To be (sober) or not to be (sober), is that the question?

11 Aug

9:26 pm

Since I’ve been working this new job–my first big-girl job, in a certain sense, since getting sober–I’ve been wondering how my coworkers would (secretly) perceive me if they knew I was once a raging drunk?

I say “first” big-girl job because this is my first full-time, non-contract job since getting sober–I worked as a freelancer for many years, and while I had a long-term gig (because it was freelance, so to speak), I never had to truly commit.  Sure, I gave my all, and my time, and my talents–but I knew that I wasn’t being counted on to deliver; I knew my job didn’t necessarily depend on both my performance and my commitment, however perceived, to that performance.  With this job, it’s full-time and it’s a lot of both professional and emotional commitment.  Shit, I really care what my coworkers think of me, and if not of me, then definitely my performance.  I wish I didn’t care, frankly; but, my obsessive preparation for the presentation I had to give at a team meeting a few weeks ago says that I really, truly DO CARE.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for someone whose entire alcoholic history is intertwined with people-pleasing, perfectionism–a severe self-imposed pressure that came from God knows where, really–well, it’s disappointing that I haven’t sort of grown out of that after seven years sober.

Then again, seven years sober is not that long of a time (and, as you all know, I had slips here and there; my last official drink was January, 2016).

Coming back to what I’ve been wondering:  how does one come out to coworkers when it’s been a long time since you’ve been there, in that raging drunk place?  I understand the desire to come out, and the immediacy of it, when you’re in that place; I came out to a lot of people when I was a few years sober–I was so proud and so free.

Now, though, it’s been a while, and I have had years to sink into this maybe-false sense of self–am I still an alcoholic?  I am no longer a high-functioning hot mess; I no longer consider myself a hot mess.  I have transitioned–at least to a certain extent in my mind–into a new person, someone between “used to be a drunk” to “used to be a drunk but not really sure if it even matters anymore to me, let alone you, if I used to be a drunk.”  With that transition, which has been gradual and ongoing, into this weird place of “long-term sobriety,” I can’t help but wonder, does it matter anymore that I am sober?  Do I still define myself as sober–and, therefore, attach myself to all that that entails, including my long recovery–and if so, how?

One of the things I’ve found hard this year, since I’ve been at this job, is that I know that I don’t have to identify anymore with being Drunky Drunk Girl; I could totally forget that she existed, if I choose.  I am so far removed from jobs who knew me as DDG; I am far removed from my first foray into the working world post-recovery, which was that long many years ago as a freelancer–now, post-post-recovery, I could really just disappear into the world of normal people who work and don’t drink…

That’s where the rub is; that’s where I feel the most disconnect with myself this past year:  I am anything but normal, and my history, my story of recovery is anything but over.  I know this, I do, but I guess I’ve been hiding from it.  Most days, I have this niggling feeling that I’m hiding out in the normal world, pretending I belong there–and, there’s that imposter syndrome again, right?

I would LOVE to reconnect with DDG, with that person who was “on fire” during my immediate recovery, but I don’t know how to do that besides continuing to blog here, to think about my process of recovery, and to continue reaching within and without for direction and support when I bump up into the HUGE unresolved issues that were essential to my alcoholic drinking.

What I don’t really have a sense for is, is it worth revealing your history to coworkers for whom it might be shocking to the point of them wondering if it’s possible that you could be that old hot mess of a drunk AND this person, who is doing a good job?  Like, if I once was that hot mess of a drunk, would they now judge my performance as “someone who is sober, but seems to be doing great work” instead of “someone who is doing great work?”

Sometimes I feel like jumping from the roof, screaming the benefits and life-changing lessons sobriety has offered me for seven years!  Other times, I feel like quietly gliding down the sidewalk, enjoying my anonymity.  I’m not trying to hide it; maybe if I came out, I’d get more of that old fire around recovery back?  Or, maybe it’d just fall flat, no one would care or remember, and we’d all just get on with our work day?  Maybe, it just doesn’t matter right now anyway. 🙂

It’s strange, long-term sobriety, but the lessons NEVER stop coming.  And for that, and for each day still that I am not drunk or hungover, I am ever-grateful.  For those still struggling, you got this; it does get better, it really effing does.


