Co-Opting Sober


Does staying on the wagon for an entire year qualify as sobriety?  Does the said wagon even exist if you’ve never had a drinking “problem”?  Here, some thoughts on the semantics of abstinence from alcohol, and reflections on turning down the tipple over the past twelve months. 


“Babe, he probably thinks you’ve been to AA,” my husband laments, literally face-palming while I recant the story of how a fellow gym-goer and I would be celebrating a year of “sobriety” in the same month.  Yes, said individual has been through a twelve-step program (amongst other disturbing life events which I have not), and no, he personally does not have a problem with my referring to myself as sober.  My husband, on the other hand, disagrees, arguing that I’ve simply gone from falling asleep after the occasional glass of wine, to no wine at all.  Chalk it up to the clarity that comes with an alcohol-free lifestyle: I see his point.


Semantics have become all the more fascinating in an increasingly politically correct social climate.  At first glance, certain labels and self-proclamations may sound alternately inclusive or exclusive of a variety of individuals.  When we scratch beyond the surface, there’s depth beyond these adopted identities.  Case in point: the term plant-based may have been co-opted by vegans and vegetarians, but I’d argue even the more carnivorous eater may technically label him or herself as such.  When viewed through the lens of beef production, the term plant-based takes on new meaning, and is decidedly more inclusive.   On the other end of the spectrum, some seemingly catch-all phrases (and accompanying hashtags) are apparently offensive when co-opted by users who don’t fall within community guidelines.  The term “body positivity” is hotly debated and closely guarded.  I’m not sure if I fully agree with the argument of protecting a term steeped in, well, POSITIVITY, but it offers food for thought on my use of the word “sober.”


Whatever I choose to call it, 365 days sans alcohol feels like some sort of accomplishment, albeit one tempered by a sense of somberness.  It’s not that NOT drinking isn’t fun; but rather the complete lack of desire to do so is something I’m legitimately mourning.  Somehow, it feels a bit sad to feel no desire for even a glass of champagne.  I wonder, what if I make it back to Spain sometime soon?  Am I really going to go there and NOT drink wine? The present trade-offs – increased energy, zero hangovers, and more calories for cake – feel like good ones for a broken relationship with bubbly and an alcohol-free trip across the pond that may never come to fruition. 

The question is: will this bout of sobriety continue for the long haul?  I’ll leave you with this gem of wisdom as far as terms are concerned.  A fellow beef-loving dietitian recently told me of her path from temporary veganism (with a detour through pescatarianism) that ultimately led back to including all animal proteins.  Noting a conversation with her vegetarian-curious teenage daughter, she advised her: “Don’t be so quick to label yourself.  You never know what you’ll want to eat later.” 


Tell me: are you someone who doesn’t drink but is unsure how to refer to yourself?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


Enjoy your food.  Enjoy your life!