Reflecting 365 Days and Moving On

I was on business travel the day I spent 24 hours sober and stopped looking back. That was 365 days ago, August 3, 2016. This day wasn’t any different for everyone around me, but inside of me I had a tingling. I also had more genuine joy than I can remember having before. This wasn’t the same joy I have when I look at my son or when I recall a happy moment with friends or family. This was a definitive feeling of profound love for myself. This is the love and respect I gave back to myself.

This feeling of self-love is different. I thought I loved myself and was happy when I drank. Reality was, I couldn’t see ME. I couldn’t see ANYONE or ANYTHING. All I saw was a drink and it being 100% part of my life. I couldn’t imagine a day without it. So many empty handed promises and wasteful breaths.

How did I make it to a year? A lot of the blog posts in the archives tell the story. You can go back to 30-days, 90-days, 6 months. Things that I thought would be gone still remain. So, in tradition of the blog and reflection – where am I today?

  • Physically, I shudder a lot still. Sometimes when people talk about alcohol or I think about it, the ghost goes through me. I literally shudder. It reminds me how physically addicted I was. I actually embrace the shudder. It is kind of like my angel that likes to sit over my right shoulder. I can feel it, acknowledge it and live with it in peace.

However, the better side effects of not drinking are that I have better physical stamina, no more ailments, hangovers of course and the shakes and sweats have long disappeared.

  • Mentally, I am really coming to terms with the presence of boredom and how it affects me. I still play a lot of phone games to keep me busy, but I am starting to pick up old things that I love like bicycling and cooking.

However, my social anxiety is back where it was before I drank but I am working through it. It can be hard but through years of practice and support from the people around me as well as being open about my anxiety, I am able to work through it. It kind of haunts me a bit and sits inside me but I can be logical about it rather than irrational, escapist and drunken. Do I still get “the blues?” All the time. It is these feelings that have to be felt. They can be intense but they just have to be.

  • Obsession, it is lifted. Finally, I can be anywhere at anytime and not notice alcohol. In the beginning, alcohol was everywhere. Now, it is just there. I am not saying that the craving or romanticism doesn’t pop up from time to time. That is a given but I can see it declining over time that it is waning more and more.
  • People are assholes. Now, this is the part of the blog where I say everyone who can drink normally or think they can are ignorant assholes. This is semi-true and not true all at the same time. There are people who will always judge, look down on you or just not understand WHY you don’t drink. Stereotypes will appear from every corner. What I have learned is, if you are up front and direct; you can break some of them down. Some people will be afraid to be around you as if “quitting alcohol” is contagious. It is true. Some people won’t want to look their own problems in the eye. That is OK. It is not our business to be “better than” or preachy. We can only be ourselves and true to ourselves. We say “I don’t drink alcohol” when confronted. If pressed, I find honesty to be cathartic but in some situations whether it be workplace or sensitive arenas; I just say I don’t like to drink or just doesn’t meet my health goals. It’s that easy!
  • My friendships have changed. I love the new friends I have. Sober friends are awesome. Yes, some relationships won’t click and some people will never be friendly associations but the reality is if you share a common bond with someone as deep as alcoholism – friendships are inevitable. I need that bond. Somedays I don’t feel good unless I am around other alcoholics. I have to see, speak to and touch another alcoholic. It is that simple. Whether it is going to AA or just meeting someone for coffee. I need that connection. My oldest friendships are changing too. I am able to focus and speak to others without my head being somewhere else. I am no longer thinking of how long I have to hang around for my visit to be legitimate and run home to drink. Human to human conversation is so different without alcohol. It becomes meaningful.
  • Family looks weird. My family looks weird. I am starting to have different views on my family. As I make amends to them, things improve and though I haven’t finished them I still think that my family has some heartbreaking angles to it. The past cannot be fixed and I pray to not repeat some of the history. My grandfather died of cirrhosis. As I learn more of his life, the sadder and more reflective I became. Why didn’t he get saved? What would have been different if he did? It can get morbid. Overall, the years to come will tell how my relationship with my family will end up. It isn’t overcomplicated, just different how I view them; before tolerance was disguised in my buzz and now it is just that much more sensitive. Small doses and boundaries!

