Choosing Sobriety

a : sparing in the use of food and drink : abstemious b : not addicted to intoxicating drink c : not drunkThe word ‘sober’ and I have an interesting relationship. Sobriety, it seems to me, is an after effect of a bout of alcoholism or substance abuse. What then do you call someone who has never drunk alcohol or battled other forms of substance abuse?

I started thinking about this recently because I was reading a thread on Reddit about sobriety.  The thread was from someone who had never drunk alcohol because they felt that they were predisposed to alcoholic through family history. Many commenters challenged this position saying that “How can you know if you have never tried it?” This had me thinking about my own relationship with alcohol.

At 31, I have never had a drink of alcohol. When people ask me why I don’t drink, I often point to my Muslim faith as my reason. However, I feel like for me that is sort of cop-out from telling people my story. The truth is I don’t drink because one of the things I learned really early about eating disorders is the co-relation to substance abuse.

I can trace back my eating disorder to the age of thirteen while living in Lagos. Thinking back now, I truly started recovering from my eating disorder in
my twenties. Of course, in my teens, I had moments when the eating disorder released it grips on me. Then, I would have a relapse. It was both an emotional and physical rollercoaster. It was in my late twenties when I really got to a place mentally that I could break that cycle and really focus on nourishing my body.

During this whole eating disorder battle, I chose not to drink because I realized instinctively that if I drank, I had the pre-conditions in place to become an addict. Why? Part of my deep struggle with my eating disorder included depression. There were times when I felt so low that I would have given anything not to feel that way. I would have turned to alcohol or any other substance to help fill the void of feeling lonely and dejected. Even when I wanted to escape feeling lost, I knew I wanted to do in a way that led me to health. I did not one to trade one struggle for another.

I choose to be sober because I recognize that part of living a healthy life means feeling painI choose to be sober because I recognize that part of living a healthy life means feeling pain. There are days when I feel so low now and I sit with my pain. I name my pain and sit with it. Part of my process includes nurturing my body, my mind, and spirit. By embracing my pain, I embrace my humanity.

Certainly, many people might challenge the choice for me to say I am sober. I can also confirm a level of awkwardness that comes with using the word ‘sober’ to describe myself. However, it is clear to me that I need to stop dismissing my conscious choice not to drink alcohol or abuse substances. While many people can make the decision to imbibe and have a good relationship with alcohol, recognizing the potential pitfall in making such a choice is worthy of acknowledgment on my part.


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