As the summer approaches, the social intensity of Chicago increases.

Most Chicagoans celebrate by knocking back a few cold ones. And while the desire is certainly there for me, my decision to honor my father’s passing with a year of sobriety is steadfast.

Although it is just the beginning of my journey to go sober for twelve months, I feel it is important to acknowledge the insights that come along with this challenge.


1. I am an asshole.

Yep, being sober will increase your self-awareness, whether you like it or not.

My first sober week was a breeze. I felt refreshed and full of new life, and that first weekend without a hangover was gratifying. The road ahead appeared smooth with productive days, well-rested nights, and clear-headed mornings.

That said, the second week was noticeably less novel.

My demeanor became a bit adolescent, complaining about this and that, pouting when things did not go my way.

The latter part of the month revealed that I am an overly sensitive man-child whose wit serves as a weapon against anyone that opposes me. Moreover, I am quick to react, and often confused by the pointless angst I am expressing.

Maybe it’s because I work too much.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t been exercising and meditating like I used to.

Or maybe it’s just because I’m sober and don’t like the dumb ass thoughts in my head.

It is disconcerting to see myself clearly and find that I am not the amicable nice guy I thought I was. Apparently, I need to be more empathetic and exert some emotional self-control.

2. Being a “social drinker” means that I’m less social when I’m not drinking. 

I have the great fortune to be surrounded by some of the kindest, funniest, smartest people on the planet, but sober Eric has his communal limits.

Several times in the past month, I have taken leave from the drunken chattering and cackling of my comrades in order to regain my peace of mind.

Grappling with my social ambivalence is the hardest part of my sobriety. I have always been outgoing, but then again, I usually drink when in the company of friends. Now that I’m analyzing my relationship with alcohol, I see that I never wanted to sacrifice the effects of my “social lubricant”.

Possibly, that is a large part of why our society consumes so much alcohol. We do so in order to extend our social capacity, to connect with people at a higher frequency, or to push our self-consciousness to the borders of our mind in order to enjoy the company of other human beings.

Regardless, I must carefully balance my social life to appreciate my friends.

3. I am a workaholic.

The term weekend warrior generally applies to someone with a 9-5 job who parties on the weekend.

Although I am freelance and control my schedule, I have modeled my life on the “work hard, play hard” philosophy and mimicked the weekend warrior schedule. Without the customary Friday night visit to the Pub, I have found myself working seven days a week.

I might be more productive, but I am noticing that my quality of life is not sustaining.

That is not to say I felt better when I was drinking. I am just becoming aware that alcohol masked a lot of my problems.

I really am kind of an asshole. I do a lot of good for a lot of people, but I am pretentious and argumentative. I should be more humble and considerate.

I shouldn’t need to drink in order to enjoy social situations, and contrarily, I shouldn’t feel obligated to overextend myself. I should have quality time with my friends and enjoy the necessary reprieve.

It is not okay to work all the time. I am a bit obsessive and pride myself on my productivity, but I should relax and enjoy the moments of this finite existence.

One of the problems that recently sober people run into is that they simply subtract the habit of drinking without adding a new habit. That void will ache until it is filled. I have felt that lack during the past month like I am forgetting to do something, or missing a part of myself.

I have written in the past about structuring my life in pursuit of goals, the benefits of exercise, and the necessity of meditation. Recently, I have not been following my own advice, and the result is that I feel off balance.

It’s time to get back to the basics.

I just bought a new Zafu (meditation cushion) and plan to put it to good use. After all, acquiring the proper tools will support the chances of any endeavor. Soon, I will be reacting less, and expressing myself without angst.

I’ve been emotionally and mentally stable before, and I know that sobriety alone is not enough.

Along with meditation, I need to factor in the fitness portion of this undertaking. I’m always up for a good challenge, and I have decided to give myself six weeks to get my ACSM Personal Trainer Certification. The ACSM exam is not an easy test, and I will be spending hours every day studying, but this is how I will ensure my success, by reformatting my patterns.

This first month of sobriety has not been as uplifting as I would have hoped, but it has been enlightening in other ways. Seeing myself clearly is rewarding (albeit a little unsettling), because it gives me a starting point from which to grow.

I have no false sense of pride to lean on, only faith in my ability to change.

It’s back to sitting and staring at walls, exercising daily, and structuring my life in the pursuit of goals.

(Featured Image courtesy of Tim Dorr)