This is the third installment of a multi-part series. We’ll explore why The Drinks seem to be so cool, while sobriety is like some dorky cousin. I’ll share a path toward conscious sobriety, a method of getting it to stick, and why we’re better off partying on our own damn terms. Read Part 1 “So, what’s with all The Drinks?” HERE. | Read Part 2 “Are The Drinks a Slow Road to Hades?” HERE.
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How did we get here, with
all the Drinking and Things?
Long ago in America, the Roaring ‘20’s were Gobsmacked by the realities of The Great Depression. Prohibition of booze demonized The Drinks.
True partiers moved underground, into speakeasy bars, (also known as blind pigs, or blind tigers). Talk about human ingenuity! These were the original gangsters of the Hipster Movement. But they weren’t sipping artisanal organic microbrews in handblown glass mugs. It was all about going blind on moonshine and bathtub gin.
And oh, how they partied!
While the Underground Rebellion kept the Drunken Force alive, our lame-by-comparison Government Empire presented a painful alternative: staying sober during a Great Depression.
“Are you fucking high?!?” we yelled from our lamp shade helmets, sloshing mugs in the air like Vikings. No wonder Prohibition was quickly overturned, and balance was restored to partying.
But we Americans don’t do moderation very well.
We Manifest Destiny.
We capitalists go BIG, especially with things like consumption, and the marketing to consumers about the benefits of MORE consumption.
Our culture is determined to make up for lost time by offering drinks while we wait in lines for The Drinks.
A sobering inflection point occurred in 1935, just six years after the Wall Street crash ended the roaring twenties.
Alcoholics Anonymous was founded, here in my hometown of Akron, Ohio.
Within a decade, the pendulum-gavel of harsh judgment swung from vilifying drinkers, to rebranding non-drinkers into militant Grandma Tee-Totalers. Sobriety, originally a capital-V Virtue meaning “complete alignment with your immediate circumstances” became “the lame alternative to drinking.”
Sandra Dodd, a writer and philosopher provides one of my favorite definitions of sobriety:
“Do not all you are able, eat not all you wish, spend not all you have, and tell not all you know.”
Sobriety is the observance and avoidance of that “OH BOY the rules don’t apply to me!” thinking that can cost people social points.
However, the word “sober” has a much greater depth than “not drunk,” and that’s where we should be looking for this virtue. No one needs to be sober in the meaning of dead-serious and humorless all the time, but unless one has the ability to know when to be serious and to put humor aside, he won’t be much use in an emergency situation, or when a problem calls for calm, far-reaching analysis.”
My friend and teacher Susan Piver (who will be a guest expert in The New Sobriety program), is a NY Times bestselling author and Shambala Buddhist. Susan gave me my personal definition of sobriety which I still use today.
The pursuit of sobriety never really ends, since there are infinite vices or distractions that cloud our experience of the current moment. Susan’s simple definition of how sobriety could manifest in my life is: “Pared-down. Sharp-eyed. Awake.”
This felt much more appealing, since I was raised on sneaking cans of Busch Light in the creek behind my Mom’s house. Partying felt cool, and devious. It was a rite of passage for us bored suburbanites. Kids who didn’t drink seemed prudish, risk-averse, and 1-dimensional.
Like just about all the people I knew, I rode that predictable, cliche train for as long as I could stomach it. I drank for twenty-two years of my relatively young life, before kicking once and for good in April 2012.
Do you ever experience a ton of pressure to drink? How do you deal with it?