Romantic dinners — and everyday life — are so much better since we removed alcohol from our relationship.
The first Valentine’s Day I spent with my now-husband is pretty much a blur. The only thing I’m sure of is that we had wine and Champagne — in copious amounts. We would have been dating for about six months at that point — long enough to feel obligated to celebrate in some way, but before we both decided to give up booze for good. In the years since, with both of us sober, what I can say with 100 percent certainty is that choosing to live sober lives has been the best thing we could have done for our relationship. It’s better now than it’s ever been, and that’s almost exclusively due to the fact that neither of us drink anymore.
If it weren’t for alcohol, we never would have met. Like so many others, our love story began in a bar. But while alcohol initially brought us together, it also almost tore us apart. Our mutual love for having a good time is what drew us to each other. We both liked to drink and we both liked to party, but we soon discovered that we had very different ideas of what that meant. For me, it meant hitting the bars and hanging out with friends until the wee hours of the morning. I never wanted to go home and never wanted the party to end. For him, he preferred having beers on the couch, and social situations made him uncomfortable.
When we were together, the night almost always began the same way — with a bottle of wine at dinner, or cracking open a few beers on the couch. Our intention was to loosen up a bit, have some fun and get to bed by a reasonable time. But our nights usually ended the next morning, with both of us nursing hangovers and harboring vague memories of stupid fights that happened the previous night. When things were good, we celebrated with a drink. When we fought, we’d go out with friends and decompress with more drinks.
What became clear to us after a while was that all of our memories, hobbies and reference points revolved around booze — and it wasn’t doing us any favors. We found ourselves at a crossroads — make a change, or go our separate ways. In the last four years, we’ve learned so much about ourselves because we’re sober. What getting sober forced us to do was let go of our unhealthy coping mechanism and learn new ways to communicate.
It turns out that being in a relationship where neither one of us drinks means that we never get drunk and say things we regret — instead we do it sober, which means that we not only remember it, but are forced to take responsibility for it because we don’t have the booze to blame. It also means that neither one of us has to hold the other’s hair back because they imbibed too much while silently resenting them for being a mess — now we take care of each other when we’re sick, hurt, or, in my case, pregnant.
Being sober means that we never have to choose between a party and our partner — we are both able to be selfless partners for each other when need be. Since we stopped drinking, I’ve never forgotten to show up somewhere he asked me to be; he’s never blown me off for another round with his friends. Neither one of us has ever had to wait up wondering when the other would be home.
When we have sex, we’re both fully present — which allows us to focus completely on each other and has added levels of intimacy I never knew possible. It means I can communicate what I want and need because I’m not numbed by booze, because I’m in touch with myself, because I’m 100 percent in my right mind. It’s allowed us to know each other — physically, emotionally, spiritually — in ways that we couldn’t when we were impaired. Alcohol masked who we really were; it stole our authenticity; it was a barrier between us. Sobriety tore down that wall.
At the end of the day, sobriety gave me my life back, but it also gave me the ability to be a good partner to someone, which is something I was never capable of when I was drinking. So this Valentine’s Day, we’ll absolutely be celebrating — with our favorite non-alcoholic beverage. And you can bet that we’ll spending the money we save on the bottle of wine by splurging on all our favorite foods, because we still know how to indulge, after all.