The book that reminded me to enjoy all the things, not just one.
I’m not a sober person. Just in case you’re not sober, I don’t want you to think you can’t read this book or this essay. In fact I think you should read both. The Sober Lush, by Amanda Eyre Ward and Jardine Libaire is, in my opinion, required reading on the syllabus of adult life regardless of whether or not you drink. Do you ever think about how we just kind of stop all version of formal instruction at the very moment we enter adulthood, arguably a rather tricky path to navigate without a guide? I’m very grateful that a podcast listener of mine suggested I read The Sober Lush, it’s a book that delves deeply and truthfully into sobriety, but it also reminds you of all the delicious, varied, and luscious ways we can consume life, that have nothing to do with consuming alcohol.
As I read the book, I stumbled upon ideas, concepts, and products that were so profoundly interesting to me, that I wanted to experience so much, that I couldn’t keep reading until someone had my credit card information and shipping address. There are moments in this book that forgive you for overlooking countless joys of life in lieu of alcohol, which seems to be the most widely understood form of adulthood indulgence and celebration. The book forgives you, making it easier for you to forgive yourself, thereby freeing you to dive into things you love that maybe you haven’t let yourself love, or remembered to love, in awhile.
In finishing the book, I felt free. More free than I’d felt in a long time. Which is cool, considering the reason I read the book in the first place was my curiosity around alcohol moderation, which I’d always thought would make me feel more limited. Instead, I felt a profound freedom to be myself, and enjoy the things that are enjoyable to me, with a uniqueness and a recklessness I haven’t felt since I was kid. On top of that, I was experiencing rediscovery at the same time. I really like a lot of things! It feels weird to type it, but I was kind of ashamed of how frequently I’d previously associated feeling good with alcohol, and not much else. Which is counterintuitive, when you factor in the following mornings.
It feels like I’m operating inside a new world, which is particularly beautiful when you remember that there’s a pandemic and the only place I’ve been this year is home. I feel renewed, and a bit like an explorer rediscovering things I used to love or will start to love soon. Enjoy The Sober Lush, let it remind you of all the things there are in the world to enjoy, and if you need specifics, here are a few favorites of mine:
Raw Honey: Honestly, just jars of things in general. Do you know how many wonderful things come in jars? Take a spin around the dry goods section of the grocery store next time you’re there, with a particularly keen eye alert in the jams. When raw honey was described in this book, I was more excited than I’d been on…oh let’s just say half of the first dates I’ve ever attended. Honey is truly a gift to humans on this planet, probably as compensation for other bullshit like taxes and Twitter. Buy a jar of good raw honey, and remind yourself why everyone freaks out so much about the bees. We need them, we need their righteous work. Taste it for yourself and remember why.
*Pro tip: Drizzle some raw honey on the OUTSIDE of your grilled cheese as you cook it, or atop your bowl of pasta instead of finishing salt. Trust me.
Incense & Scented Candles: I’m big on smells. I blame my faulty eyes for an overly acute nose. I hadn’t heard anyone exalt the merits of incense since like…college, when we thought burning it qualified as making us cool and interesting. Incense is glorious. I literally cannot stop indulging in it. I now see no reason not to live in a space where smoke is perpetually drifting from the top of a stick. It’s a scent, a sight, and a mood, more powerful and transportive than redecorating your entire house. My favorites come from P.F. Candle Co but I strongly encourage you to shop around and find scents that make you feel something. You’ll know what I mean when you get it right. The scent will take you to a place or a memory that hasn’t been center stage in your mind for quite awhile. One kind of incense reminds me of summer camp in Ojai, the other one reminds me, and for the life of me I don’t know why, of a performance of Sleep No More.
I’ve typically kept a scented candle or two around the house, but I always felt guilty about buying them. So much money on something I’ll burn through so quickly always felt weird to me. But not when you realize how much you personally value the pleasure they provide. Scent matters to me, it’s allowed to matter to me, and why was I so willing to spend $25 on a bottle of wine that would be gone in a couple of hours but not a scented candle that would increase my enjoyment of my own home and not make me feel like garbage afterward? My apartment smells amazing these days, and it’s because a book reminded me that it can. Now, the difference for me between burning a candle or not burning a candle is much like the difference between a house where music is playing in the background and one where it’s not. I pay a lot more attention to all the ways I can enjoy my time inside my home, and the cost of them no longer feels like guilt, it feels like living more fully.
Press-On Nails: While not mentioned in the book, I feel like they very much fit into the Sober Lush lifestyle. I perpetually wear a full set of the most luscious press on nails. I change them whenever I want, I buy the styles and colors that appeal to me (usually glitter). No unpleasant smells, drying time, or salon expense at all. Press-on nails aren’t necessary, not even practical at certain lengths given that I type for a living, but valuable for the enjoyment and pleasure I take in how they look and feel. I’ve got boxes of them now. Colorful little tiles I adhere to my hands effortlessly, and feel 10x more glamorous as a result. Did I almost loose one in a batch of cookie dough the other day? Yes. Was it worth it to be able to love what I see every time I look at my own hands? Also yes.
Good, Rich Chocolate: All sorts of precious flavors and moods are mentioned in the book. Chocolate is certainly one you’d expect, but I’d challenge us all to try and remember the last time we really thought about what chocolate tastes like. The last time you had some, was that all you were doing? Enjoying it, identifying it’s pleasures, or where you just popping some into your mouth while you did something else? I chose to explore my Sober Lush-inspired relationship with chocolate via a rich bar of milk and dark swirled together with bits of butterscotch laced throughout. Just stand there when you eat it, and clear your mind of anything that’s in the way of you and a moment of melting joy. You guys…chocolate is fantastic.
Halloween Decorations: Again, not explicitly mentioned, but fully within range of lush behavior. Halloween brings me joy, and sometimes in the past I’ve felt guilty about that joy, as if I shouldn’t love or celebrate Halloween so much because it’s childish. This book reminded me that what brings us joy and pleasure isn’t childish, instead it’s actually necessary for us to live full, joyous lives where we’re not denying ourselves the full range of life’s experiences. Alcohol is a super adult thing to partake in, but it hurts. None of my childhood amusements and indulgences hurt. Maybe reverting back a little bit isn’t such a bad thing. Anyway, my living room looks like a haunted mansion, and I’m thrilled about it.
Life is a lot of different tastes and scents and textures and experiences. I didn’t think a book about abstaining from alcohol would remind me just how much of life is worth getting up to our elbows in, but here we are. If you need to open the aperture of your enjoyment a little wider, and remind yourself of all the places pleasure and joy can be found, read The Sober Lush, as soon as possible.