 

So, how did I do it once I said ENOUGH? Here is the list:

  • Went to AA meetings 3-4 times a week (1-2 speaker meetings, 2 Big Book meetings)
  • Got a sponsor (90 days in)
  • Wrote this blog. Anytime I had a subject I wanted to analyze, I did it. It was almost a blog a week. I am NO writer and that is OK. I didn’t need to be. It is like a journal. I wanted it to also help others. If I had to go through this journey, I wanted it in writing.
  • I spent and still spend time on the BFB Facebook page. It is a private page for alcoholics to chat. We practice gratitude and reach out. It is part of service.
  • I do service. I bring people to meetings who cannot drive.
  • I did commitments and told my story; I chaired commitments.
  • I donated bookmarks to my women’s group. They didn’t have the prayers we say available so I thought – book marks! It helped me be creative. It helped me to give.
  • I worked the 12-steps and finished them just last month! I was VIGOROUS about them. They are really, really helpful to recovery. I say don’t wait-just do. By the way, I will be doing them the rest of my life. Now I can sponsor others just like me.
  • I rested when I needed to rest.
  • I cried and yelled when I needed to.
  • I played a lot of Candy Crush.
  • I read lots of books. 
  • I watched a lot of movies.
  • I listened to SO MANY podcasts.
  • AND I watched and listened to all of you.

 

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Review: Sober Stick Figure by Amber Tozer

Usually I don’t do lengthy book reviews but for MANY reasons I have to over-review Sober Stick Figure by Amber Tozer.

51RTrBv4gIL__SX379_BO1,204,203,200_Let’s start with the book hook – stick figures! Stick figures RULE! If you have been following my blog, you may recall that in my letter to ALCOHOL, I drew my signature stick figure Jen. I signed this blog with it as a tribute to the author – (yes, it is a vampire and I started drawing it like forever ago before Twilight so don’t even go there with me on my love for all things Vampire – I was a Buffy generation)

I am going to go right out and say that the stick figures really enhance the story about Amber’s life into alcoholism and it’s duration.They are just really, really fun. They also, for me as the reader tapped into some inner child of viewing the story. I can read the story with all of the seriousness of an adult but when I saw those stick figures I really can feel how Amber might have felt relating to her life from a small person to a big person. It is almost shifting the reader’s view into that of an ‘inner child.’ See how I did that? Analysis paralysis. Just read the book and look at the pictures, they are cool.

Now let’s talk a little bit about the author. She and I have VERY similar stories and not just in the alcoholic sense; but the life journey. It was frightening for me to read about her journey to New York City. I won’t put on any spoilers but we could have been ROOMMATES! Scary, alcoholic, drunken roommates. Even though I didn’t have the same career path or experiences moving to the BIG city, our alcoholic experiences could have written themselves. The solo bar hopping, the seeking out of others in our careers (mine was small music venues in the East Village, hers was small comedy venues) and just the sense of independence and justification that this is where it was at. Much like her, geographical cure ended that part of the journey but the similarities were mega scary. The boyfriends, the challenges and the tries. The thing I love about her is “the tries.” Despite the alcohol and everything the disease comes with (read the book) – she kept TRYING without fear to establish herself in comedy. I cannot think of something more intimidating than that.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to those seeking to understand more about the patterns, the cycles and similarities we all share in the progressiveness of alcoholism. It might not be YOUR story but as in the “halls” something might resonate as it did with me. The BEST part? The way it ends. Read the book.

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Social Anxiety Resurfaces

In the review of my drinking history, it is more clear to me now that social anxiety led the list of reasons why I drank more than any other catalyst. Among those catalysts, there are fears; being alone, being under-valued or judged, pressure and stress, no coping mechanisms against societal rules and ideals. All of my fears and insecurities led to my character defects in combination with my drinking self. Those character defects range from self-seeking egotistical traits, people pleasing mentality, obsessiveness, acting out and general disregard for others as I hid behind my mask(s) of negativity, insecurity and escapism. But social anxiety encompassed all my reasons to drink.

