I’m a Sober Bartender

Illustration by Sibel Ergener

Temptation might be all around me, but it’s what I was born to do

Thirty-seven-year-old Boston-based bartender Trevor Christian has been slinging drinks for nearly 10 years — and been sober for eight of them.

Don’t get me wrong: I love alcohol. It still plays a large role in my life, just not in my body. I don’t feel like I’m better than anyone else, or like I’ve figured it all out. I just can’t partake anymore. For good reason, too.

Trevor Christian mixing drinks

When I got evicted from my apartment in the mid-2000s, my kitchen was nothing but empty beer bottles, cigarette butts and broken glass. I was managing to blow enough of my salary on booze and drugs that I never made rent on time, even with the money I was stealing from work by faking cash returns and dipping into the safe.

Then things got really bad.

I moved into a house with five other people to cut down on living costs. I now had so much extra money that all I did was party. I stopped caring about work completely. And when I got fired, I did what any smart, reasonable person would do: I cashed in my 401k and went fucking nuts. Like a rock star, I only slept when I blacked out. And the corners of my jackets and sweatshirts were torn from being so fucking drunk that I couldn’t stand up; instead, I would push myself home against the side of a building. A lot of times, I would wake up in a park — sometimes soaking wet from the sprinklers that had been spraying me with water for God knows how long. Speaking of God, one morning, I even woke up on the stairs of a church.

Needless to say, I wasn’t happy. I’d blown through all my money, and my health was shit. In the morning, I couldn’t light up a cigarette until I chugged a beer because my hands were shaking so violently. I’d lost close to 50 pounds, the three things I consumed with any regularity being bananas, trail mix and a fuckload of booze. And my sweat was bright orange.

I admitted defeat on the phone with my dad. He said, “Just get to the airport. We’ll get you a ticket home.” I returned to Vermont a statistic: 30 years old, living in my parents’ basement, tail between my legs, no job, no car, no anything.

But I didn’t really change. I would say, “I’m just gonna have a six-pack.” Or: “I’m only gonna drink on the weekends.” Naturally, rock bottom soon followed. I don’t remember most of it — just being shaken awake by a total stranger in the front seat of a car that wasn’t mine but that I had driven into a telephone pole.

As conditions of the DUI that followed, I had to stop drinking. So I started going to meetings and hanging out with other recovering drunks in church basements. It sucked for the first couple of months. It was like ending a 10-year relationship with someone I saw every night until the wee hours. I wasn’t completely accepting of this lifestyle change, but it was either do AA, go to prison or die.

I got a job doing design, but after a few months, my brother, who’d been sober for about a year at that point, asked if I wanted to do some bar-backing at the place he managed. I’d told him I was interested once before; back then, though, he was like, “You need more time.” Now, he was comfortable with it — as was I.

My sponsor thought I was out of my mind. But he didn’t stop me. “I don’t approve of it, but I’m not going to hold you back,” he told me.

I was lucky that I was bar-backing and not bartending at first. That meant I wasn’t in immediate contact with alcohol. That smell, though! Whoa! It brought back some warm memories, and some pretty awful ones, too. But even with alcohol right under my nose, I could handle it.

I also was lucky that my brother and another bartender I worked with were sober. Their support was crucial to me getting comfortable being sober in an environment that preaches anything but sobriety — as well as getting comfortable in my own skin. I mean, I’m still a crazy asshole. That’s never gonna change. But now, that craziness isn’t totally out of control and capable of killing me…




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