The Big Question

One windy night, someone, somewhere, will look you straight in the eye and ask you why you’re drinking a soda instead of a beer.


I was shit-tired, relaxing at a work get together, drinking a can of Red Bull, when a colleague noticed I was neither A) drinking booze, nor B) enjoying myself as much as everyone else.

I was having a good time. It was a Friday evening, at least, so I guess I was in good spirits. I was smiling, I think, or at least I was trying to, it’s just Friday evenings don’t have the same joviality and sense of release they offered when I got shitfaced. Come to think of it, he probably didn’t notice the latter at all. I was imagining things. It was the can of Red Bull that gave me away. Now that I think about it, if I’d had a can of beer in front of me, or if I’d been standing on a table, a half-drunk bottle of champagne in my hand, singing ‘Lady In Red,’ I may have been a little more conspicuous.

Groucho Marx glasses, with free lazy eye.

Whatever it was, the guy turned to me and asked me why I wasn’t drinking. It’s probably worth noting at this point that he did so in Norwegian, the language they funnily enough speak in Norway, my place of residence.

The reason I mention it isn’t to add color to this story, or to show off about my being bilingual, it’s because to answer that question from an alcoholic’s perspective is a little more problematic in Norwegian. In English, I’d say, “Because I don’t drink,” and the person who asked the question would be able to fill in the blanks. They’d either assume I was alcoholic or one of those people who no one can relate to at a party who “doesn’t like the taste of alcohol.”  But in Norwegian, you’d say the same sentence if you meant you didn’t drink at all or if you meant you weren’t drinking that evening. Or maybe my Norwegian just sucks, or my communication skills in general.

After I’d responded, probably getting the pronunciation all fucked-up, there was a moment’s silence, and then he asked, “Just tonight, or…?” It was one of those long ‘ors’, with the pause before it you could peel a banana in, the type that asks fifty questions all at once.

Let’s back up a bit. There’s a bit of exposition I left out. Part of my routine for staying sober is to listen to sobriety podcasts, to regularly reinforce and remind myself that drinking’s not for me. I suck balls at it. A drinking session for me starts with a beer in some bar in Oslo, and ends with me waking up in a boat off the coast of Poland, sleeping next to some fisherman’s dog. On one of these episodes of one of these podcasts, the host said nobody would notice when you’re not drinking at a party, or if they did, they wouldn’t care. And if the stars were aligned just right, or if it were a blue moon or some shit, and they did notice and happened to care, they definitely wouldn’t ask you about it.

But here I was, finding out that isn’t the case. At least where I live, on that certain evening, sitting next to that specific guy. Sure, the guy hadn’t asked me about it outright, but with that long-ass ‘or’ he may as well have asked me if I was prone to slapping my wife around when I got shitfaced on a Friday evening. At the least, it was one of the fifty questions he’d asked me.

A banana skin.

I just came out and said it: “I don’t drink alcohol.”

Turns out I was wrong about what I said about Norwegian and its grammar letting down the alcoholic in that situation. That’s what I should have said. I don’t drink alcohol. But to be fair to me, in that social setting, with everyone else drinking at the table, and the way I shifted in my seat before I said, “I don’t drink,” the words Red Bull may as well have been replaced with Degenerate’s Pick-Me-Up.

From a distance, “fish chips.”

Not that he’s to blame for this awkwardness. I’m the guy who ruined booze for myself. He didn’t force me at gunpoint to drink eight or nine or ten cans of beer every Saturday for as long I can remember. From his perspective, he’s just getting to know a colleague a little better, and the few beers he’d drunk had made him brave enough to do it. But from my perspective, with the fucked-up relationship with the shit he can put down just as easily as he can pick up, he may as well have been asking me what subgenre of porn I enjoy.

Tentatively, he asked something along the lines of, “Would it be intrusive to ask why?”

I thought a second, and then surprised myself by blurting out, “Yes,” before laughing to diffuse the awkwardness. Clearly, I’d handled this situation without embarrassing either one of us. I’d have one less person who’d bother to make small talk with me at the next work get together.

I’ve been thinking about this situation now and again the couple weeks since it happened, and how I can best handle it the next time I trade some shitty movie on a Friday evening for socializing with my work buddies. The coward’s way out would be to decant a can of non-alcoholic beer into a glass and hide the empty bottle under a shit-ton of toilet paper in the bathroom waste paper basket. But I didn’t manage to get sober by following the path of least resistance. I got sober precisely because I didn’t want to be a coward any longer.

