Am I a lurker in my sober life?

27 Dec

11:34 pm

What a week, eh? Ah, holidays. Ugh. Even with my 280-some days, I had MAJOR pangs, which was quite unexpected! Again, not necessarily pangs to drink, but pangs to avoid what I really didn’t want to feel, or acknowledge, or confront.

So, quickly, let me set the stage. My boyfriend and I went away for a few nights, and all in all, we had a great time. We’d been to where we went before, and so there was a level of familiarity–and nostalgia–to the place. Which played against me this time, as you’ll see. On Christmas Eve, he sprung something on me that I wasn’t comfortable doing–honestly, I’m not sure I would’ve been comfortable doing it drunk, let alone sober. However, while other people do everything sober and don’t think twice; not me, so cue the whirlwind of “should I/shouldn’t I” thoughts!

I was also feeling surprisingly lonely. I mean, lonely for family in the sense of connection, of belonging, of “protocol.” You know, how it’s nice to sit around once in a while with your big, dysfunctional family because, well, it makes you feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself? That there’s SOME sort of order to the Universe? Now, I’ve been “un”-celebrating holidays for a long time, spending many of them alone, or doing random things around the world, literally–it’s not like I’m all that big into Christianity OR family. Why the HELL I found myself wearing shades en route to the airport, having a hard time holding the tears back, I really don’t understand. I think it was the combination of feeling a sense of loss–my old self, my old way of doing things, the old me who could party and be independent–and a sense of finality–how much I’ve gained, how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown.

It was in this state of mind that my boyfriend sprang “the thing” on me. I sort of moped my way through dinner, feeling inadequate in a way because I couldn’t (wouldn’t) do something just because it would have been easier to do with a “glass” of wine to take the edge off. And then, we went to a salsa club. Neither of us danced, and it was the worst feeling in the world–because I’ve been the one to Not Dance out of feeling awkward and like everyone is staring at me SO MANY TIMES. And, it brings up the worst sort of paranoia in me: that I’m unable to enjoy the way others do, that I’m unable–worse, unwilling–to have fun, to let go, to just be. That I can’t do so many things (that make me feel unsafe and self-conscious) without wine.

And, then, I said, Let’s wander around the bar. And my boyfriend was like, And, do what? If you want to be part of something, go and do it, but stop making not being able to drink an excuse for not having the guts to do it. (I’m paraphrasing.)


Am I, in fact, a lurker in my own life? Have I always been? Duh. YES. I mean, when I was drinking, I was alone and desperate for connection, but I was afraid to go out and get it. I’d watch other people, looking for clues as to how to have a life. How to LIVE a life. Ten years ago, I started to walk around the city I lived in at night, looking into lit-up living rooms, craning my neck to gaze deeper, feeling the chill in the air outside even more strongly because the inside looked so warm. I’d DRIVE the fuck around after midnight, passing clubs and bars that I used to frequent, hoping to find…something I had lost, I guess. I never went into those clubs or bars; I was alone, after all, and way too scared. But, I wanted to know that nothing was going on without me. That I hadn’t really lost anything. Or that, I wasn’t missing out on all that much.

Nothing has really changed, it seems, with me getting sober. For years, I drank and drank and drank, and that gave me the courage–or alternately, the excuse to pass on events–to go to things, bars, events, dates, to initiate conversations, to maintain relationships. I had to drink to do it, I was way too scared to do any of it sober. It wasn’t that I was always drunk, but, toward the end everything and everyone in my life involved wine.

It’s been a struggle, and I’ve been trying to be patient with myself. These days, it’s not that I can’t do it, it’s more that I don’t want to. I gave myself a pass for these past 18 months, but more and more, I’m finding myself craving connection. And I see that my “pass” has become an excuse to lurk, to hide out, to avoid contact, to basically give myself the excuse to not do things, socially and professionally.

And, I can’t come up with one thing other than that horrible four-letter word: fear.

I used to pride myself on being the one who was up for anything, on being fearless, on making shit happen. Maybe that was just another story I told myself, because I’ve always hated dancing in front of strangers, for instance, unless I’m drunk. I’ve had an infinite number of conversations with people in my lifetime, at bars, in cities, in colleges and travels, under blankets and in between sheets; but once I got sober, I didn’t want to anymore. I simply didn’t have it in me anymore. I chalked that up to needing to conserve my energy, to finally focusing on me, to being able to at last say, Fuck it, to the shit that I just didn’t want to do–since that “shit” was making me drink.

