Last week I had the chance to talk to Abbey (@abbeys.road.there on Instagram), and hear her unique sobriety story. She has worked as a bartender for the entirety of her 14 months sober. Most people might find this challenging, but she shares her perspective on how she manages to serve alcohol to the public while maintaining her own sobriety.
Her parents didn’t drink alcohol, so it was never something she grew up around. But at 15, she started experimenting. Drinking was a part of her own, secret life. At 18, her family lost their home. They stood helpless as people threw their belongings out of the windows. Drinking became a way to check out of these tough times, and it turned into a downward spiral that never improved.
Around 22 years old, she started blacking out every time she drank. She thought something was wrong with her brain, and tried to figure out why she could never remember anything. Her boyfriend suggested that it was the amount of alcohol she drank.
The blackouts would confuse her friends, because they thought she was drinking the same amount as them. She wasn’t. She was drinking before meeting up with them, and continuing throughout the night.
At 26, she decided to stop.
“I guess enough is enough at this point.”
The Hardest Part of Sobriety
Like most people navigating early sobriety, Abbey feared losing many of the people she spent a lot of time around. Who were her friends, and who were just her drinking buddies? Would her and her boyfriend still have a connection without alcohol? (They did!)
When she first stopped drinking, she didn’t tell anyone but her boyfriend. She wanted to avoid the stigma of having a drinking problem, as well as the pressure of people telling her she could “just have one.” That’s a familiar statement, huh?
“I had no one in my life that knew what I was going through, because I didn’t tell anyone.”
Finding Her Community
She searched for a sober community, starting with AA. But she wasn’t able to make any connections there. Instagram is where she finally found the community she was looking for. Discovering the sober community on Instagram was an eye-opener, and reading other people’s experiences helped her in her own sobriety.
Now she uses her own platform to be a voice in the sober community, and to show people what’s possible. After all, not everyone wants to drink and party forever.
Being A Sober Bartender
Abbey works at a moonshine distillery in East Tennessee. She has had this job for over 4 years, and didn’t feel the need to quit when she stopped drinking. Of course I had to ask how she manages to remain sober while pouring alcoholic drinks for others.
Her answer? The options aren’t tempting. While she acknowledges that a normal bar atmosphere would be tough, the only drinks they sell are a line of moonshine flavors that she has already drunk many times in the past, and has no desire to drink again. And the intoxicated people surrounding her are a good reminder of why she chooses to be sober.
She still works around drunk people, and still has to encourage people to buy alcohol. But now she avoids pushing it on people who don’t want to drink it. If someone doesn’t want to try a certain flavor, she leaves it alone.
“I’m not going to force you to drink anything you don't want, because I understand how that feels.”
Telling Customers She Doesn’t Drink
Abbey admits it can get a little uncomfortable when she tells customers that she doesn’t drink. She avoids it if she can, because it can make people feel uncomfortable to learn that their bartender is sober, while they are sitting down with a drink.
Some people are happy to learn that she is 14 months sober. Is it because they’re drunk? Maybe.
“It really does make people open their eyes to the possibility that you can be sober and still do these things that you thought you couldn’t do sober.”
With alcohol out of the equation, Abbey now has the motivation to get out of bed, move her body, and face the day. She no longer deals with crippling hangovers and anxiety, and can be honest with her friends and family. Being sober has made her an honest person, and freed her from the lies she used to tell to cover up being drunk or hungover.
Abbey describes her old Sundays as getting drunk by 2pm, and waking up at 9pm with a hangover. They were full of mimosas, shots of cheap whiskey, and the lies she told herself about how she had all day to recover before going back to work on Monday.
Her Sunday Funday hangovers were so bad, she often called out of work due to extreme anxiety. If she looks back on the shifts she called out of over the years, they were all Mondays.
Now, her Sundays are a day of rest. They feel like weekends, and she gets the chance to recharge before heading back to work. She spends the day resting, working out, and cuddling her dogs.
“Sundays are good now. Sunday’s are my favorite day, in a whole different way. They used to be my favorite day, but now for whole different reasons.”
Abbey didn’t know that non alcoholic beverages existed until a couple of months into her sobriety. And let’s just say, they were a game changer. She believes they’re a great tool in early sobriety, especially if you genuinely liked the taste of alcoholic beverages.
Since she is pursuing a healthy lifestyle, she loves that most of the options are low in calories. She looks forward to the day that her favorite beer of the past, Miller Light, creates their own NA. And with the way things are going, she is 100% certain that they will
Abbey’s Favorite NA Beverages: