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Ali Lehman - July 28, 2020



Existence is a fucking trip.

Our society dictates cocktails and weed edibles are the social norm. So is the raw experience of clean consciousness breaking a boundary? What’s more punk than sobriety?

Unadulterated life is loud, aggressive, fast-moving. Being fucked up all the time is elevator music in comparison. Punk is transgressive; so is sobriety.

Going through life with no filter is like seeing through a windshield after it’s been in a car wash, not just rubbed with some spit and a sleeve.

One of the first things people say in sobriety is, “I noticed the wind in the trees and the sun on my face.” You see life and experience emotions more clearly when you aren’t self-medicating.

Alcohol and marijuana slow everything down. In comparison, real life is sped up.

Twelve step programs make you see things differently: hipster grownups desperately sucking cigarettes don’t look like the Marlboro Man or Joe the Camel. They’re walking Freudian oral phases, overgrown toddlers too old for a pacifier.

You’re not all addicts. I don’t want to stand between you and your American Spirits. I’m not speaking from the experience of a “normal” people. I’m an alcoholic who got sober.

My alcoholism isn’t “Female Alcoholic in a Lifetime Movie,” but it could be.

They say addiction is half craving and half obsession.

The obsession impacts me more than the craving. I don’t want to drink every day, but I’m always thinking about it. Even ten months sober.

I’ve always lived life in the grey areas. If drinking yourself to death is on one end, and normal drinking is on the other, I’m somewhere in the middle. That gives me a unique perspective on alcoholism (spoiler alert: all alcoholics think they’re special).

I never got a DUI or had legal trouble, facts that neither prove someone’s addiction, nor exonerate them. But if I remember hard enough, I’ve thought about the promise of escapism even before I actually started drinking at 13.

Obsession permeates our culture. Everyone is cocktail- and craft beer-crazed. Within every football tailgating or mommy wine group, there are alcoholics.

Your heroes agree with me. If they’ve been around long enough, they’re sober too. Ask Steven Tyler, Florence Welch, Trey Anastasio, Ben Harper, Trent Reznor, James Hetfield, Tom Waits, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Ringo Starr, Keith Urban, Eminem, Sia or Neil Young.

Sobriety doesn’t zap your creativity. You definitely are not better when you’re drunk. At anything, whatever it is. 

Singing? Go to a karaoke bar with drunk people to find out.

Think you write better when you’re drunk? Kerouac’s “spontaneous” novel On the Road actually took him three years to write, and he died an alcoholic recluse at 47.

Sex? Majority opinion confirms you’re definitely not better in bed after a bender. Sex and drugs are not rock and roll anymore.

Nashville isn’t just a party town full of honkytonks, dive bars, and boozy steak houses. Everyone’s hustling in Music City USA. Writers, musicians, artists, designers – this city has a pull for wandering souls. Some wanderers get lost forever, others find their way.

In East Nashville, it's commonplace to hole up at Three Crow Bar chain smoking. It’s pretty radical to brew your own tea and walk through some trails at Shelby Park.

I don’t leave the neighborhood much. It’s special for me, it’s where I got sober.

I have dirtbag credibility. I was fucked up at Siren Music Festival in Coney Island while watching Broken Social Scene in 2009. I don’t remember much of it, but I was there. And you know what? I find that shit really boring now.

People in 12 step programs are raw. 

Like singers in punk bands I saw in high school, people in meetings spill their guts to strangers in the basements of a VFW on a Tuesday night.

Instead of being assholes, some of us are actively working on our bullshit. Do you know your character defects? Do you think about them before you nosedive your life with shitty choices?

Don’t get me wrong. “The rooms” are not a melting pot of emotional stability. They’re just a place where sick people try to get well.

Here’s a radical idea: next time you go to a concert, try staying completely sober.

Facing a crowd of people in a spilled beer-stinking room is intense.

The last concert I attended had two openers, and the sound wasn’t great. The headliner played 10 songs before I left. I got home around midnight, woke up at 7 a.m., and went to a meeting. I remember every minute.

You probably had fun at the last concert you went to. If you are like I was, you don’t remember how you got home and spent the next day eating greasy takeout and getting high.

I advocate for temporary sobriety among non addicts. Not because everyone who spends $200 on a craft bottle of bourbon, or someone who has five different ice cube tray shapes, is the same as a homeless panhandler who has lost everything to addiction (PSA: not all homeless panhandlers are addicts). But because our obsession with getting numb is all encompassing.

Whether its weed vapes or biodynamic wines, the fetishization of disconnection hasn’t done us any favors. Abstinence can’t hurt. At the very least it might help you drop a few pounds, feel better in the morning, or improve your mental health.

Although I can’t say that Sober October, Dry January or whatever Instagram bullshit is cool now doesn’t irritate me. I’m resentful because sobriety is necessary to my spiritual and physical survival, it’s not a hashtag. But I will definitely hashtag this article #sobriety when I promote it on social media. #sorrynotsorry

My dad used to smoke Marlboro Reds and rip off the filter. It’s rough. Feel it the next day when you wake up rough.

Sobriety is kind of like that. But better.

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