Now that I am 10.5 months into sobriety, I have noticed that my social anxiety is getting worse. Even though my general anxiety is improving, my social anxiety is heightened. So let’s recap the definitions of those two type of anxieties for those of you not familiar and if you are alcoholic then you likely are very familiar.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder – is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. For example in a sentence, “Jen’s GAD gets worse the more she drinks because she obsesses about death, health and the future more than she lives in the present day. Her alcoholism increases her worry because it is building more anxiety within her.”
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – it’s the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations: Social anxiety disorder can wreak havoc on the lives of those who suffer from it. For example in a sentence, “Jen has mini heart palpitations and her brain gets foggy every time she has to go somewhere. A few deep breaths can sometimes help alleviate her fears. Increasingly however, she doesn’t like being in groups, feels the walls closing in and wants to go home and crawl into bed. This can cause isolation and anti-social behavior.”

I am sure that you have heard from others and some shared experiences that drinking helped them deal with society or loosened them up at parties, etc…there is no surprise that psychologists know that about 28% of those diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder are prone to heavy drinking and are dual diagnosed with alcoholism. Add a little bit of trauma in there and you have the recipe for dis-ease.

So, how am I ridding myself of the anxiety? Well, through age and some knowledge I feel as if I am better equipped to cope today than I was able to the first time that I experienced a breakdown of sorts. When I was in my early 20’s I had a time period where I couldn’t leave the house or sometimes even my bed because my fears of going outside were astronomical. The sun even scared me. I remember only allowing my boyfriend to pick me up and I had to start drinking immediately or I wouldn’t be able to function. It has been a long time since then; but I also have been drinking through it. Now recently, the pre-gathering anxiety creeps in. It would be easier for me to just stay home but I have obligations. Just thinking about it makes me rock back and forth and leg starts to shake. I pray I don’t look at people funny or start to twitch. When I go to the gym now I feel like all eyes are on me, judging me. I have to put myself into a zone or I don’t make it. A lot of these thoughts that jump into my head come from acceptance. Who will accept me?

Who will accept me? Why do I feel like the world is watching sometimes? Why do I feel like the biggest dork in the room? Let’s review this, shall we?

Who will accept me? Answer: do I really care? Should I care? Who do I care about and why they accept me? What makes me accept others and do I really think this long and hard about this? Do I overcomplicate accepting others? Nope. Move on.

Why do I feel like the world is watching sometimes? Paranoia? Insecurities? Because I grew up in a home where it was expected you would be watched so outward appearance was really important?

Why do I feel like the biggest dork in the room? This is because my anxious voice is affecting my movements and my facial expressions of which I cannot control so I feel dorky. Even thought I feel this way, others might not even notice. Some people might think I am snobby, some people think I am shy. Some might think I am a bitch; but I know the truth inside and here comes the dilemma:

We show how we feel inside to others through our actions.

So, since I have stopped drinking and acting a fool, will I show a different side to me eventually? Will my anxiety cease to surface? I know that there are times when it is OK. I can have a conversation with someone and walk away feeling OK; then there are those times where my mind reviews the conversations 100x until I realize it still was OK. I know this much, I would rather be who I am now then the person I was a year ago. I won’t trade that; plus there are some very good meds out there. I take one every night.

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Changing the Serenity Prayer

When I say The Serenity Prayer at the end of a meeting, I feel finished. I feel like I have done what I came to get done ‘in the rooms’ which if I got one thing out of my 12-Step program meeting then I am one more day smarter and sober. The history of the Serenity Prayer is kind of interesting. I did some research and of course, it didn’t come without some controversy on it’s origin. You can read all about it here.

Now here is the serenity prayer as it was transformed into the version we use today:

GOD, grant me the SERENITY

to ACCEPT the things I CANNOT change;

COURAGE to change the THINGS I can;

AND the WISDOM to know the DIFFERENCE.

AND THEN THERE IS THIS:

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Where did I bump into this you might ask? Well, I was meeting with my sponsor at a coffee shop that I LOVE and I saw this in the bathroom. Usually, these things don’t bother me because well hey  alcoholics like us know all about alcohol jokes. Out desperation for all things addictive and in that one sign; we have COFFEE and WINE. But, let’s be a bit of an alarmist on this – let’s play! I got offended. I got melancholy. I felt cheated by the lack of human sensitivity that exists. Some brainiac that clearly has never known someone afflicted by addiction, created that – OR someone deeply active in alcoholism; but to each there own right?