And even if that were an option morally and spiritually, non-alcoholic beer isn’t my bag. The baby needs his bottle on a Friday night, and his new bottle is laced with eye-bulging levels of caffeine.

I have to also consider that I don’t exactly want to advertise in a work setting that I’m shit at drinking moderately.

The best response I can come up with when someone asks me The Big Question is this: Smile, pause a couple seconds—the length of time it takes me to work out how to prepare a mango—and then say “or…” with a creepy look on my face.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to follow Hilariously Sober by filling out the form at the top-right corner of the webpage. And if this post made you laugh out loud at least three times, don’t forget to feel mildly obligated to share this post with your friends on social media.

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You’re Sober And Feeling Great, But Now What?

Jackie Wilson wasn’t content with just feeling amazing. He wanted to feel ecstatic. So should you, you ex-drunk.

Early, early sobriety is refreshing. We alcoholics were used to feeling shitty all the time, apart from the times when we were tipsy. And then we feel relatively great all the time, bar illness or a mild concussion after slipping and falling head first onto a miniature picket fence, an injury I recently received during a game of hide-and-seek while at my day gig.

Today I woke up at 5:30 AM. On a Saturday. I hadn’t set an alarm, and it didn’t feel a pain for my body to have decided to awake at that time.

In the nearly four weeks I’ve been sober this time around, I’ve lost weight, I’m getting the best sleep I’ve ever had, and I’m churning out fiction like a motherfucker. I don’t feel amazing, like SpongeBob SquarePants high on laboratory-grade ecstasy. But compared to how I felt when I thought a bottle of gin on a Monday evening was a perfectly reasonable amount to drink, I feel like a million dollars and change.

But it’s already starting to feel a little old.


The memory of what a hangover feels like is fading, as is the memory of the feeling of drunkenness, which is lending it a dangerous intrigue, the type I’d imagine a depressed, at-the-end-of-his-tether Japanese businessman has for a noose and a tree with robust, low-hanging branches.

So, what next? Do I count the sober days off, happy with the progress I’ll make just staying sober, or do I think of other ways to improve my mood, sense of wellbeing, and all around happiness?

The answer of course is the latter.

It was a rhetorical question, like when Adolf Hitler asked himself if he was going to kill a fuck-ton of people because they’re different from him.

He was a lovable rascal.

Feeling great is my new high, and just like the way I planned my drinking sessions like a military operation, I’m going to spend the next five-hundred words thinking of new ways you and I can reach new highs when just being sober isn’t enough.

  1. Exercise until you throw up a little afterward while brushing your teeth

Runner’s high is a thing. I read it in a recent article/study. Even mice experience it, which is totally something a scientist would say. But it isn’t because of endorphins. Apparently, their effect on the brain is an old wives’ tale. Regardless of the science, people feel great when exercising after exercise, which is probably the most obvious thing I’ll ever write on this blog. What isn’t obvious is that a short session of super-intense exercise should be your exercise style of choice if you want to feel as high as possible without feeling a slump in energy afterward, the type of exercise that makes your gums hurt.

I don’t know how mice react to having to run so fast up and down stairs they feel like their heart might explode, but it feels great to me afterwards. Hell, I even feel great about writing this blog post after my stair run this morning, knowing full well this is definitely one of the shittiest posts I’ll write.

I’ve exercised in the past, of course. It isn’t new. But this time I’m going to stick with it.

Someone went in vitro…
  1. Go to bed early

When you’re sober, you might look back and wonder why you stayed up until the wee hours, listening to a Bonnie Tyler record, as you attempted to set the new Guinness World Record for the length of time it takes to sip a beer to completion. The morning is your new domain. While off-the-wagon alcoholics are lying in bed, ignoring their morning boner because of the throbbing heartbeat in their head and the seeming cat litter in their mouth, you can feel great about life, and feeling rested is the best way to do that, which is the second most obvious thing I’ll write on this blog. When I get invited out to parties now and the start time is after 6 PM, I respectfully decline. I’ll be in my pajamas at that time, thinking about all the cool shit I can do tomorrow.

While I’ve been great at doing this on school nights, I haven’t at the weekends. Last night, I went to bed at ten, probably an hour or two before my ninety-year-old-plus granddad, and I don’t regret it one bit. I didn’t lose anything, but gained so much more.

