Usually when we talk about alcohol use in Austin, we talk about it as a public safety issue. Concerns about Austin’s party culture got some attention back in 2014, for instance, when a man drunkenly drove through barricades and killed four people and injured many others during SXSW.
But there are other societal costs – particularly if you are sober. Or trying to be.
A Long Wooden Beam
Ivana Grahovac is in long-term recovery and is the executive director of Austin Recovery Treatment Center. She says that Austin is a place where getting clean is a mixed bag.
On the one hand, there are lot of treatment centers. Getting help is easier here than in other parts of the state, especially if you don’t make a lot of money. But, this is a college town and a party town. People drink a lot here, and Grahovac says it’s something they talk about all time, too.
She says even while she’s working out in a group class, people are talking about drinking.
“The Barre studio that I frequent, they constantly make references to ‘and now you can have that tequila, you can go get your margarita, imagine that there is a champagne glass on your leg,’” she says.
“And it just chips away at my feeling like I am now a part of society,” Grahavoc continues. “I have conquered my addiction and now I am welcomed and back as a contributing member of society – and suddenly it’s like, ‘Whoa.’”
Grahovac has been sober for over a decade. She says she’s gotten the hang of being around alcohol and not feeling triggered. But not everyone in recovery is there yet. And, she says, Austin’s alcohol culture can be exhausting if you are struggling to stay sober.
“Imagine that you are holding up a long wooden beam,” Grahovac says. “And if you were to carry that long wooden beam above your head all day you would get very, very tired, if you had to do it by yourself. In many ways, that’s what trying to achieve sobriety and maintain sobriety and a life of recovery is like.”
Grahovac says when someone in recovery asks other people for help, it’s like having someone help them hold up that beam.
“And when you are in environments where they are constantly beaming out messages of drinking, partying, boozing, inebriation, it’s as if suddenly people around you are pressing down on that beam,” Grahovac says.