Sobriety seems like a scary concept. It’s loaded with the weight of perception. Admitting you are sober can feel like admitting you are an alcoholic (or an addict), which has all sorts of other implications. Here are some reasons people stop drinking besides addiction, in random order:
Taking a break
Desire for authenticity
My partner and I are currently working our way through the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, and there’s a scene in Season 5 where the gang is at their favorite all-ages spot The Bronze. Dawn, the fifteen year old, has the following exchange:
“Dawn: This place is so cool. Except I have to wear this stupid stamp on my hand.
Xander: That's to keep you from boozing it up.
Dawn: Oh, please. Only losers drink alcohol.”
Cue Xander, Buffy, and Giles staring awkwardly at their Solo cups. We cracked up when we were watching, and it reminded me that choosing sobriety means I am the opposite of a loser. It doesn’t mean I can’t handle myself or that I am an addict. It means I am on a different path. I am winning back my health, I am choosing to remain in control of myself and my actions, and I am engaging with the world in a fully authentic way.
Humans began by living in small tribes, and this tribal mentality is often at the root of some of our worst behavior as a society. We instinctively fear the other, and pressure those others to conform to our norms. This pressure we place on others is often below our conscious awareness. It’s easy to slip into the role of suggestor - “but you always have wine with dinner” or “we’re celebrating!” or “just try one sip.” And it’s just as easy to give in to that pressure, especially when it is coming from someone we love.
The choice to be alcohol-free is one that each person needs to make for themselves, it is private and personal, but a sober person also needs to be prepared for the questions, suggestions, and pressure from others who knew them as a drinking person. I should also add that being an alcoholic, and admitting that to yourself, is not shameful. It’s powerful. Sometimes abstinence is the only way to be free of a thing. Recognizing that you need help is incredibly difficult in the face of so much pressure.
For those of us seeking support as we transition our lives away from alcohol, we have more choices than just Alcoholics Anonymous (though, this organization and method has saved countless lives). There is a ton of new research on using psychedelics to treat alcoholism, and the founder of AA was one of the early proponents of this method.
Further, there are AA-alternative groups and programs for those of us who struggle with the use of faith-based language in traditional AA groups. This article from Mic has a great list of alternatives. You can choose to avoid alcohol for many reasons besides being an alcoholic, and you can choose to seek support for just as many reasons. If your social circle revolves around alcohol, support groups like these can be a great place to meet some new sober friends.
I am not an alcoholic, but I am a sober person.