When I was drinking, EVERTHING I did revolved around it. Whether I was conscious of it or not-aside from the fact that I spent all day either regretting having had a bottle of wine the night before and promising myself that I wasn’t going to drink that day to then of course, turning into the parking lot of one of my many rotating venues to buy that days’ bottle. Rotating because, GASP!, I didn’t want anyone to think I bought a bottle EVERY day and was a heavy drinker! You may ask why didn’t I just buy, say, a case at a time and be done with it for 12 days? Well, as you may have guessed, if I bought more than one bottle at a time, I would always open a second one-so basically, I was giving myself a false sense of being in control. Hah! Yeah, right! I also felt like maybe if I made it a bit more difficult on myself, by having to make a stop every day, it would- what? Shit, I don’t know! It all seems so crazy now! Especially since I was in a profession where I spent a pretty good amount of time in various stores where I could always slip a bottle into the cart. I mean, I was the boss right? And I could always stash the bottle somewhere where my staff never saw it-say in my big handbag! My God! the effort that went into me just getting the damn stuff!
But, another part of drinking the way I did was that it kept me from doing things. Oh, I was extremely productive at work. I worked out a lot. Kept up with my dog walks, my chores around the house, all of that stuff. What I didn’t like to do was to make plans to go anywhere outside of my little realm. I didn’t want to go to concerts because I might not be able to get my “quota” in there and get home. Didn’t want to go to parties because people might see how much I drank or I would regret something the next day-of what I could remember. Or, when I did go somewhere-say a neighborhood happy hour, I would have a glass of wine-maybe two-and then make some excuse to leave early. This gave the appearance of me being someone who could take it or leave it. Of course when I got home, I would open and finish off a bottle of wine. If I was at a dinner party, I would have to consciously pace myself to such a degree that it was stressful-and no fun. And of course, it was a rare thing that I didn’t throw pacing myself out the window after a few glasses of wine. Going out to dinner became a problem as not only did my SO object to the cost of the pre dinner cocktails and then me guzzling down most of a bottle of wine, but to quote him directly, he “didn’t like having to hold me up whilst making an exit from a restaurant”. Of course my SO could never have a drink because he always had to be the driver. Not that he ever has more than one drink, but it’s just not really fair to him, is it?
Anyway, the point is that while I was in the thick and grip of drinking, I didn’t really do much else. I kept myself in kind of an alcohol fumed bubble and it totally permeated every aspect of my life.
And then! I stopped! Well, well, well! that created a whole new problem for me-and as I read through blogs of others getting sober, I wasn’t alone. Again, it was fear that kept me from doing things-such as going to parties, dinner parties, happy hours-pretty much anything that took place in the evening. Now I was afraid to go somewhere because I wasn’t drinking! Boy! talk about a Catch 22! Here I was, doing something-accomplishing something that I had struggled with for years! Instead of feeling proud of it, or owning it, I was ashamed of it. Afraid that I would succumb to temptation if I was around others drinking. And, How in the hell could I have any fun anywhere? Oh! and then people would know that I had a problem with alcohol! Of course the fear and unease stemmed from the fact that I hadn’t done anything alcohol free in-well pretty much my whole adult life. Most of the people in my life-with the exception of clients-didn’t know me not drinking. Hell! I didn’t know me not drinking. I was fragile. My emotions, because they weren’t numbed out, were all over the place. I didn’t have the “confidence booster” of a glass, or ten, of wine. As I’m writing this I get the picture of a Light Being coming out of an egg and just kind of at first, peeking out-then little by little taking small steps out to look around. Slowly, coming out until she’s finally OUT! Surrounded by light!
At this point in my sobriety, it seems crazy that I was fearful to go to a party and not drink. It’s seems absolutely CRAZY that I was ashamed that I had quit drinking! However, I get it. I realize that everything has to be done in small steps. BUT, the steps have to be taken. I’m not saying to rush things, yet at the same time, the reason we quit was to have a more fulfilling life. Not to hide away from life. Drinking was hiding away from life. Having said that, while even the tinyest step will feel outside your comfort zone, there are some things that may help-that helped me. At 3 months sober, my SO and I took a BIG trip to Hong Kong-this was planned way before I quit drinking. And while I didn’t really have a problem with not drinking, I wasn’t prepared to deal with the whole sensory overload that occurred. I will say that a place like Hong Kong is a sensory overload anytime, but I had never experienced it on this leval and sober. I did connect with the fact that I was glad I wasn’t drinking during that trip because of all of the “sneaking” I would have to do and what a logistical nightmare it would have been! Having to rush to the nearest convience store for some unnecessary item-trying to hide my purchases- all of that bullshit. Anyway, after the trip, I was an emotional wreck. But I got through it. Without booze.
At 6 months sober, I went to Mexico-alone. Margherita Land. Not a problem. NOT ONCE! By that time, I was grounded enough in my sobriety so that it wasn’t an issue.
I’ve found that the sooner I get a glass in my hand-with a non alcoholic beverage- the better. The less questions are asked. And, as time has gone on, what I really notice is that for the most part, people don’t really care. And I don’t really care about answering that I quit drinking-it was time and just leaving it at that. Their reaction is just that-THEIR reaction. I’ve also noticed that for the most part, people don’t drink as much as they did-or as I THOUGHT they did. Knowing, of course that I was always the one who had drunk the most!
Having an escape plan is always a good thing. Being able to leave early-take a loo break, whatever-if you need to leave-LEAVE. It’s okay!
While I’m not saying to push yourself to do something that totally freaks you out, I also think that as we face our fears, they begin to diminish. As we become more comfortable with who we are now that we are not drinking, it becomes easier to be in situations where people are drinking. It also becomes more and more apparent who drinks too much! To be honest, I’ve found that the people that have the strongest reaction to those of us who have quit are the ones who just may have a problem of their own.
So what I’m saying is DO NOT BE ASHAMED THAT YOU HAVE QUIT DRINKING. DO NOT BE ASHAMED THAT YOU HAD A PROBLEM WITH ALCOHOL. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF! Having said that, you don’t have to scream it off the rooftops-unless you want to of course! Be proud of the fact that you are aiming to live a better, fuller life. And remember, life is full of ups and downs. There are always things that will bring you joy and things that will feel uncomfortable. There will be good days and not so good days-and downright shitty days.
In watching the Olympics and in thinking about the athletes, I am blown away by them. By their perseverance and will power to succeed-to be the best they can be. The woman that won the half pike snowboarding competition was declared the winner before her turn-she was last and she had already won in her first run. She could have just gotten on the podium and raised her hands in victory. BUT! She took a “victory” lap and beat her winnning score! Everytime a skater falls, I wince. And then marvel at how they pick themselves up and continue on. These people have found what their passion is and have done an insane amount of work and at times suffered horrific setbacks to succeed. I think we all have some of that in us. YOU have some of that in YOU.