Sober is Not A Uniform

by Rebecca A. Watson on July 27, 2014

in habits, media, music, Recovery

There’s this fashion blog I used to read a lot.  I liked it because Alison, the woman who writes it, is realistic about what kind of money one might really spend on things. She encourages readers to do things that actually matter, like get a real bra fitting and use proper hangers for different articles of clothing.

One of the tips she gave about creating a wardrobe was to find your uniform. Basically, she said, find what you like to wear most, and then buy those things.

No shame in buying the exact same thing in two colors. If you love it and you feel comfortable in it, then buy it. And stop filling your closet with stuff you think you should be wearing. It’ll just take up space and destroy your clothing budget.

I liked this advice and considered following it. I thought of myself as a jeans and T-shirt kinda gal, but as I looked through my clothes as well as pictures of myself throughout the years, that’s clearly not the case. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’ve always been kind of all over the map when it comes to fashion.

These photos are from the same roll of film. Remember those?

These photos are from the same roll of film. Remember those?

In the summer you can see me rocking skinny jeans and a tank top and the next day walking down the street in a sundress. I’ll wear a skirt with sequins and a hippy baby doll top. Then there’s the classic red bandanna halter top with daisy dukes and a cowgirl hat. And that’s just in one week.

I don’t like committing to one style. Hell, I don’t even like committing to one decade. It’s the same with music. When someone asks what type of music I like, my cliché answer is everything.

Of course there is Ani Difranco and Metallica in my iPod. Yes, I have Michael Jackson and A$AP Rocky radio stations set up on my Pandora. And damn straight, I’ve saved all of Led Zepplin’s albums along with Alan Jackson’s on Spotify.

The reason I bring this all up is because of a shirt I have. A tank top to be specific. It’s one of my staples for summer. I bought it in Las Vegas years ago and I frickin’ love it.

elegantly wastedDo you see how well it fits my rock-n-roll ensemble? Hello? And the more faded it gets, the cooler it becomes.

But wait. There’s something wrong with this picture, isn’t there?

Oh yeah. I’m sober.

This has been bouncing around in my brain every time I put the shirt on this season. I only wore it once last summer. A check-out clerk asked the then three-months-sober me if I was wasted. Confused, a little defensive and complete bewildered, I answered him, “No!”

I left the store, only later realizing why he would ask.  I packed the shirt away and there it stayed. Until now. A year later.

I keep asking myself, Is it OK to wear this if I don’t drink? If in fact, I really loathe being around people who are wasted? If, even though I love the song, it was in fact written by an alcoholic who later killed himself?

(Edited to add the song for those who don’t know it.)


Am I promoting alcoholism by wearing this? Glamourizing it? Or can I just be like all the other Euros and wear clothes with random English phrases on them as a fashion statement?

This question has come up for me in other ways too: What about listening to music that glamourizes drinking? Or watching movies that do? Or reading Hemingway? Where does this train stop?

Because although I’ll admit Shots by LMFAO makes me terribly uncomfortable, I will always love this song:

And then there’s Oasis’ anthem. And this classic from the Doors. And one of my new favorites by Kendrick Lamar. If you haven’t heard Swimming Pools, check it. It’s sick. Nope, it’s too good to just link to. Here’s the vid:

I could go on with movies and books, but let’s stick to the fashion and music theme we’ve got going on here. I don’t wanna confuse the issue. And I think the issue is this:

Sober may have changed a lot about me, but it hasn’t changed the human I am at the core. It’s only helped me to discover her. And that took some getting used to.

That’s why a year ago I wasn’t cool with wearing this shirt. I also couldn’t tolerate hosting a party or staying up until 1 a.m. with everyone around me drinking. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to throw a BBQ or stay up late with people laughing and playing games, it was because I wasn’t sure I could do that and still be me.

I didn’t know if I could tolerate life happening around me. I thought I’d  be that weird human standing out, not drinking. I thought I would hate everyone sipping on their night cap of aged whiskey while my mint tea got cold.

Turns out no one cares that I don’t have a beer in my hand. And I’m still appreciating other’s choices to drink, asking about what part of Scotland it’s from and why they like it. Not because I wanna fit in, but because that’s me. I adore food and drink and can talk about them endlessly.

Which leads me back to the shirt. It would seem that no matter what I wear, as long as I’m comfortable, I am still me. Even when my friends were dressing my up for photo shoots, it didn’t matter what outfits I wore and how different I looked, I was always Rebecca.


