What’s wrong with being sober?


Obama papers

I loved President Obama’s inaugural address. Absolutely loved it. I thought it was just what our nation needed to hear. It was thoughtful. Strong. Smart. And yes, sober.

In fact, when I Googled the word “sober” today, at least three of the top 20 results were news stories about Tuesday’s inauguration. From what I’ve seen, I estimate 75% of the headlines about his speech use the word “sober” or some variation of it.

It’s certainly one of the adjectives I’d use to describe his address – and I think that’s a good thing. However, the way most writers use it, the word carries a negative connotation.

David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political advisor, called Tuesday’s address a “sober speech but also a hopeful speech,” as if the two were mutually exclusive. Jerry Seib, Executive Washington Editor of the Wall Street Journal, also called it sober, noting how the tone contrasted with what he described as Obama’s typically poetic and inspirational speeches.

The thing is, I found it not only poetic and inspirational, but very hopeful.

Maybe I’m particularly sensitive to the descriptor “sober,” becase it’s what I’ve been for the past three months – in the sense of abstaining from drinking alcohol. And while getting and staying sober is indeed a serious undertaking, it doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it, or not having fun, or that I’ve lost my sense of humor.

On the contrary.

I’ve chuckled and laughed my way through many an AA meeting, enjoying the quips and quotes and self-deprecating humor of my comrades in alcohol-freedom. And though I feared my wit might slip without a wineglass in hand (and wine lubricating my mind), I’ve found it to be even sharper in its unaided-by-alcohol state. And let me tell you, my sober mornings are a happy and wonderful improvement over the suffering, somber, sedate hungover sort.

In my last post, I made an analogy about our country being like an alcoholic embarking on recovery – sobering up after years of excess and lack of direction and purpose. So I was pleased to hear the President speak of our country’s need to rally together, to take responsibility and do the hard work necessary to get America back on track. Like alcoholics who truly want to stop drinking, we’ve got to get with the program.

Today, thanks to my program — the AA program — I am sober…and lighthearted. And happy. And hopeful. And inspired.

To me, sober is a good thing – and a good, positive word. Maybe someday others will see it that way.

3 Responses to “What’s wrong with being sober?”

  1. liked this post – makes all the sense in the world. i’ve heard others use the word ‘sober’ before to mean many things other than how WE hear it. may we all stay SOBER for the rest of our lives 🙂 have a great weekend!

  2. I got ot your site from Kristen’s blog and I really enjoyed your post. I always use the word sober as a good adjective, too. As in “How are you today?” “I’m sober.” And that usually means, “Thank God I’m sober, or I’d really be a miserable mess and you wouldn’t even have to ask how I am, because you’d already know.”

  3. 3 Mother Shaffer

    Sobriety is definately underrated. Thanks for making the effort to point it out.

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