Sobriety at 30
By Sarah Gordon
I just turned 30 and with that comes the normal, existential crisis. Have I done enough? Am I living my life the way I want to? Am I making the right choices? Whenever I am in a space of questioning the wild nature of my life I tend to enter a period of sobriety. I’ve chosen periods of sobriety throughout my 20s for many reasons: to clear my head, to understand my life better, to concentrate more on my spiritual practices of yoga and meditation, to enjoy life more, for medical reasons and pursing healthy choices.
I have been practicing sobriety sporadically since I was 20 years old, with my longest stint being two years, from 2
0 till 22. I find it a cleansing experience. Recently, I’ve entered back into a period of sobriety for a myriad of reasons, mostly health. My body just does not respon
d well to alcohol after my cancer-related surgery 16 months ago and at this point I think it’s just best to start letting go. My ability to tolerate alcohol is not the same. My body has changed and cannot handle having a couple of glasses of wine before an international flight as I discovered last year when I threw up on everyone around me throughout my 36- hour flight. I arrived in Mexico, covered in vomit and the airline lost my luggage. Lesson well learnt, universe. Thank you, body. In between, all this vomiting, I did meet a fabulous Canadian man in the airport bar, who works in oil in the Middle East and had a lumberjack beard and told me stories of how he tends to attract meth addict-type girls and has had friends lose toes from frostbite. Now we are friends. However, he would have been just as interesting without the vomiting and that wine. Ernest Hemmingway used to say: “I drink to make people more interesting”. I find that people are just as interesting and surprising without anything else extra.
Considering my recent sobriety, I have realized that the experience of being sober in your early 20s and then in your 30s is quite different. Very, very different! So I made a list to document my experiences and thoughts below.
- Being sober at 20 usually means one thing: you are the only sober driver. Ten years ago, there were no ubers or cheap cabs in the city I grew up in and everyone lived quite far apart. So, as the soberest person in the club, party and festival, I had to drive many, many drunk people home. I had guys shout at me then throw up on me while I drove them home, as they complained about how I took their car keys away and wouldn’t let them drive. They don’t seem to understand this irony as they vomit all over me. They also usually don’t thank you as they don’t remember. Those were some great memories (so much sarcasm in this statement). After that period of my life I have never driven another drunk person home again. Thank goodness for ubers.
- Also, since you are the soberest person you are usually the one cleaning up the vomit. The only advantage of this is that when you are 30 you are less likely to be at house parties where your friends paints the walls and floors with their vomit and bad choices.
- When you are 30 you are more likely to date someone, who doesn’t get drunk and if they do, it doesn’t happen that often. Thank goodness for that. My current partner only drinks occasionally and doesn’t use any drugs. I never have to drive him home or clean up after him or manage him or worry about him. This is an amazing thing after I spent my early 20’s dating a slightly wild, British guy.
- When you are 30 and sober, there is so much more to do with your time and you are more likely to have friends who don’t drink (and aren’t evangelical Christians or Hare Krishnas- those these people are also lovely :). Unfortunately, in my personal experience it is difficult to find groups of people who abstain from alcohol but I found this becomes easier the older you get and the more you explore other interests such as: yoga, mediation, hiking, sport, travelling and so on.
- What you miss changes. When I was in my early 20s and I was sober, I missed being able to participate in parties (I made up for that after I turned 22). Now that I am sober in my 30s I miss wine and tequila tasting. Real wine and tequila tasting, not just drinking. I attended lectures about wine for a year when I was 24 at University in Cape Town (the land of wine) and become very interested in the process. I also now live in Mexico so I can drink real tequila here. I think I miss being able to drink wine and taste tequila the most. I don’t see myself staying with complete sobriety forever, as I already have a spare room in my apartment filled with books and bottles of really, good wine and in-laws with a tequila cellar in Mexico. Now in my wine and book room (I always wanted one so I got one at 30- my biggest adult achievement yet) I read books and drink tea. At this point in my sobriety I have so many different types of tea in my apartment, which I love but in about four months I will have to succumb and drink a glass of wine while I read a book.
- But most of all, my favourite thing about sobriety is being able to wake up every morning with a clear head. My yoga and meditation practices are clearer and life flows a lot easier. I don’t crave unhealthy food as much and my moods are much more stable. My heart feels settled.
In conclusion, a quote that makes no sense but somehow refers to whales: “Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunk Christian.” ― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick.
Read more of Sarah’s blogs at Awkward in Cape Town.