One of the beliefs that held me captive in my addiction, long after I knew I had a problem, was the assumption that I could never “do life” without alcohol. Vacations, football games, festivals, girls’ nights, date nights, holidays…HOW?!
HOW in the world could I ever attend a black-tie event with Carl’s clients, a holiday party or tailgating without a drink in my hand? For years, I justified drinking excessively, restrained by the lie that it would be impossible to survive socially without it.
I didn’t, until I gained clarity in sobriety, recognize that one (just one) of the reasons I drank was to cope with my social anxiety. I was uncomfortable in my own skin, felt like an outsider, and dreaded situations that would require excessive interaction for long periods of time. Liquid courage? No. Liquid tolerance. I wasn’t insecure, just uncomfortable unless I was drinking. Then I felt funnier, smarter, more engaging.
For years, and years, and years, I was in complete denial that I wasn’t social. I thought I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I didn’t want to be “anti-social,” or a snob, so I forced myself to be more, going places and doing things that were terribly uncomfortable and never worth the discomfort.
But the mental obsession of needing to drink to get ready to go anywhere, wondering how soon I could get a drink once I arrived, and trying to manage my drinking so as not to get sloppy, embarrassing myself or my family, was driving me crazy.
“The anxiety that came from obsessing over drinking was becoming as bad as the anxiety I felt when I didn’t.”
I was stressing over my behavior more, questioning my condition more, fearing the potential consequences more, worrying about who was noticing more, and agonizing over decisions more. I was more irritable, more restless, and more discontent.
It wasn’t until the second day in my recovery program, when my behavior, my condition, and my situation were SIMPLIFIED into LESS that I began to heal. Simply put, I was sick. I wasn’t a failure or lazy, or a snob. I had a disease. I could not, would not, ever cure it on my own anymore than someone with cancer can will away their disease. I needed help and that too came in the easiest of explanations. All I had to do was GIVE UP.
Not I. Not Me.
When I was in charge of my life, I over complicated things. My own thinking was destructive, hopeless. I put so much pressure on myself to do more, to be more that I drank more. I didn’t like who I was because I thought I was supposed to be someone else. I never felt like enough. And I was doing the same things over and over, expecting a different result. Insanity. Something had to change. I had to get out of my own way and ask God for help. I had to give up managing my life, especially my drinking. I didn’t need to control it, or try harder to change me, or worry about all the “what ifs, when…”
I just needed to focus on not taking the first drink, right now, today. And in the moments when it felt impossible or I was overwhelmed with temptation, I had to ask God to take away that craving. If I use whatever means necessary to avoid the FIRST DRINK, TODAY, I won’t drink the second, or seventh. I can worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.
In the beginning, I was careful in choosing which social situations to attend. I knew these environments were triggers. I didn’t attend things that were centered around drinking. We traveled a couple of times that first month, short weekend trips with family, but I attended meetings and stayed in constant contact with my sponsor.
Slowly, over time, I was able to venture out, to visit a few more places. And by then, I had started to get stronger, more confident. I’d gone many “one” days without a drink, so my obsession, my temptation was weakening. I was still careful, reading from my big book, praying, and talking to my sponsor. I always had a predetermined “exit” plan should I need to leave due to unhealthy cravings. And more than anything, I gave myself grace. I didn’t feel so much pressure to go everywhere, all the time, with all the people, doing all the things. If I was feeling good, I’d go. If I felt weak, I’d avoid it and work on my recovery.
Today, after years of making choices about what I can handle and where I can go, I don’t feel left out, bitter or resentful. I don’t feel sorry for myself.
“The peace that has come in sobriety is immeasurably more than any of the temporary relief I got from drinking.”
Sure, I’ve had meltdowns, crying, scared and confused (see The First Thanksgiving), but the need to drink to cope has faded.
People ask how I do it, if I tell servers that I “can’t” drink, if I pretend that I’m pregnant, or if I just accept being miserable. The answer is no. I don’t go if I think I’ll be uncomfortable, and I tell everyone close to me which allows for a safer, more inclusive experience. I practice what I’ve been taught. I stay connected to others in sobriety, serve those who are still sick, and ask God to keep me humble. I can honestly say that at this moment, I have been relieved of my desire to drink and empowered by God’s grace to live as I am. I know I have a progressive disease, always lying in wait and if I get too confident, compliant or think I’m “cured,” I’ll relapse into a much worse state. So I’m still careful, vigilant about my comfort zone.
I no longer overthink things, I don’t worry about being more or doing more. Giving it all over to God has transferred the burden so there’s no more pressure. I’m just me, thanking Him for saving me so far and asking for the strength to not take the first drink, today. Surprisingly, my life is more fun because my mood is no longer situational, dependent on when and where I can drink. Instead, I lean into the simplicity of my recovery, following the lead of others and depending on God for strength. I’m healthier and happier. I can go places, do things and have a great time, free from mental obsession and full with self confidence.
Authors - Various