It was January 1st of this year, 2017. I lay in my bed, a quarter to noon, feeling the feels of a new year upon my mind, body and soul. Yet I also the feeling of a fool; my body aching from alcohol, my mind blurry from booze and my soul scrambled from a severe degree of self-deprecation. Nope, this is not how I envisioned my new year. Nope, this is not how I wanted to wake up. Nope, this is not how I deserved to treat myself and my body. What was I to do?
Do it all over again, obviously.
It was January 2nd of this year, 2017. I lay in my bed, a friend alongside me, a friend who had disclosed some truths to me the night before, a friend who had the best intentions for me. A friend who had never been “out” with me while I was drinking and came to realize, she did not like the “me” that booze transformed me into. A friend who was sober and present – and could see clearly the through the window – while I on the contrary decided to make the window foggier and foggier, glass after glass.
“I didn’t like you last night”
“Oh yeah? Like, what does that even mean”
“That means, I don’t like you when you drink. You just become this aggressive, egotistical person that I know you not to be. It just doesn’t make any sense to me, why you would disable those dynamic qualities of yours…by drinking…”
I quit for 5 weeks. I looked at her later that day and made a promise to not drink, for a month. She scoffed in her usual sarcastic way whenever I offer an outlandish idea or proposal, but there was a lingering second where she looked at me, a longer lapse in-between sentences, knowing I was serious about the change I wanted to create. Change within myself and around others.
It was a Tuesday, the second day of January, and as New York City promises, the weather is dismal, grey and deteriorates any sense of summer that your skin may have still possessed. That being said, staying in and sticking to a routine proves to be easier when the last thing you want to do is be freezing, waiting in line for a show or walking whilst wasted between bars into the wee hours of the morning. A month? Sure why not, I’ll save some money, have some early nights, work out every day, totally doable. Yet the notion of staying in came with the sentiment of feeling alone, and for a Leo like me, that brings on an emotional burden like no other. Not only being a Leo, where the world is your stage, but also being a queer woman, there aren’t as many spaces and places as we wish to congregate and spend time together that isn’t a bar. Many meet-ups are generated within the walls of bars. Multiple spots in the city cater to queers, especially women, and not to say the atmosphere of seeing beautiful people in these places is a bad thing, it’s just difficult when you’re trying to stay dry. The dating game when you’re queer is already hard enough, but taking away the idea of “easing into a date with a drink or two” brings up the very likely potential of being present and vulnerable. My friend and I tested against this taboo with the notorious Tinder dating app. It was wild…13 matches in less than a day. I messaged numerous women over the course of my first week [of sobriety] and when the proposal to meet presented itself – my reply became increasingly disheartened as each so-called “connection” drifted away…
“Wanna meet up for a drink? I’m in Brooklyn and I’m free Thursday”
“I’m sober but we could still meet at a bar? Good thing seltzer is usually free!”
The first test was that following Sunday of the first week. We had a meet-up for a queer video network (REVRY.tv) that the LGBTQA music podcast, Homoground, I work for is a part of. The meet-up was to take place at the iconic Stonewall Inn, a bar that was a place of refuge and revolution in the 1960s and continues to be a center of community for LGBTQ folks. Naturally, I was nervous. This would be my first entry into a bar since declaring sobriety. I would be meeting people and making impressions and trying to be cooler than I was. The temptation was heavy, I mean, at an iconic institution like Stonewall, where you were conversing with creatives about the future of queer media: how could one not want to make a toast, have a shot and maybe buy a cute one a drink?
I cruised through the night, sipping on seltzer and making memories with new people. I met a girl, a very intriguing videographer, who was impressed by my choice of sobriety versus my fear of judgment that others, especially women who I would want to talk to, may impose. The two of us have become good friends and after this encounter, I started to believe, maybe being sober isn’t the lame taboo that it’s perceived to be. Maybe I just perceived it as such. Maybe I was the one that needed to recognize that the personal choices of sobriety and being present were actually really, really cool. Buying drinks doesn’t necessarily make friends, but being present in the moment certain makes memories and good impressions. Yet the next night would prove to be another test. I was attending a concert of one of my favorite bands (Boytoy) who I’ve shot for in the past. An all-night affair which would normally involve drinking, dancing, and detrimental decisions to my body amongst close friends; but this time, I would be sober. This approach resulted in a hangover-free me and more importantly produced some of my best photos. These outings became easier, more adaptable and more doable as I found my balance between being in the moment and surrounding myself with people who understood and respected my mental state. It is difficult to find your tribe post-college, post-hometown, post-job but more so post-partying. Those friends who make plans to spend time sober with you; those romantic relationships that blossom without booze and those memories that are made beyond the bottle; it can happen. No matter your gender or sexuality; it’s all about your state of mind.
The title of this article is inspired by my friends’ band SUSTO; and their sophomore LP release “& I’m Fine Today” – an album and a mentality that helped me succeed in my goals of sobriety.
I quit for 5 weeks – better than a month, yet not as good as forever; however I learned how to indulge in this vice in a healthier and happier way: using alcohol as an experience not necessarily as an escape. I also met my creative partner, who is over six months sober, during that time, and she continues to inspire me – to choose wisely and push the social expectations of today in any and all directions.
Author: Shelly Simon
Author Bio: Shelly Simon / 24 / Brooklyn, NY / Freelance Photographer, Assistant Producer/Editor/Photographer for Homoground Queer Music Podcast and Drummer for Tiides. Simon moved to NYC over a year ago to pursue three passions: radio, music and photography and continually seeks to connect them under the queer umbrella. Whether it’s photographing a show from a band featured on the Homoground podcast, seeking out bands to be featured on said music podcast or playing drums, she is always out and about, seeking to support her fellow LGBTQ artists and musicians in any way possible.
Link to social media or website: http://www.seeshellshots.com