Here’s what I learned about partying sober since I gave up alcohol

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When I first gave up alcohol and went into recovery in July 2015, I didn’t know all of the changes that it would bring to my life. However, one of the more obvious changes are socializing sober.

When I was in New Orleans last September for my baby brother’s birthday (and having fun in the cute restaurant bathroom in the picture above), I realized just how different my life had become in the last year. I’ve learned a lot about maintaining a happy and alcohol-free life in this time, but it hasn’t always been easy.

For one, I had a few minor relapses between October 2015 and my last one in April 2016 (which I wrote about here). Minor in that they didn’t fully send me back into drinking full-time but rather were a 2-3 day binge episode. Not great, but I recovered and now haven’t had a drop in over a year.

The second struggle was re-establishing a social life and learning how to navigate the world that I was so used to in a brand new way.

One of the things that I have always said was amazing about my recovery is that my friends completely rallied for me. They supported me, heard my stories, comforted me and generally had my back. They knew I was embarking on a new and scary journey, and they made it clear that they would continue to be there for me.

I know that this is one of the luckiest things that an addict can go through because many addicts who I met weren’t so lucky. I heard many stories in meetings and online of people who lost all of their friends the minute they quit drinking.

And I get why: Your friends are used to you in a certain way and they’re likely used to socializing in a certain way. Even though my true friends supported my recovery, I was faced with others who weren’t so great about my drinking. People who questioned how bad it was (it was bad, trust me, otherwise I wouldn’t have admitted to it publicly) and who simply didn’t know how to have fun with me anymore.

Well, let me tell you: Sober people can still have fun!

I was just as social and fun before I had a problem with alcohol, and I’d like to think I am still as fun as I was back then. In fact, most of my interactions with friends and alcohol had been pretty normal. We drank wine with dinner, had cocktails on the weekend, indulged in happy hour occasionally, went out dancing and had some drinks, etc.

Yes, I occasionally got drunk and partied a little too hard, but my problematic drinking really mostly happened at home when I was alone and stressed out. I binge drank all by myself as a way to shut out the world, and that’s when I knew that I needed help.

So I sought help, my world changed and things have been… well, mostly better ever since.

But partying while sober is still tricky, and I bet it will continue to be for a long time. I’m still relatively early in my recovery and, because I’ve kept almost all of the friends I had before, I don’t have any sober friends.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does occasionally provide some challenges when I want to hang out with my friends and not have alcohol become an issue. And it especially can become an issue when I am in a new group who may not know why I don’t drink or even that I don’t drink.

But instead of becoming a hermit or totally giving up valuable friendships simply because they still drink and I don’t, I have started to implement some strategies for enjoying parties even when you’re not drinking.

And since I am a writer and love to share about things, including and especially my recovery journey, I wrote about it for one of my favorite food websites, The Kitchn. Here is my story titled Teetotal Like a Boss: Tips for Enjoying a Party When You’re Not Drinking.

One of my favorite things about writing that story is that I got to talk to some other women in recovery for their own tips. The other favorite part is that you actually do NOT have to be in recovery in order to enjoy these tips. Some people simply don’t drink because they never liked alcohol, others don’t drink because of medical issues and some don’t drink because they’re pregnant or hoping to become pregnant soon.

There’s lots of reasons for not drinking, actually. Recovery is just mine.

But I’m still hoping that my tips for partying while sober will help others. And remember my very last, but very much not least, tip: Have fun – and prove that you don’t need alcohol to do it.

That’s my plan, anyway.

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Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still important 20 years later

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my portfolio site, IrinaGonzalez.com. Thank you!

The proudest moment of my career (so far) happened earlier last month when VICE published my piece titled “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out.”

Not only did the piece go up the morning of the 20th anniversary of the television premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was also featured at the very top of their website for the entire day. Seriously, that’s a HUGE honor for any writer but especially awesome since it was my first piece for them.

The thing that was even more touching to me, however, is that I was able to honor of one of my all-time favorite TV shows in this very special way.

The truth is that BTVS (as we fans frequently call it) has held a special place in my heart for a very long time. Not only did the show legitimately help me come out, but it generally left an impact on me that has lasted through the rest of my life.

When I first heard of BTVS, I wasn’t impressed. I never really watched it when it first started but got into it at age 16 when a couple of my high school friends became pretty obsessed. Soon enough, I was driving around in my car with friends as we all sang along to the musical episode’s soundtrack at the top of our lungs.

I remember endlessly debating the Team Angel vs. Team Spike situation (#TeamAngelForever), and grieving when the show ended just a year before I graduated high school – which was just a year after I discovered it. In a way, it felt as if BTVS entered and left my life far too soon.

What I didn’t know at the time, however, was how much impact Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel and the rest of the gang would have on my life.

It’s no understatement that BTVS helped to solidify some friendships for me at school (and in the years that followed), but the biggest impact that the show had (besides helping me come out, of course) is what many girls and women saw in Joss Whedon’s work – a kick-ass heroine who could be funny, pretty, awkward, loud and all-around awesome.

Although I always related more to Willow (hello, I even have red hair now!) than Buffy, I could still love and appreciate Buffy for everything that she was. She was a great leader and phenomenal title character. The show was funny and quirky and spoke to my adolescent and teen self in a way that I found freeing.

I don’t know how Joss managed to do it, but I felt more and more like myself the more I watched Buffy stumble through life with a wealth of responsibilities. She didn’t always succeed in picking out the right outfit, but she always saved the world.

When I read the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz on the cover, I was thrilled to travel back into the Buffyverse to read how the cast (all except Giles!) reflect on the show 20 years later and what it has meant to them. Joss even calls Buffy and Angel the greatest love story ever told, so take THAT, #TeamSpike!

A lot has happened in the world since the show first premiered on March 10, 1997. But while it may not be the happiest place right now, it’s important to recognize all of the positive changes that have happened too. For me, the biggest (and happiest) is the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.

I remember doing a big report on gay marriage and civil unions during my senior year of high school, in Fall of 2003 just after the show ended, when very few states even wanted to talk about that kind of thing. And now it’s nationwide law! That’s amazing, truly.

For the past year, I’ve actually been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my boyfriend Adam. It took us almost 11 months to get through the show, but it was sooooo worth it to share something I truly love with the person I love most in the world. Being a big Joss Whedon fan already, he loved it of course.

But more than that, watching the show with him this past year served as a great reminder for me about why I loved it in the first place. Of course, like most devoted fans, I’ve gone through the entire series 4 or 5 times already. Watching it all once more was a joy and, as the 20th anniversary came and went, I’m glad to have spent time with the Scooby Gang once more.

After all, if it wasn’t for them, I might have never come into my own as a proud bisexual woman as early as I did. And that’s something I will forever be grateful for.

To read my piece “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out” on VICE, click here!

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my portfolio site and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!