At the end of last week, a mother whose son I teach offered to buy and drop off some beer for me at my house. She told me I deserved it after dealing with a school lockdown ordeal on Monday. We had been locked down-no one in or out of the building- for a couple hours due to a shooting in a nearby neighborhood. The mom has given me a ton of positive feedback this school year and told me that outside of immediate family members, I was the person she most trusted with her son during a potentially dangerous situation. Being a sap, that choked me up a little bit.
I tried to welcome her offer and attempted to deflect the awkwardness of letting her know I don’t actually drink. At one point, I even said, “Well, you’ll just have to stay and help us drink it.” But, after a solid twenty minute conversation, she pointedly asked if I preferred dark or light beer. No wiggling out of that one. I told her that I actually didn’t drink. She was very understanding and moved on to ask how I prefer to unwind. She proffered chocolate as an option, which I immediately seized upon. I just stipulated that it couldn’t have dairy- and the darker the better.
We continued talking and she brought up the idea that being sober is a whole lifestyle, and that it necessitates constructing a supporting community around those choices. I stopped and said, “You know what, it’s really not a lifestyle. Going out with my friends and drinking was a lifestyle, but the absence of drinking really isn’t. It might be healthy for my body, but I haven’t found a replacement for the lifestyle of going out and being social. So, just being sober without that replacement has actually been unhealthy, socially speaking.” We continued talking after that about building a “village” of people who could get together, have fun with or without drinking, and just enjoy life. I actually think this village concept is a great one and I’ll delve into it in future writings.
The reemergence of sobriety as an important aspect of who I am has also coincided with some extremely long work hours, frequent poor health, and also being a father of two. Over the last few years, there have been several impediments to socializing. But, still, I know that doing anything sustainably- including living drug-free- includes tapping into that support structure my student’s mom was talking about. It involves creating a social network (outside of online culture) that is supportive, re-energizing, and fun. I’ve been pretty awful about doing that.
The few times I’ve gone out to bars, or concerts, or done bike rides with friends, I’ve had a great time just getting together and laughing with other people. But, I’ve rarely been the one to initiate anything. There are so many things going on in my city, and so many great people to do things with. I need to get over my initial reticence to set plans and create regular interactions. There was a time in my life when alcohol made that easier. It got me over what seems to be a pattern of social anxiety. I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but I know I can face this invisible force head-on and start creating a sustainable drug-free lifestyle.
I saw the mom and her sons at an Easter egg hunt today at a nearby park. There were actually quite a few of my students and families, as well as some other friends from the neighborhood. It was a good reminder that great people are all around.