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This post is part of my letter series, where I answer questions from readers. All the questions and responses are posted here.

Dear Laura,

I am almost five months sober and I am incredibly grateful for my path at this moment. I recently have started socializing more and entertaining in my home. I have gone to several events outside my home where there is alcohol and I am comfortable with that and accept that it will always be there. I struggle with what I do in my own home. Do I buy booze for others? Do I keep some in the house for someone when they stop by? Tell them my house is BYOB? Or can I have nothing at all in my home?

-Boozie Mama in The Bean


First of all, amazing on the almost five months. That’s magical, mama.

When I was pregnant everyone gave me advice (you might have experienced the same phenomenon). Most of it was unsolicited and unwanted, but there were a few prize gems, and among them was, “This time is about you and that baby. You do exactly what you need to do. Nobody is going to argue with pregnant woman.” What an novel concept. I felt I’d unlocked a hidden secret of the universe and suddenly had a free pass to do exactly what I needed to do: really listen to my body, sleep as long as I needed, eat what I felt like eating, bag out on social engagements I wasn’t into. To be, in essence, unapologetically selfish with my energy and time. Granted, the first four months of my pregnancy I was sick morning, noon and night, so all I wanted was a bed and to stop wretching. But even so, it was truly liberating to have a built-in, socially acceptable excuse to practice extreme self-care.

I still had to work during my pregnancy. We still had to pay bills, run errands, navigate family, friends, in-laws, a new mortgage, one income and other life stuff. But for the most part, I let the noise fall away. I focused on my body and my home. I let my husband take care of me. I stayed in bed many weekends – all weekend – reading and listening to Pema Chodron. I didn’t shower much. I ate a lot of Sour Patch Kids and Eggo waffles slathered with butter. I started this blog. I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training, and the last 50 hours or so were mostly spent lying on my side letting another Yogi in Training pet my head. If we had company in our home, I ducked out when I got tired and went to sleep. Same deal if we were at someone else’s place. It was the kindest I’d ever treated myself and although there was still a decent amount of stress and anxiety upstairs, I let a lot of stuff just go. At first, because I was forced to by nausea and zombie exhaustion, and later, because my soul yearned for the slower speed.

So, BMITB, as far as early sobriety goes, I would strongly suggest you apply the same thinking. Let’s call it The Pregnancy Principle.

The Pregnancy Principle states the following:

  1. Your well-being comes first.
  2. If it doesn’t support your well-being, don’t do it. No, really. Just don’t.
  3. Be unapologetically selfish with your energy and time.
  4. In other, less squishy words, f*ck everything and everyone else (for a while).

Let’s break this down.

Your well-being comes first. 

In the case of early sobriety (or really any time in sobriety), your well-being is defined pretty simply: physical sobriety. Not drinking or doing drugs or taking pills or whatever. It’s the only zero sum game, and it’s the only way you stand a shot at anything else. But, almost anyone can pull together a period of physical sobriety. The big challenge, then, becomes how to live comfortably, happily, freely sober. I think that’s what your question is really about. You said you’re now comfortable going to social engagements where there’s alcohol, but you’re wondering how you bring back another aspect of your life previously enjoyed: entertaining in your home.

I know I wrestled with this a lot. I grew up in a home where people were constantly flowing in and out, and the cocktails flowed too. It was great fun. I liked being in a home that felt welcoming, warm, full of food, people, laughter, love. No surprise, my own home mimicked this scene when I grew up. And when I was faced with sobriety, this picture was among the most painful to break. I didn’t think a picture even existed without wine painted into it. I couldn’t imagine having others over and not extending that beautiful, age-old question, What can I get you to drink? followed up with a list of hand-selected beers, wine, vodka, whiskey. I couldn’t imagine not sharing that ritual with others in my home. Who would want to come over? Who would ever visit me again? What does this look like? It broke my heart.

If it doesn’t support your well-being, don’t do it.

If keeping alcohol in your home, or buying it for people when you have them over, or even if thinking about buying it for people when you have them over gives you pause, jacks your nerves, or gets the “maybe I can drink, too” wheels spinning, then you don’t do it. You don’t do any of those things. For now. If you’re like I was and the idea of not providing for your guests makes you just as uncomfortable, if all scenarios kind of jack you up, then it’s probably not yet time to have people at your house. This isn’t hiding from life. It’s respecting where you are in the process. Maybe you could still run a 10K when you were three months pregnant, but you can’t when you’re six. Or perhaps eggs make you puke for eight months and then in the ninth month you want nothing but omelets. So, what? Do you question it? No. You stop running and you have omelets. You are where you are. Pregnancy isn’t logical and neither is this.

A couple weeks ago on a Friday night, I invited some friends and their kids over to hang out and go to the beach. I told them they could bring beer or wine if they wanted, and when someone showed up with wine, I realized I hadn’t had alcohol in my house for about 10 months. 10 months ago I finally started respecting my own limits, even if they seemed over-the-top, over-protective, ridiculous, dramatic. I finally stopped pretending I was at point C when I was at point A. You know how long I've been sober? 10 months.

There was a moment of awkward exchange when I asked one of the guys what I could get him, and he said “Whaddaya got?” in a way I realized he was expecting an alcoholic-something, and I stumbled and said, “Well…um…I don’t have anything with alcohol in it!” So he drank La Croix with me, we all ate pizza until we were stuffed, then walked to the beach.