  1. Eat food that makes people irrationally angry on Facebook

Burgers, pizzas, and KFC gravy are all amazing things for the taste buds. For your sense of wellbeing, not so much. If you want to have a shit-ton of energy to do all the cool shit you can do now you’re sober, and to have really clear thinking, you have to A) avoid processed foods, and B) eat vegan, and C) never drink calories or artificial sweeteners. It won’t make you popular on Facebook, but you won’t give a shit about that as you’re cycling to your local lake to go swimming to the sound of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ blasting out of your portable Bluetooth speaker. You’ll do so while ignoring that that feel-good song is just a big fuck-you to Neil Young.

Southern Man.

So there you have it. Go to bed early, eat like an athlete but train like a soccer mom, and have a larger collection of pajamas than you do evening suits. That’s what I like to call the Feeling Shit-Good Triangle. Snappy title.

Thanks for reading, even if this blog post was as laugh-free for me as it was for you.

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Five Reasons Not To Drink, Even If You’re NOT An Alcoholic

You don’t have to consider yourself an alcoholic to gain the advantages of never drinking again.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I drank a shitload of alcohol and came out the other side, realizing what bullshit it is.

I don’t have any statistics at hand, and I don’t expect you, the reader, to have an unrealistic expectation that a blog titled Hilariously Sober would provide any, but I’m willing to bet my twenty-odd days’ sobriety that most people who start drinking never quit.

They’re missing out.

“I don’t know. It feels pretty good to us.”

There are two opposing schools of thought for alcohol consumption among individuals: One) that some people can drink alcohol responsibly and it won’t ever be a problem in their life, apart from the occasional hangover and typo-ridden text message sent to an ex at 2 am; and two) that alcohol is a highly addictive and mass-consumed poison that, if it doesn’t get you, will get someone you know.

By ‘get’, I mean it either A) ruins their life, or B) contributes to or is the sole cause of an disease that kills them, or C) both.

No, the humble mosquito, no one’s shitting on you again.

Here at Hilariously Sober we like to keep it light and humorous, so for this blog post’s sake, I’ll go ahead and say I subscribe to School of Thought One. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think occasional, non-problematic drinkers wouldn’t benefit from swapping their microbrew for a glass of soda water at parties.

And here are the reasons why:

  1. You’ll save a metric shit-ton of cash

I live in Norway, where alcohol is priced as though it’s produced only five times a day in small quantities as it leaves the bladder and then urethra of the Dalai Lama. Chances are, wherever you live, alcohol is much more reasonably priced, like it’s made in vast quantities and the yeast does the hard work and doesn’t even receive a pay check.

Wherever you live, and assuming you’re not one of those rare creatures that only drinks one mimosa on their birthday or at Christmas, for which your spouse or grammy pays, you’re spending a shitload of cash on booze.

Looking at my sobriety tracker app on my phone, it estimates I’ve saved over five-hundred dollars in eighteen days. At the end of the year, after I’ve got through it one day at a time, I’ll have enough cash to take a trip to Disneyworld and even come home with official merchandise souvenirs.

Of course, you likely don’t spend nearly as much as I did on booze, because of geography and you don’t think Belgian-strength beer is the dessert to your bottle-of-gin main course, but by quitting you’d probably save up enough for a trip to an all-inclusive resort in Spain. The type of place it’s advisable to go for the vegetarian option on the evenings you stay within the confides of your partially built hotel.

I’m just kidding. You’ll get to see someone torture a bull to death.

2. Jesus, mornings are now fun

When I was drinking, Sunday mornings were like the second half Mulholland Drive, where Naomi Watts’s character has shitty skin and shouts at her girlfriend a lot, before she gives up and wallows on the sofa. Now, I when wake up and walk into my living room I feel like the Naomi Watts character in the first half of the movie, when she’s travelling down the elevator at LAX with her aunt, looking all sparkly eyed around at her surroundings as though she’s definitely, probably going to become a famous actress in the near future.

If you’re not a problem drinker, I’ll go ahead and assume the above only applies to you the occasional weekend morning. But still, you work hard all week long to make it to the weekend without having pissed off your boss, so why not take back those occasional Saturday and Sunday mornings and make them a time to feel good about life?

Shit happy.

3. You’ll get better at socializing… way better

When I drank, a regular at-home evening meant getting slowly dumber, eventually resulting in me singing along to ‘Lady in Red,’ only stopping singing to lecture my girlfriend on some shit I knew nothing about. If I was in company, at a party or whatnot, I’d end up talking about my professional achievements as though I were Bill Gates or some shit.