The Serenity Prayer itself (now that we know it’s history) wouldn’t be as infamous as it was unless it wasn’t adopted by AA. Like many things associated to AA and it’s origins; the serenity prayer ties it all together for the overall program. Some groups do say Our Father prayer at the end of meetings; not a fan myself BUT the Serenity Prayer sums up our desires and fears and collapses them into something that makes sense. It is almost a mantra more than a prayer. “Give me the WISDOM to know the difference” Say that over and over. Something might happen.

So, what bothers me the MOST about this sign? It is slapping the face of alcoholics with indifference. What if I had just started in my recovery and had some bias against AA? What if I was turned off by the Serenity Prayer as being “cliche” without looking at its meaning . What is I were just looking for an excuse to relapse? This sign would have been it. In fact, I can here Jeff Foxworthy saying, “Hi Jen, Here is your sign.” Believe me. I would have been, YES! I cannot ACCEPT anything so give me back the WINE bitches!

The sign defiles something spiritual and sacred to those in AA. If it had said something cutesy other than a reference to alcohol I wouldn’t have been contemplating it all; but tying alcohol to the Serenity Prayer just doesn’t make sense to me. Regardless, it exists. As recovering alcoholics, we now look to ourselves to not try to make sense of the stupid and just move on. No reason to dwell. No need for another Facebook meme. I will tell you this however, if I ever did run into this sign at a friends house; a B & E might be in order.

 

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I Am “Sweating Out The Toxins”

I have been musing on the time(s) when I would drink heavily and be able to work out every day. For the most part, my exercise habits never changed over the years. The workouts changed, but the continuous dedication to an exercise regime didn’t. Almost 5 days a week you could find me at the gym. I also loved to take long walks and ride my bicycle. It didn’t matter how much I drank the night before, I would be up and at ’em and ready to get my “sweat on.” It was a lot easier when I was single and could simply just work out after work. Those were the leisurely times.

Those leisurely times. Work all day, head to the gym; smoke a cigarette on the way home because you can smoke after a workout. It’s as good as having a cigarette after sex. Your blood is pumping and your lungs say “I fucking deserve a good smoke.” It’s true. Now, the thing about it is this, I didn’t smoke a LOT unless I was of course drinking and then that didn’t count either as possibly destroying my body because well, I was drinking and smoking and the next day I wouldn’t be. It was only “fleeting moments” of good times had by all. Reality was, even 10, 15, 20 years ago I was kidding myself. Still building that “empire of bullshit.” 91e7a9cd2ca13101cd544cf80f86fe5b

So here I am; probably late 20’s, early 30’s;  I am in great shape and I have the world by the cajones. I am working an awesome job that is paying me to study for my Masters degree, I smoke occasionally and drink. I have friends, I have a social life and I think that my health is just fine because from all appearances – I am fine. Here is what looking back to that reality really looks like. I was putting my body through harsh climates. My body was like Mount Washington. Mount Washington in New Hampshire is known for the highest recorded winds and most erratic weather. From the bottom of the mountain you can start a hike in beautiful, sunny 80 degree weather only to get a fraction to the top and experience top speed winds, chilly temperatures that can cause hypothermia. My body was being taught to withstand erratic behaviors on my part. I would wake up and head to the gym. On the way, I would grab 2 munchkins (chocolate) and a medium Dunkin Donuts “regular.” For those of you who need to know what that means, it is with cream and sugar. Then I’d hit the elliptical for a blazing 40 minutes and throw in some weight training. Followed by a cigarette. If this was a morning workout, that meant I was probably drinking after work. Once drinking, smoking and whatever I’d pass-out or black-out pass-out and wake up for the same thing. But, here is my logic. I could sweat OUT all the toxins. blues-brothers-1980-john-belushi-steve-lawrence-dan-aykroyd-pic-4Here is scientific reality. The liver takes in about 90% of all the alcohol because it needs to get rid of it fast; then 10% is removed by urine, saliva and sweat. I wasn’t healing anything! There were no toxins being sweat out at all. The only thing coming out of me was bad breath, bad body odor and probably some natural gas. My body was a toxic storm brewing all over; just like that mountain that grew in a perfect storm of nature’s variables.

