Am I having fun? I feel pretty happy, so I must be having some fun, but how is this possible? After all, I haven’t had a drink in months. I haven’t been spending much, if any, time with the drinking buddies. And aren’t those people loads of fun? Hmmmm…
Is sober life fun? It’s a common question. Those who’ve been sober for years seem to answer quickly – yes, of course! And those who are still drinking but contemplating sobriety answer just as quickly – no, not possible! So what is the real honest to goodness truth about this? Are sober folks just blowing smoke, making the best of things, or in some sort of denial around their lack of fun? After all, the people in bars sure look like they’re having a grand time of things.
Right around two months sober I wrote this – I have a hard time imagining something that will get me excited in the way looking forward to a boozy night used to. I think this was my way of saying that even if sober life could be fun, I didn’t believe it could be as fun.
Now I’m coming to think it’s more complicated than this.
First, we have to consider how sober living affects your overall disposition. Once you are really good and sober, the amount of joy you feel from small but joyful things seems to increase. Something makes you smile and that moment feels happier than it usually would. It would have made you happy before, but now you feel the happiness just a bit more (no fatigue, low-grade depression or cloudy brain getting in the way). And, in contrast, the bad stuff bothers you less. Your baseline mood has lifted, so it takes more of the bad stuff to bring you down than it used to.
All this to say that after being sober a while we feel more peaceful and content with life, so there is less frantic looking around for fun. And when fun does come your way, you enjoy it more.
Second, we need to separate the booze from the fun, to find out if the event is actually fun or if it’s just an excuse for our addicted brain to have “fun” by drinking. This can be hard to figure out at first because going alcohol-free makes us feel awkward around people who don’t understand it. So an event that is truly a lot of fun might be just plain uncomfortable until we get used to doing it sober.
But once the addicted brain calms down and you get over feeling awkward and anxious, you can evaluate things better. At that point, if it isn’t fun without the alcohol, then it probably isn’t actually fun. I used to drink to get through things that weren’t really all that much fun, but if you had asked me at the time, I would have said I was having fun. There were also times I wondered why we went to so much trouble to get people together when we could just as easily drink at home – when I said I was looking for fun, I was really just looking for an excuse to drink wine. Now when I have fun, I know it’s genuine fun.
Lastly, being sober provides more time, energy and money to invest in having fun. Right now I’m planning a trip to Chicago with my daughter to celebrate her sixteenth birthday. There is no way I would have taken this on when I was drinking. For so many reasons. And because I’m no longer spending my day looking forward to wine o’clock, I pay better attention to what’s going on around me and engage more, which is fun! Today I had so much fun at work making people laugh by telling stories about my kids. And I’m having fun right now writing this blog, at a time of day that I would normally have been asleep or doing that squinty one-eyed TV watching thing.
Do kids have fun? Do people in booze-free parts of the world have fun?
Looking back on my life, I have lots of memories of fun that didn’t include alcohol.
I bet you do too.
Happy Sober Wednesday,