At the time, I probably thought it was fun, the former, and I probably thought in the latter example that I was a valued party guest. But then again, during those boozy evenings and nights, I considered the cooked-from-frozen falafel from my local takeaway to be top-notch cuisine.

Every time I quit drinking, I realize how fun it is to socialize while not drinking. I stay sharp and the banter with the people with whom I’m spending my time never devolves into arguing who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman.

You might think you’re entertaining when shitfaced at your next office Christmas party, but more likely you’re a dead-eyed shit show in a clip-on bowtie who’s giving off a rapey vibe.

The day after the night before, if office Christmas parties tended to be scheduled on a school night

4. You’ll get a lot of shit done—a lot a lot

Is it your dream to write pulp fiction mysteries about a PI with a high-class call girl as his shrink? Want to give back to the community and ladle out soup to homeless people? You can do all those things with the time you spend hungover, thinking occasionally about death and what constitutes the perfect breakfast. But you have to not poison yourself the night before. Do this, and you’ll gain hours the next day to pursue your dreams and give yourself purpose beyond the job you probably hate. And you’ll also gain the motivation to pursue them and the creativity it takes to make them a reality, which I promise is the closest I’ll ever come to sounding like Tony Robbins on this blog.

Or this guy.

5. You’re not missing out on anything, you’re gaining a great deal

One of my barriers to quitting drinking and a cause for many a relapse was the nagging feeling that I was missing out. I no longer believe that bullshit. I thought that by choosing to stay sober, I was missing out on a hell of a time at Christmas, on my birthdays, and on Friday nights. And during my previous failed attempts to stay sober, I struggled to quell these thoughts. I felt like Jesus with a cross to bear, and all I wanted to do was drop it and make a gin and tonic.

Now, I know the truth. By drinking, I was missing out on all the memories I could’ve made, the personal and professional achievements that I could’ve pursued, and all the fun I could’ve had with all the money and time I didn’t free up. The next time you go to the bar, lift up that drink you just paid for and look at it. Think about what you’re gaining from it, and what you’re throwing away by drinking it, if, unlike that Miss Goody Two Shoes with the glass of mimosa on Christmas Day, it leads to one more, and one more, and one more…

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Stat Angry at Alcohol – That Motherfucker Deserves it

Staying sober is like that Chris Nolan movie when the dude has to tattoo shit all over his body to find out it was he who killed his wife anyway.

One of the hardest things about quitting booze is our short memories. That, and we’re suckers for destructive relationships.

We get shitfaced, we wake up hungover and realize what a mistake it was, and then we get back on the wagon. We feel the sweet relief of being free from the exhaustion of drinking and get back to our hobbies; we start to enjoy the simplicity of watching TV with a glass of carbonated water, and wonder why the fuck we hadn’t done it more often.

That first week is easy. It’s like taking candy from a baby with carpal tunnel syndrome.

And then we start to forget how shitty drinking is and all the bullshit that comes along with it: the depression, the expense, the trips to the liquor store and the thinly veiled raised eyebrows when we put our two bottles of cheap gin on the conveyor belt, and madness of handing over money for bags of ice from the store when that shit can be made in a home appliance everyone has, if only we were organized enough to have made them. Who knew?

You can also harvest it from a glacier, if that’s easier than filling up the ice cube tray and placing it in your freezer three to four hours before drinking time.

Not only do we start to forget that shit, but we start romanticizing the times when we drank. We filter out all the bad experiences and remember all the fun times. When I think back to my childhood summers, I remember them being exclusively like the plot of Stand by Me, when a lot of it was staring through the patio window, willing the rain to stop so I could go out and play.

A fair-to-middling English summer

Alcohol cravings are like that shitty ex-girlfriend or boyfriend who desperately wants you back. When they’re advocating you two should get back together, they’re not going to give a balanced, fair of assessment of how well you worked together. They’re going to remind you of that time you had a blast watching SpongeBob SquarePants while shitfaced on mojitos, and hope you don’t remember the time they slapped you about the face for buying still instead of sparkling White Zin.

A wine dispute involving paint.

I’m on the wagon again, and I think it’s for good this time. And this is why: I’m shit angry at booze, and this time I’m holding a grudge.

If ever there were ever a time that it’s healthy to hang on to negative emotions, quitting drinking is that time.

