[img: a photo of 4 copies of the same zine in alternating black and white covers, which are of an upside down beer can with the zine’s title as its label. they are laying on top of a white and neon colored leopard print background.]
You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania #9: Two Years of Sobriety
For the longest time I thought that countless difficulties I faced before I became sober would magically vanish by quitting drinking - but eventually I came to the realizations that I hadn’t made concrete plans for life post-booze, and sobriety wasn’t the super fun root beer keg party I assumed it was going to be. I became cognizant that my issues with sobriety were innately tied into some deep hurts concerning anxiety, trauma, sexual assault, bar culture, and much more. In the 4 sections of this zine, I attempt to take stock of my mistakes and hurts over the past two years, showcase some misconceptions about sobriety that I have come up against, explain my attempts to battle my insecurity over continuing to stick to sobriety, and give some suggested pointers for folks who would like to support their sober friends and community members.
This zine is B&W, 1/4 size, 38 pages, & text heavy. US$2.50 +shipping - price can be negotiated, as can whether you’d like a zine with a black cover or with a white cover + colored pencil details! [Etsy / Tumblr ask / youvegotafriendinpa (at) gmail (dot) com] Note: This zine will debut at The 2014 NYC Feminist Zine Fest (which I am an organizer of!) on Saturday March 1st - any copies not sold there will be mailed out to the first Etsy orders & messaged requests the week of March 3rd. <3
Giving it Up / Intro
I am hoping that creating a space in which I can lend some insight to my sobriety while being honest about its complexities will keep me motivated to engage with difficult emotions and open the door to communicating about the topic with folks who are sober, interested in becoming sober, or empathetic to those who are sober.
I. Two Years Gone By
on a lack of strategy
…I was shocked that I basically had no functional plan for actually coming into contact with alcohol in a safe, healthy, and positive manner. And the only way I could think to deal with it was to shut down completely, walk away, and hope that I’d be able to prepare myself enough in the meantime to pick it up later. But the praxis form of my sobriety wasn’t a boss battle in a video game that I couldn’t seem to beat – it was a huge part of my life.
on realizing the intersections of sobriety & anxiety
I’m still learning how to be around alcohol without having really intense kneejerk reactions to what’s going on around me. I’ve tried to think, “Would I feel differently about this place or situation if I was also drinking right now?” and I’ve surprised myself with the honest answers I’ve given. Trying to complicate the partier/sober person duality into a spectrum of possibilities has been important in helping me to better mentally separate “This situation/these people are making me uncomfortable” feelings and “My anxiety is what’s mainly perpetuating my discomfort” feelings.
II. Misconceptions of Sobriety
on the idea that sobriety takes “Strength”
Another hard truth I’ve had to come to terms with in recent months is the fact that being labeled “strong” has its own particular set of baggage for me separate from my decision not to drink… I’ve nearly always had a reputation among friends for being reliable, able to handle intense emotional turmoil without showing distress, and a resource to turn to for assistance with nearly any problem. “Strong” has consistently been the primary adjective those close to me have used to describe me, and while it used to give me a surge of pride, it now has basically devolved into another way to say, “You don’t really ask me for support and I like that in a friend.”
on formerly using alcohol as a coping mechanism
It was as if I was constantly playing a secret, shitty drinking game with myself: See some frat boy hang out of his pledge house and yell, “Are you a dyke or a fag?” Drink 3 shots and maybe cry about it a little in your bathroom. Fear getting beat up by rednecks at a party in rural Pennsylvania for being gender non-conforming? Hide in the corner and drink a 40 until the heat of your hand warms it up to an unbearably gross temperature. The girl you’ve been crushing on dances with you and seems to be flirty? Drink 2 more beers, pass out, wake up, and explore any rationalization for her actions other than, “She probably genuinely likes you.”
III. No Use Crying Over Spilt Booze
on making “self-care” a daily routine instead of a special occurrence
It might be an unpopular opinion, but at this point in my life I’m so stressed out all of the time that my special self-treatment activities need to be constant and habitual, not only when I’m feeling down. I’ve questioned whether messages like, “It’s okay to not do anything but lie around and watch Netflix once in a while!” end up enabling avoidance behavior due to the open-ended nature of the “once in a while” time frame. In the past I’ve told myself, “Well, there are lots of other people out there who don’t respond to e-mails or phone calls and just sleep a lot when they’re stressed out too!” each and every time I’ve put off important tasks, which was way more often than just “once in a while.”
on pushing through the negative aspects of sobriety
While I still would like to take some time to figure out how to breach the subject of my sobriety with other people, I don’t want to stop having conversations with myself about what I need. I want to challenge myself to be proud of the small victories while making room for tackling even bigger ones. I want to become more adept at seeking out the positive aspects and effects of my sobriety instead of focusing only on the negative ones. I want to be more intentional and mindful in other aspects of my life, not in relation to my sobriety.
IV. Supporting Sober Folks
on not making sobriety or “not wanting to party” the butt of any jokes
Making jokes about such a weighty issue means you don’t have to consciously think about how that topic affects nearly every aspect of your life all of the time and can come off as dismissive, condescending, and blatantly offensive. It can also be inadvertently taken as a form of peer pressure, and for folks with a history of sexual assault intertwined with drinking, it can even feel like a reminder of non-consensual actions taken against that person. I believe that making light of sobriety is bro culture in action because it privileges the experiences and desires of a select few over the well-being of those that feel silenced and alienated in certain spaces that are hostile to them.
on asking open-ended questions to establish trust with sober people
What kinds of things have been successful at helping someone feel positive about their sobriety? What are some ways in which they feel supported in their sobriety by friends, family members, community members, and so on? Are there times when they are more capable or less capable of being around alcohol, talking about alcohol, or socializing in general? Are there certain needs they’ll have when you drink around them? Are there specific things they don’t feel comfortable talking about with non-sober people, or will they let you know as the time arises?