21 Responses to “To be (sober) or not to be (sober), is that the question?”

  1. dealingwithalcoholdependency August 12, 2019 at 4:36 am #

    Interesting post- I guess there’s an alternative to coming out as alcoholic or hiding the past which is , “I decided that drink wasn’t for me anymore, I didn’t like the physical impact so I stopped.” In the end each of us has to decide for themselves how we define both our present and our past. Great food for thought!

    • Drunky Drunk Girl August 18, 2019 at 9:32 pm #

      Absolutely agree–we all have to decide what is right for our evolving situation. Thanks for the comment…

  2. G August 12, 2019 at 11:59 am #

    More than 6 years ago I decided to taper off. I would be sober for months and then back to weekend drinking and the go back to not drinking for months. I’ve now been 1 year 5 months w/o alcohol. During this time I’ve discovered that most people aren’t interested in my past and I am tired of going over it. What I find works for me is mentioning I don’t drink if it’s appropriate in the conversation. Then I say I didn’t like what alcohol was doing to my body and I couldn’t process it like I could when I was younger and have since learned how hard it is on the body so I quit. I am honest about how sometimes I miss it but this is the best choice for me. I’ve also found that people are interested but they don’t want to hear a pathologized version of my drinking history and it feels healthier to focus on the actions I take to move forward living alcohol free.

    Formerly blogged as Running From the Booze.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl August 18, 2019 at 9:37 pm #

      I remember reading your blog then!!! I started this in 2012, so we were getting sober around the same time. I am so happy to hear your version because I have come to realize as well that no one cares about my drinking story in exactly the way you described, that they don’t want to/can’t understand the pathological version; and I myself am much more interested in the here and now. Totally love that you commented here–great to see how it has been, long-term!

  3. Ainsobriety August 12, 2019 at 12:37 pm #

    I have been sober for 5 1/2 years.
    I work in a professional job. When I change departments and get to know people i inevitably tell them I’m sober and love it and it was the best decision I ever made.
    I also joke about my years as a hard drinking engineering student, etc. But if asked I am very forthcoming that alcohol held me depressed and anxious and paralyzed and getting free of it was life changing.

    Do they think differently of me? I have no idea. If they do no one has ever said anything. Most people offer me their own dark secrets. I feel like my vulnerability allows them to be open too.

    Maybe there’s a cool AA group around you to hang out with for a while. It’s always interesting to try something new!


    • Drunky Drunk Girl August 18, 2019 at 9:38 pm #

      Anne, Always love and appreciate your insight. I don’t know if I could be that honest with coworkers, and, it seems so long ago that I was doing that to my body that it just does not mesh with who I am now, in front of them, talking to them. Yes, I should try AA again–I would probably get a totally new perspective, especially around long-term sobriety!

  4. Just Some Woman August 14, 2019 at 4:52 pm #

    Congratulations on the job! In my opinion, it’s no one’s business. I don’t care who knows about me, but I most likely would if I were working. In cases that I didn’t want to have to go into some long explanation (sometimes they irk the shit outta you, wondering why you’re not drinking with them) I just say, “It makes me break out. And once I break out, it’s hard to put me back in my cage”. That usually shuts them up. To be super duper secret (which I think life dictates at times) I just say, “Sorry, I’m allergic”. It’s not a lie, it’s the God’s honest truth. “I DON’T DRINK” is also a good one. LOL
    Sure, I can bury the truth, push it back in my mind, hide it, etc. etc. But I can NEVER forget where I came from. Alcoholism is a progressive disease and I have a healthy dose of fear of it. I prefer it that way. I like that fear. It keeps me sober for another day.
    I’m glad your hanging in there!

    • Drunky Drunk Girl August 18, 2019 at 9:43 pm #

      I always love and appreciate your comments here! I am totally on board with the “I don’t drink” end of story nothing more to see here kind of statement. I never hesitate to say that, but it most often shuts people up! Haha… If they ask more questions, I am happy to go into a milder, edited version of my story, though.

