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.
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.
This 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.’
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.