Sometimes I feel like a drifter. Like I am drifting between two lives. Like on one hand I have this amazing sober life where I engage with the sober community, but on the other hand I have this fast-paced young life where I engage with the party scene. In both of these lives I am sober. In both of these lives I am young. But, for some reason, it seems that these two lives can never cross over. It seems that I am either sober or I am young. That the two don’t go together. Which means in both of these lives that I live, I don’t feel fully accepted or understood.
Being 21 years old, I don’t fully relate to any of the content being put out there by the sober community. I rarely can view a post or article from an older individual in the community and say “Oh, damn, that’s so me” or even a, “Oh, shit, I’ve gone through that exactly.” This has made me amazingly good at picking and choosing things from sober content and morphing it into what I need. I am privileged in the way that I can do this. A year ago I could not. A year ago seeing stories from other sober people, who were ALWAYS much older than me, overwhelmed me. I couldn’t see anything in their stories that I related to. Literally nothing. I could not get past the age difference. I felt as if there was no way in hell someone who was 38 could relate to me at 19. And what 19 year old doesn’t think that way? What 19 year old doesn’t think their story is wholly individualistic? What 19 year old doesn’t think they are solely the only person on the entire planet to ever go through something? It’s a brain thing. Young people are wired this way. This is how we think. And when this is how we think AND there is actually no young and sober content out there, how are we expected to even begin to fight back against these thought patterns?
When I realized this, when I finally took a step back and said hey, you’re not special there are tons of other people out there feeling this way, I was able to start to change how I viewed sober content. It gave me a drive to start looking for relatable things from anything. It made me start viewing sober content in a different light. Instead of going into it with a mindset of this shit isn’t for me, I can now go into it thinking, this shit may not be for me, but I am going to turn it into something that is for me. This is the only way I have been able to stay sober. Because without a community, without a support system, sobriety is terrifying. And I realized even though I’m not being offered the community I, at my core, need, I will just have to take what I can get. But the amount of work it takes to do this is, well, a lot. We’re making young people work even harder for their sobriety, by not giving them a voice—a community. We’re making young sober people feel out of place in this sober space, we’re making young sober people feel out of place in the one space they are supposed to feel safe, and we’re making young sober people feel out of place in the space they run to, to feel like they belong.
Because I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. Like being young and sober can’t coexist in the same space. Like I have to grow up and be older in my sober community, but like I can’t be “overly” sober in my young community. That other non-sober young people don’t want to hear about sobriety, that they don’t understand it. That we can’t have fun without a bar or a party. So, I go to these bars and parties and I stay (mostly) silent about my sobriety. I drink Red Bull’s because my friends say it’ll look better if I have a drink in my hand. I smoke cigarettes so I still look cool and like I’m participating in this rebellious act of being young. And when I do speak up about my sobriety to strangers at these events, I receive looks of horror from my friends, because I’ve “outed” myself as an old sober person. Because when you’re young being sober is associated with being old and lame.
But this has to change. We have to change the associations we have with young people and the associations we, as young people, have about sobriety. The two CAN coexist. They CAN exist in the same space. Young people CAN be sober and still young. Young people CAN be sober and still hold on to their young and rebellious attitudes. We can be both. We can be both in every single space we exist in, at all the times. Because living in two separate lives is not only confusing, but harmful. I don’t want to separate my sober life and my young life. I want the two to live together, happily. Because I really don’t want to drift anymore.