  5. soberperspective August 25, 2019 at 6:23 am #

    There is a lot of truth in this post and I appreciate that. I have been sober for 966 days and am still blown away grateful and down right excited about waking up each morning sober. The shift from I can’t drink to I don’t want to drink was subtle but profound in my recovery. Because it changed the way I carried myself both internally and on the outside. My relationships changed because I had changed. In truth nothing has stayed the same within in my recovery and sometimes i just have to sit in that awkwardness and be ok with just ok. I love sobriety because it had allowed me to heal. Thanks for sharing your truths so that I could find mine.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl September 17, 2019 at 4:03 pm #

      What a nice comment–and I love this and am going to repeat it to myself on the regular: sit in that awkwardness and be ok with just ok. Congrats on your recovery journey (and yeah, waking up sober every morning still hasn’t gotten old for me either)!

  6. ceponatia August 25, 2019 at 9:13 pm #

    My coworkers pretty much all figured out I went to rehab so I was open about it from day one. I’m not embarrassed of it, and I don’t get the sense you are either, so I pretty openly talk about it. Perhaps predictably, reactions are mixed between “I’m so proud of you” and “wow, maybe I drink too much…”

    • Drunky Drunk Girl September 17, 2019 at 4:01 pm #

      Yes, same–reactions are mixed, but most often, people don’t really give it a second thought/seem to care. Which is fine by me!

  7. Lovie Price September 11, 2019 at 1:44 am #

    i believe there is are times to be detailed and times not to.In some situations ( for instance someone offering me a drink) i choose my response based on how much i value that persons perception of me and how much i value my current relationship with that person. Not everyone is worth knowing my personal story or details about my choices. I save that for the ones that are.The ones i would lose trust with if i was dishonest or withheld things from.With most people, 90% of the time i just say ” I am abstaining for a bit- doing a health cleanse- “.it gets them off the hook, they usually don’t push or ask questions then and they still get to have their own good time drinking etc without feeling “weird” around me. For me, the people i value already know my story, and thats good enough for me.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl September 17, 2019 at 4:15 pm #

      Totally agree–I definitely tailor the amount of detail to the person in front of me. No one really asks me anymore why I am not drinking, though one time recently, at a work event where we were all celebrating with champagne, I was THE ONLY team member to take water and toast with that–and I did feel curious eyes on the back of my head, so to speak. It was kind of weird, but maybe just for me…

  8. The Curator November 3, 2019 at 6:06 am #

    Wow, I’m in the exact same place and have been for about four months. After nearly five years of sobriety, I’m reevaluating a lot. I was never one to “recover out loud” and I was always in the fringe of AA, and I wonder if it all matters. I’m not sure. I’m glad to have woken up today without a hangover. 🙂

    • Drunky Drunk Girl November 23, 2019 at 2:41 pm #

      Haha–me, too. That’s all that it boils down to for me, a lot of days, as well, since I can’t seem to figure out the answers to all these grey area questions I have…

  9. Robin woods November 9, 2019 at 6:03 am #

    There is a lot of truth in this post and I appreciate that. I really get goosebumps while reading this and remembered my old days.

    • Drunky Drunk Girl November 23, 2019 at 2:40 pm #

      Ahh, the old days–they are always right there, yet…so far away? Strange…

  10. Anthony Miller November 18, 2019 at 6:28 pm #

    “Yep, the idea that recovery is a one time thing is not true. It is an ongoing situation.

    When my uncle was in recovery, he was taught a lot about the brain. And how it functions.

    I think he went to That was the place in Orange County California that had all the palm trees he talked about.

    At first, when my uncle had the intervention meeting, there was a time when he was in and out of rehab places. But, then he got to feel the power of
    sobriety in California. He said the addition of a bright and healthy environment helped him even more.

    And yes, he still says that recovery is an everyday thing. So, keep up the good work. And hang in there.”

    • Drunky Drunk Girl November 23, 2019 at 2:35 pm #

      Thank you so much–it’s good to hear it over and over again, that it is a process (recovery, and life!)…

  11. Andrew Huskin December 11, 2019 at 11:15 am #

    Great article.

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