I remember the hangovers. I remember that dry and disgusting feeling. I also looked pale and not a healthy color most times. I was puffy. Even if I could sweat enough to turn a shade of pink or red; I still looked like someone who was trying to “sweat it out.” I see these people now. I smell them too. Bleh. Needless to say, I remove myself quickly from the vicinity. I wonder how many times my trainer or my Bikram teacher thought to themselves “cut the bullshit Jen, we know why you are nauseous.” I was always paranoid. Speaking of “sweating,” Bikram is an amazing way to gain flexibility and sweat but I don’t recommend trying to do Bikram after many margaritas. And naked.

So, today I was happy to look at myself in my true form. The true person I have become from my vigorous exercise and looking forward to new muscles. It is really, really amazing to be sober and look back and remember those feelings that I never want to return. A hangover for me now would be misery and I can actually put myself back in that mental mode of the feeling. That reminds me of how far I have come and where I am going.

Just as a side note – I quit smoking over ten years ago and there are days..

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Building an Empire of Bullshit

I was sitting talking to a friend about some things troubling my mind. Now 10 months sober, count them – ten; I am actually getting frightened. Frightened of the days ahead now that the veil of bullshit I carried has been lifted and a recovering life has taken its hold. I am holding onto anything that creates a possible feeling that helps me fill a void. The void of boredom. The void of not numbing. The void of just being and existing and not knowing how to exist with feelings. Those feelings. The ones we could excuse away with a drink or a drug. The void in which we create an “empire of bullshit” to maintain. grade-a-bullshitI love that expression. When my friend said it, I instantly knew what they meant. In my world, it means that not only did I maintain the lies to keep drinking along, I was also maintaining MY world of lies to myself that created my empire of nothing.

So when did the lies start? What do the lies look like to someone who is alcoholic? Well, for me it wasn’t compulsive lying disorder or something I enjoyed to get out of someone else. This is a whole other category of disease and addiction that I just don’t have. I never got use to the lying, in fact I prided myself for say that when I was young and my mother grabbed my face and put it up to hers and told me if I lied everyone would hate me etc..etc..I thought I stopped lying – forever. I never thought I ever told a lie again. I called them “white lies.” A white lie is an untruth told to spare the feelings of another person more or less. So, I always thought that if I were avoiding the situation with an “excuse” or a general statement of fact hiding a lit then it was OK. This is how the scenarios rolled out.

When I was younger and getting into shenanigans as a late high school and college student, the lies became more about survival. If I came home too late, there was traffic. If I had one beer, it was usually two beers. My mom once told me that if I ever told her I had two drinks (which was the standard safe reply) then reality was I probably had double that or more. She was SO right. I thought that they were dumb. Once I did tell the truth to them. They picked me up from New York at my temporary housing to go home for the summer. I was in the shower when they showed up. I was still drunk and babbling about how I spent the night out until 7am. There was no getting out of that one. I also remember coming into those same parents’ house with a large duffle bag of clothes after being dropped off at 1am and literally flying from the top stair down to the bottom of the stairs waking up the whole household. Instead of admitting I was drunk, I blamed the bag and looked at my dad and said “wow Dad you really look old.” I was real piece of work. Nice kid.

So with transition to career, owning a home and not being as dependent as I was on family, the deception became different. I would hide how much I drank from people. I became – embarrassed. Shame was always looming from my activities however and the hiding became a lie in it of itself. I didn’t want people to know how much I drank. I would drink before I met you out. This would create a false appearance that my first drink with YOU was my first drink that night. Then there was the bottle hiding and the shell game of how many beers can I drink and still have enough beers to not look like I made a dent. Nope, still working on my first beer over here. The weight of the deception really could zap my energy and the only thing to cure that was to drink through it. It all revolved around being able to drink and get where I needed to be in my buzz. The phone calls in which my parents would ask me if I were drunk and I would deny, deny, deny. Only had two drinks, I am just tired. Tired was big for word slurring.

bullshit-postBut what did I tell myself? I would tell myself that I was fine. I wasn’t an alcoholic or maybe I just was abusive. I would say to myself that everyone drank the same as me. Then there is the bargaining we all do. This week I will only do this and next week, only at parties, only wine, only beer and my favorite; I am PALEO, I will only drink tequila. The empire of bullshit reigns. So, now being sober and not being use to having the cloak of deception surrounding me I have a real naked awareness of just how honest I can be and sometimes how isolating it appears. For now, I am working on just what I can do today and looking to the cleaner side of my street without all the bullshit.