Don’t forgive that motherfucker. Because she or he hasn’t changed. It’s still the same lying piece of shit it was when you left it. And for all those good times it gave you, it came with a shitload of baggage that some other sap can deal with. You’re too good for that shit.

Stay angry at alcohol. That motherfucker deserves it.

Although this blog post was shitty, thanks for reading anyway. Don’t forget to sign up for email notifications of when new blog posts are published by filling out the form in the top-right corner of the screen. And if I made you laugh out loud three times, don’t forget to feel mildly obligated to share this blog post with your friends on social media by using the share buttons below.

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Birthday Celebrations: The Sober Alcoholic’s Kryptonite

Birthdays come around once a year, and so does the desire to get shitfaced like it’s 1999. The solution? Make up you have cacti to water.

This time last year I fell off the wagon. I’d been enjoying a long period of sobriety, and life had never been better: I was excelling at work, the writing of my comedic mystery series was going well, and when someone took the seat on the train I’d had my eye on I didn’t feel compelled to cut that person into teeny, tiny pieces.

What piece of rock was lying in wait on the dirt road my sobriety wagon was traveling? What turd was floating in my alcohol-free punch bowl, drifting towards the ladle I was about to use to fill up my party cup? Why, my girlfriend’s birthday, of course.

That’s a punch bowl, right? Wait, is that a Christmas table centerpiece?

Fast forward a year, my life is eerily similar. Tomorrow marks ten weeks’ sobriety. I’ve just finished the sixth novel in my comedic mystery series. And the Gregorian calendar being what it is, it’s now time to celebrate my girlfriend’s birthday again.

Inappropriate use of the adverb eerily aside, there are a few differences. 1) I write this blog, which I’m sure has more use as a shrink/AA sponsor to me than it has as useful reading material for its three regular readers, 2) I’ve never been more committed to ensuring I stay sober, and 3) I’ve learned the exact spot to stand on the train to ensure I have the maximum chance of swooping in on a seat before the vultures have a chance to beat me to it.

This is Priscilla, a king vulture, who already has a seat.

But still I find myself traveling on a wagon, inexplicably trying to enjoy a bowl of alcohol-free punch. And that rock? Lying there, waiting to fuck with my wagon, making the turd fly into my party cup (which is my confused metaphor for celebrating my girlfriend’s birthday tonight, and the dangers of relapsing because of the occasion.)

We won’t be having a party, which I’ve wrote about preparing for here, but the importance of the occasion was enough to make the beer shelves at the store more alluring than they had been in weeks. Instead of just rushing past them, I stopped and looked at my old friends. We shook hands, and they asked why I hadn’t phoned. I did what any flaky, unreliable friend would do: made some excuse about having to rush home and water my cacti.

It’s dangerous work if you can get it.

Of course, they knew it was an excuse. And when I go to the store today—to buy ingredients to make alcohol-free punch, now that I think about it—they’ll no doubt try to remind me of the good times we had together a year ago. Maybe one will invite me to his summer 2017 wedding as I rush past, and I’ll tell him I think I’ll be in Disneyworld on the date he didn’t specify.

What I’m trying to say, apart from that I make a shitty friend, is that this year I’ve learned more than seat-grabbing strategy for the train. I’ve learned that the wagons of old should’ve really had seatbelts. And that the metaphorical one in my mind does: seatbelts that symbolize strength of mind, resolve, and the ability to gracefully jog while carrying a basket full of groceries.

This year, unlike last year, I’ll wake up tomorrow morning without a hangover, and I have no doubt that when I’m poking at my iPad and enjoying a green tea, those fuck-off rocks that come around twice a year (once for my birthday, once for the ol’ ball and chain) won’t seem as big and shitty as they do now.

Thanks for reading! Even though this week’s post was bordering on gibberish. If you have a birthday party to attend, you’ll find more gibberish on how to tackle it sober here. For those who haven’t, you’ll find other sobriety-themed gibberish linked to on the right side of the blog.

If you enjoyed this blog post, don’t forget to follow Hilariously Sober by signing up for email notifications using the form at the top-right corner of the website. And as always, if I made you laugh out loud three times, don’t forget to feel mildly obligated to share it with your friends on social media using the buttons below.

Stay sober, stay happy, and whatever you do, don’t try to drink turd-tainted punch while traveling in a wagon.

Days sober: 69

My comedic mystery series, which I write mainly while traveling on party wagons, can be checked out here.

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