You may think those words are an oxymoron, sober and fun. Even if you are only in the contemplating and curious stages of getting sober, that fact that you cannot reconcile those two things may be the thing holding you back. I get you. I am a thrill-seeker, an enthusiast. I run screaming from anything that even smells of boring and monotonous. I had convinced myself, with the help of my friend Denial, that drinking was the thing that kept life spontaneous. And it did, for a long time. When alcohol came along for the ride (and it always came along for the ride), I never knew what kind of mischief I could find myself in. That thirty-foot cliff off of the river-rafting jaunt? Hell yes, I’m jumping off that cliff. Pull over for this dive bar and find some crotchety cowboy with whom to two-step? Get out of my way.
But here is how drinking worked for me: it stopped working. My decades of spontaneous fun and mischief turned into a sad, pitiful party of one, at home with my bottles of wine and the most spontaneous event was not knowing if I’d wake up on the couch or my son’s bed. The biggest mischief I could manage was trying to decode mysterious bruises that I couldn’t even remember getting. If I did actually leave my house for some projected “fun”, which slowly became less and less of an occurrence, the event could only ever be described as a Shit Show. I would inevitably lose something, like my purse or my car, or I would just lose my way home, as in I wouldn’t make it home, the only whimsical part left of the adventure was trying to determine where I’d landed for the night. Movies and television try and shed some edgy light onto this sort of scene, but that vibe is completely lost on a forty-year-old wife and Mom, whose kids wake up for pancakes and wonder why Mom is MIA.
So what is a fun-seeking girl to do when she’s faced with the reality that booze is no longer delivering the kicks that it used to? Well cry, at first. Mourn the loss of the silly, drunk girl who never knew what drunken adventure was around the corner. Hate to be the one to break it, but that girl is long gone and she’ll never be recaptured. Next comes sleep, and a lot of it. Sleep like you’ve never slept before. Sleep like you’re dead. But what can happen, when you finally wake up rested and clear headed is you will see this world and its thrilling opportunities in a whole new light. What surprised me most after I got sober was that my need for fun didn’t leave me. I always thought it was permanently married to alcohol, that drinking was intrinsic to every fun adventure that I would ever take but what I found was that fun-seeking was inherently me.
I remember my first spontaneous urge so well. I had just picked up my kids from an improv rehearsal. lt was a Thursday, early evening and I’d just noticed an email that Chris Hadfield, the David Bowie-singing astronaut, was doing a book signing at our local, independent bookstore. At the time, my kid was really into all things related to space and was enamoured by Chris Hadfield. The bookstore was downtown and it was rush-hour, we hadn’t had dinner nor even a dinner plan, but I called my husband and told him that the kids and I were heading downtown to meet my kid’s hero, with twenty minutes to spare. It may seem like such an elementary act, but I can’t tell you how thrilling it was. First of all, I was driving around sober at wine-o’clock, heading to a place that didn’t serve booze. That seemed magical enough. I’d only been sober for about four months, and I finally didn’t need to cry or sleep or even eat anything, I just needed to get us there. It pushed all the buttons I needed to push for an impulsive spree. We squeaked in right before he was to take the podium, slid into a spot on the floor in the standing-room-only space, and I had the biggest, impenetrable grin across my face. I knew right then that this sober life might actually deliver.
I could list all of the fun I’ve had since then, and will mention some just to rouse your own ideas. I have zip-lined and hiked up many mountains. I have jumped into ice-cold water and swam with the fishes. I have danced my tail off at live music shows, a silent disco, in my living room. I’ve seen impromptu comedy, improv and musical theater. I’ve started personal projects with no other supportive reasoning than, Because I Can. I’ve ridden bikes, horses and waves. I’ve dressed up for Halloween, I’ve dressed up for Tuesday. And those author signings? I’ve been to no less than twenty over the past four years. I’ve even jumped on stages to read my own written word. Just know that your idea of fun may look different than mine, but your own definition is available to you too.
This fun train hasn’t reached her destination yet, not even close. I envision having a whole Fun House, a space to house all sorts of fun activities and options for those of us seeking adventure, even mental stimulation, sans booze. A hub, if you will, for meetups, workshops, stories, parties and discos. You know what happens when you think, Someone should really create a (fill in the blank), right? It’s like a package, wrapped up in a pretty bow and delivered right to your doorstep, just waiting for you to open it. What’s more fun than opening a present? Not much.