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Sober Life, Social Life

It has been some time since my last blog. It has been a very busy few weeks and I am not apologetic. I am also not drinking in a gutter and does anyone really drink in a gutter or do they drink on the sidewalk next to the gutter?

To catch up, I am on day 288. That is 9 shiny plastic chips. For accountability of this 1st year of blogs – that is where I am at.  I also need to remember that for all the stresses in life, the challenges, the unknowns – we have to keep everything “in the day.” I keep forgetting that! I have a tendency to create a shit-storm of doubt in my ability to make decisions and to be present. See the next blog for more context of how us alcoholics create an “Empire of Bullshit” (direct quote from my friend Danielle). I hope to somehow amuse if you are still in fact reading this blog.

Anyway, sober life and a social life. How about being social in sober life?  Is it easier or more difficult over time to be social? Where did our social insecurities manifest and take hold of us so deeply we had to numb out our life experiences to survive the very basic of human interactions? We humans have come a long way from the caveman.

ADOLESCENT YOUTH

Ever hear the expression ‘Get a life.’ Or ‘I have no life.’ This sets up every adolescent who is insecure, anxious and/or shy to inherently think that something is amiss in their peer to peer relationships. We have all been there. ALL OF US in one form or another. Isn’t it the King and Queen of the prom usually quite popular and sometimes those we find creating the most havoc of their parents homes while partying it up? How about the people we referred to as ‘burn-outs’ smoking and drinking behind the school or under the bleachers just to be sedated and also be seen? Those rebels! Those of us sticking it to the man by drinking and smoking and raising holy hell. And the nerds. Let’s not forget about stereotyping them as well with their addictive gaming marathons of World of Warcraft! Somewhere and somehow we all tried to FIT IN. We all had the commonalities of the things we enjoyed such as sports, music, science, just being a girl, etc…but the one thing that cemented our bonds was our collective need to feel nothing at all in our dealings with others. Assuming the reader is an alcoholic or addict of some kind, the rest of you escaped unharmed from those first experimental days of youth.

sfdjf-584This precedence of needing to fit in influences our reasons for picking up a social anxiety cure-all. Also, if you are doing what everyone else is, aren’t you now accepted across all boundaries? Now we can mix the jocks with the burn-outs with geeks all at the same party! Why? We all drank and smoked and liked to have fun. Even <gasp> together.

ADULTING

News flash – I am/was still doing this in my adult years! I drank to fit in. Then there is the land of the ridiculous BAD adult behaviors. Still doing things that you shouldn’t have been doing once you reached a certain level of “maturity.” I might have mentioned this before but I came up with this idea under the influence at a party where I decided I would be a rapper comedian.3eae23be8790929a_old_school_movie.preview Not sure how this happened but it made a lot of sense at the time. Tons! Anyway, needless to say when you are still drinking to fit into a space that you should justifiably fit in naturally it becomes more of a concern and question of why are we still behaving in ways that others aren’t? Why isn’t my neighbor getting drunk and fast like me? Why am I the only one being banished to my home (that I demonstrates to others that I am an adult with responsibilities) at 10pm to pass out? Why can’t I hang? Well, we clearly know now – because I am alcoholic. I don’t drink like others. I don’t drink responsibly and I quite honestly never have.

So what happened to the rest of us in the addiction category is we became well ADDICTED. We know this story. We drank, we drank more and we developed what is known as the ‘addictive personality.’ Then we built our relationship with our addiction. We had what was left in our relationship with our selves and put it away for a long time. Now, we had the demon (remember that thing?) and that demon became our higher power and our self that could not win a battle to save its life with. So now we have no alcohol. We have no drugs. We seek to live a spiritual, community based life. What is that like?