This leads to…so, what? I never do anything I’m uncomfortable with again? Of course not. Life still happens. We want it to happen. This isn’t about shutting things down. It’s about building a new normal and building it on your terms so that your skin and your life are places where you really, really want hang out.

If you’re unsure, go by measured trial and error. Play out the different scenarios and see what feels the most right – and by right, I mean – right to you, not your guests. I know this is contrary to everything our mamas taught us, so let’s return to the Pregnancy Principle. Would anyone question a pregnant woman about her hosting choices, be it food, drink, time of day, music, or otherwise? Nope. Would anyone wonder why a pregnant woman had to slip away to grab a nap in the middle of her own party? Nope. Do you owe your guests an explanation as to why you’re a) not drinking b) asking them to BYOB or c) not having booze in your home at all? Nope. If it would make you more comfortable to let them in on your decision (and I’m guessing it would, especially if these are actual friends and actual people who love you in real life), then do. Have that moment and then get on with the business of enjoying your people.

And, if you notice invitations start falling off, or some people don’t come around much anymore? Well then you just won yourself a free Life Cleaning. It’s 10x better than a housecleaning. Maybe 100x. Cry, and then say thank you.

Be unapologetically selfish with your energy and time.

If there was ever a time to be selfish it is now, BMITB. I’m guessing you have already figured some of this stuff out, so I’ll speak to the rest of the readers now: stop saying yes to things you don’t want to do. Say no a lot. Don’t call everyone back. Don’t answer all your texts. Don’t book up your weekends. Go to bed early when need to. Eat ice cream. If you have kids, lower your expectations of yourself as a parent a lot. Take-out and breakfast for dinner are perfect for a while. Let them entertain themselves. If you’re married or otherwise partnered up, do your best to explain to your partner what you need, and let it be okay if he or she doesn’t get it. Find people that do get it. Treat yourself as if you were pregnant.

In my first months sober, I did something really radical. I showed up to work and only did my job. I didn’t go above and beyond, I didn’t crank out late nights and push myself to make people extra pleased and happy, I let some (many) balls drop, and although it made me anxious at first, you know what I noticed? Nothing happened. Like, nothing at all. Things kept going. Other people filled in the gaps. I started going to a noon 12-step meeting and I stuck to it like…a doctor appointment when I was pregnant. I didn’t let other things fill that time – I just didn’t let it happen. Even when it was “important” and I was “needed.” Because I finally got that nothing is more important than the life I'm building, and nobody needs me more than I do.

Be unapologetically selfish with your energy and time. It's the most generous act you can possibly perform.

The last point is my favorite. Because it has a little bite, and we all need a little bite when we’re going through this.

F*ck everything and everyone else (for a while).

Truly. F*ck. Everything. And. Everyone. Else. (For a while.)

You are building a damn life. You’re saving a life and you’re building a new one. It’s no smaller than that. It might seem like I’m overdramatizing a single decision about bringing people into your home, but all these decisions are important because they make up your existence. In Power vs. Force by David Hawkins, he states:

“Every act or decision we make that supports life supports all life, including our own.”

In our lives, there are a few “big” moments, and millions of “small” ones. The small moments are what make up our days. Drinking is too easy. It’s the most natural, easy, it’s-everywhere-all-the-time small choice. But for you and me, it’s as big as it gets. That sh*t almost killed me.

The choices we make indicate to our hearts and our minds what direction we’re pointing the troops. We need not be perfect, but we must be awake. And that is what you’re doing, BMITB. You are waking the hell up. You said you feel really grateful at this point on your path and I know exactly what that brand of grateful feels like. Every time you choose in the direction of you – the big you, the wise you, the you that is waking up and learning and hurting and growing – you get to feel it again. It’s so much better than any thank you I got from a friend after a dinner party where I did all the right things.

Many of my hang-ups in life and particularly in sobriety have come from worrying about what other people think, what they would do, how they would see me, what they would say and what all this meant about me. And every time I let those thoughts make decisions for me, I suffered. Hard. A lot of those thoughts kept me drinking. The truth is, things do change when you get sober. People will have opinions. Many will not understand. People you thought would be there may disappoint you. Entire lexicons you thought were stone-hard truth will crumble. Some people won’t want to hang out anymore. This will hurt. It’ll suck real, real bad. But if you can take some of that hurt and you can dig deep, deep down in your belly, farther than you’ve ever dug before, and if you can scoop up the stuff that lives there and churn it into a bit of fight, that is something. That is progress. If you can adopt rule #4 of the pregnancy principle: f*ck everything and everyone else (for a while), you will start to own your life. Even the smallest of big decisions like the one you wrote me about. You will see how important it is to own these things and, if you’re like me, how much choice you gave up to alcohol, to other people’s opinions, to the “shoulds” and the “expected tos” and the ideas you had about yourself and life that simply weren’t true.

I think the last part of your question was the most important part. You asked, “Or can I have nothing at all in my home?” The answer is yes. Yes, yes, yes, my lovely. You can have nothing at all in your home that doesn't support you. Your home is where you are, and that is so much more than nothing.

This post is part of my letter series, where I answer questions from readers. All the questions and responses are posted here.

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