Audio version of post, written and read by Jean McCarthy

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Boy, it was hard to be sober that first summer. Everything felt weird and off. Backyard parties, camping, boating, outdoor meals, sporting events. I’d quit drinking in the spring so the new habits and confident replies had not quite fully manifested in time for summer socializing.

It wasn’t that I wanted to drink. It was just exhausting to constantly feel uncomfortable in the very drinky world. I’d quit quietly so the people around me weren’t aware that I was trying to do things differently. I now know they would likely have happily accommodated me, if I’d just asked.

I don’t have to think much about being alcohol-free any more. There is a secret to this, though, and it took me a while to figure it out.

I spent that first summer trying every mocktail and alcohol-free concoction I could get my hands on, trying to find the perfect substitute for wine but never feeling satisfied. It turns out that was the wrong approach.

What keeps me feeling satisfied and fulfilled now has very little to do with what’s in my glass (usually plain tonic water, by the way, or a flavoured bubble water; herbal tea at bedtime). It’s all the other comforts I take throughout the day, the little things I do for myself or make time for: a bit of creativity, a little extra time to read, a handful of chocolate chips, a run in the sunshine, chatting with a friend.

Here’s the funny part. I did those same things that first summer, but I didn’t absorb the joy they were offering. I did them and liked them but I still needed something in my glass, dammit.

It took time but the focus shifted.

One more thing to remember: sobriety means learning to socialize differently. It goes beyond the issue of what to drink or how to respond if offered alcohol. This might include making a brief appearance and ducking out early, or graciously declining an invite altogether. Asking a friend to go for a morning walk instead of evening drinks. (Many of these strategies are covered in my UnPickled Holiday Survival Guide relating to the festive season, and applies year round.)

Summer 2020 has been extra quiet and contemplative, but I am okay with that for now. I’m enjoying writing books and promoting my recent release, walking my aging dog (the one I bought online while drunk in 2010, she’s getting on), listening to the new Taylor Swift album on heavy rotation, helping my son with his garden, learning to use my new instant pot, and having occasional outdoor visits with dear friends.

My wish for you, wherever you are at on your personal recovery walk, is that you would feel the little sparks of joy that are already present in your life. They’re there, awaiting discovery.

PS – Please be sure to watch my UnPickled page on Facebook and @JeanMcCarthy_Writes on Instagram for a book giveaway this week!