Dress up is fun.

And when I think about how I feel listening to all the music I love, the one thing I always know is that I am grounded in myself. After all, music is the language of the soul — I just happen to speak several dialects. But they all come from my heart.

Of course I want to protect my soul, my heart, but I’m certainly not going to stop treating life as my own personal buffet table. I’ll take a little bit of this and that, and while I might be allergic to alcohol, I’m certainly not going to stop myself from enjoying the things that have been made with the same machinery.

So bring on the Hunter S. Thompson, switch on The Big Lebowski and crank up the Guns ‘N’ Roses, because the only uniform this girl is gonna wear is her own. Or maybe something from Tank Girl’s closet 😉

P.S. On a completely unrelated note, I’m the featured interviewee for this month in Tanya Penny’s Transforming Pain into Purpose & Passion series. I recommend checking out all the interviews. They are really inspiring!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen July 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Oh I really love this post. You’re so lovely in all of the photos and in your unabashed passion for life. Anyway, aren’t people always wearing ironic sayings on clothing? I think elegantly wasted can take on new meaning in sobriety. I remember that first sober year of not wanting to be around others drinking merrily – I felt left out or afraid I’d feel triggered or just disgusted of drunk people because it was too close to home. Same thing with movies or books or music that glamorized drinking. I can’t say I’ve shifted completely away from that, but I did open back up a little. I don’t find it threatening anymore. I don’t want to shift so far away from that part of life that I shut other people out of my life, if that makes any sense. Anyway, I really enjoyed this…beautiful writing and images.


Rebecca A. Watson July 31, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Thanks Kristen 🙂 I appreciate your kind words. It’s interesting. After I read your comment I started listening to the lyrics of the song and one of them they repeat is “this ain’t the good life.” I think the song might actually BE about glamourized drinking and drugging. And what you say makes complete sense. I definitely feel like I want to enjoy as much of life as I can too. I’m catching your vibe 😉


Pistol Pete August 2, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Great post. Love the idea of “being allergic” to the drink, but not to the music that was influenced by it. The Gallagher’s thought of a champagne supernova was absolutely congruent with the one I had in mind. Was. Frackin 15 years ago. Well, it’s been dawning on me for quite a while now that changing concepts doesn’t mean that supernovas are a thing of the past. But it’s kinda hard to live up to that epiphany. I get laughing fits more often now. Much more often. Am I drunk then? nope. Do I make an ass of myself? bet I do. feels great. Probably never had that “champagnesuperfcknnovafeelin” when I hoped to get it. It wasn’t caused by champagne then, probably even weakened by it. One thing that helps is laughing. Biozisch Supernova, Rhubarb supernova in the Sky. Lucy in the sky with Rhubarb. Lots of people listen to Cypress Hill but don’t have to act as if they were Dr. Greenthumb. Oh yes, I#m the great pretender. Pretending I#m Dr. Greenthumb. Getting older is not like wrapping you brain in cobwebs. Kicking the booze probably causes the opposite as an outcome. Being drunk is a costume that dampens many facets.

But it is hard to listen to the Dubliners, though. Without the possibility of a pint or five. Raglan road, melancholy. Well, some of them kicked the bucket because of the drink. Melancholy, and to get used to that being sober, without a crutch, that is hard.
“Sober may have changed a lot about me, but it hasn’t changed the human I am at the core. It’s only helped me to discover her. And that took some getting used to.”
I can so relate to that! But it is the real thing. period.
Again: Great post, Rebecca, keep up the good work.


Rebecca A. Watson August 4, 2014 at 10:15 am

Rhubarb supernova. Ha! That’s great 🙂 Thanks so much for your comment. Glad you can relate!


Blaze August 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Love this post! I relate very much to the feelings you have. I love the phrase, “Party sober” as it places 2 words together that most people think are antithetical. Finding the path towards being able to, “Party sober” is very exciting for me, and it sounds like for you as well. Thanks for sharing this.


Rebecca A. Watson August 7, 2014 at 12:38 pm

YES! I love it 🙂 Party sober is a frickin’ great phrase. Totally using that. Thanks for sharing your insight. Hugs to you!


Blaze August 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Not sure if you’re familiar with but it’s a very cool website/ movement. They’re attempting to change how the world views booze. The guy also did a TED talk on the subject.


Rebecca A. Watson August 11, 2014 at 6:25 pm

I have heard of it but never checked it out. Thanks for the link. I will check it out now 🙂


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