NEW FRIENDSHIPS AND IMAGINARY FRIENDS

In my first few months it was kind of a mixture of pink clouds, foggy brain, naps, anxiety attacks and standing in corners sucking on seltzer water. I will never forget the first party I went to in sobriety at my neighbor’s house. It was a birthday party for one of the little ones. I showed up to find a great setting of wine glasses, beer choices and I freaked. I madly texted my temporary sponsor and couldn’t move. Externally people must have thought I was just looking for my husband but little did they know I was having an honest to goodness “real” moment with the reality that I have to socialize and speak to others without the devil’s juice. I had to make small talk and be funny and charming and interested in kid’s crap. Reality check, I didn’t do it that night. I did help out and kept myself busy but I mostly kept my mouth full of food and left at a reasonable time. Flash forward to today, only a mere 9 months later and I don’t give a shit. I show up, I open up and I have a great time. Conversations ARE EASIER. I am that rapper comedian I always thought I could be. (ok, that person never comes out but she is lurking) Reality is, I am more comfortable in my SELF today than I was when I was 16 and I can really see how being interactive with humans without my addiction is ok.

OK. I said ok but not AMAZING. What is amazing at all is that I leave the house. I don’t go out as often as I use to. This is a personal choice. I once felt ‘I had to’ and by forcing social time on a person with anxiety disorders, you might as well hand me my own personalized wine bottle and keep it coming. I have to be ready. This can be challenging with little ones too because they require things like play dates and birthday parties. Communicating with other parents of school aged children is like sending knives through my stomach and simultaneously freezing my brain into a temporary cloud coma. So, living with feelings is a challenge but I would say overall in this situation I am 50/50. I am 50% okay with social events and 50% not okay with the mommy crowd (the unknown). We do what we can. I am just sincerely grateful that I don’t tend to gossip or create drama to fill a void or emptiness. I take my time and decide with my SELF what is optimal for the situation presenting itself to me and how I react to it. So today, social events – it’s OK.

BUT, this all comes with a new realization. The people you drink with in adulthood might not necessarily be the people you would like to be friendly with without the nightly pour. The only thing in common you had was the alcohol in some scenarios. This can add more challenges but pick your friends with a clear head and embrace that in sobriety the decisions that begin to get easier are done with a clear conscious. This ALSO goes for the new friends in your spiritual fellowships and recovery groups. You are not going to like all the alcoholics and other addicts you meet. Again, the commonality is your sobriety and not your personality or the things you enjoy on a personal level.

WORK

Now let’s peak at work dynamics. They have never been part of the equation with the exception of “social events.” Again, this comes back to the preceding paragraph but with a twist. Networking with colleagues and executives is really hard. There are different expectations than just hanging with the neighborhood crowd. This is real-time “make or break” banter that has to occur. This is where the super confidence of a few drinks makes me pretty suave. At least that is what I tell myself. It is true however. I can wet my whistle enough just to have those insightful conversations with the boss and their entourage and when they find another hapless employee to torture then I find ‘my people’ and it is game on! Never met a corporate gathering I didn’t like. The BOOZE is FREE. If it isn’t, I buy it anyway. The only challenge is, the shit that happens after usually makes you feel pretty shameful the next day. I haven’t been really put to task yet but thankfully I know the people and dynamics of my company enough that the zone is comfortable.

BESTIES

Lastly we get to the changes that your closest social network sees. This is the that group of friends that you had when you started your descent into madness that stuck around. I am lucky to have friends that saw some bad but not the worse. The sad part is, they didn’t know. What is sadder when they asked me HOW I became an alcoholic and we reviewed it, they told me that for 10 years I had been distant. My best friend told me she hadn’t felt the real me or had an open and honest, interesting conversation with me for 10 years. That was amazingly revealing and I realized at that moment I felt vulnerable. I was vulnerable to her and my SELF. Everything lit up. I realized that I didn’t owe her or my other friend amends, I owed them my time and my conversation. Reality is, it doesn’t matter if I talk to much or say the “wrong” things. Those who truly love you will forget your social faux pas and look at the person you ‘bring to the table.’ c994693d48f4065e2b7fc999aa2b2164

So needless to say, being sober and being social is actually kind of fun. It is challenging at times, even at the most harmless of places. For me, it is the gym. I never gave a shit before what people thought. I was there to work and get shit done. Now it is like people are talking to me and being all social and it is scary and of course I always walk away feeling like a dork but in the end, I am the dork I love and keep learning about. I have years to catch up with her SELF.

 

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