I keep telling myself that when the time is right, I’ll get back to doing what I used to do–all of which was WAY easier because I was fueled by “liquid courage.” Won’t I? Or, do I need to push myself?

Have I been hiding myself away from life? I think the answer is yes. It’s a very difficult truth to embrace, but…I think it’s time to cut the cord, dive in, jump off.

It sucked balls to have to confront, on Christmas Eve no less, some of the things that have been fucking STARING me in the face before, during, and now, after getting sober. That while I needed to stash myself away for a while and avoid the “real world” of socializing–meeting people, making friends, forming authentic relationships–I need something else now. Something like friends. Girlfriends. Warmth through conversation. A sense of belonging, even community, with others. What irks me the most is that I know this has always been a sore point with me, and I’ve always been afraid of it. It’s why I drank, to avoid having to do what makes me feel uncomfortable–fearful, basically. To put myself out there, for me, is to confront and embrace human interaction.

I’m glad I didn’t drink on Christmas Eve; even now, I see that it would’ve made things easier, and probably more fun. However, in exchange, I got to confront myself and get a little bit closer to my truth, to the real story, as it were.

On that note, I’ve got a cold, so it’s off to bed (at least it’s a “legitimate” excuse to stay home!).

15 Responses to “Am I a lurker in my sober life?”

  1. atg December 28, 2013 at 1:34 am #

    I get it. i’m the same.

  2. soberjournalist December 28, 2013 at 4:33 am #

    Hmmm yes I hear what you’re saying. Part of me thinks it’s ok to be scared though. Re the dancing: maybe you just don’t like it anymore because you never liked it in the first place? Drink gave you the courage to dance, and then the adrenalin rush and alcohol made you think that actually it was something you liked. On the other hand, it is good to just get out there and do stuff. I am guilty of staying in and hibernating because I don’t drink anymore…I don’t even give some things a chance!

  3. sobermalarky December 28, 2013 at 7:42 am #

    I’m with you both here. I’m a hermit and Christmas really brought it home. The quandary is, how to practice getting better at socializing when it’s agony, and the 25 year solution to the agony is always available in the agonising environment. I’m not close to solving this one yet. I may even go back to meetings just to get to the coffee clatches afterwards!

  4. furtheron December 28, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    I don’t dance full stop!!
    I’m a few more days in than you but this Christmas Eve was stressed about a stupid thing (a storm overnight blew off some roof tiles and getting someone to fix it over the holidays was a pain) I had to give my mother in law lift but she was exasperating and I swore at her. So old feelings of remorse and regret and having to face her and apologise. What I would have given for a drink then – it never leaves you. You just have to learn to work it better.

  5. Katherine December 28, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I hear ya….it’s got to do with fear and loneliness for me too. I also feel the need for ‘girlfriends’. Just plain ole’ sober girlfriends to go have simple fun with. All my friends associate going out with drinking. So I don’t go with them or they don’t invite me. Sucks to read on FB all the ‘happy hour’ stuff and I feel all alone cause they are out having cocktails together. I’ve thought about telling them that I drink other liquids…but truth is…I don’t want to hear their drunk talk. Should we put an ad in the newspaper? ‘Sober girlfriend wanted’. Hugs to you!

  6. mariusgustaitis December 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    Obviously, I can’t relate to any of this. It sounds to me like you used alcohol to propel you past any blocks or fears. Not me. I only used it as a fashion accessory, something to have in my hand, while I danced on tables, slept with strange women, and punched out assholes who were “bad-vibing” me.
    Okay, maybe I used it, on special occasions, to help me get out of bed. Or make a phone call. Or go to the mailbox. Or a sentencing hearing. But I think that still falls under social drinking. Slamming 8 to 14 beers to take the edge off is still social drinking, if the edge happens to be particularly large.
    So once I got sober, it was really easy for me to dance at weddings, make small talk with strangers, travel (especially fly) and most of all, try new things that I may not be good at.
    The terrified look on my face is just an affect, something I wear to make other people less intimidated.
    I am also just as adventurous as I was back then. Ask me to drop everything and drive to Tijuana to hang out a notorious whorehouse at ten thirty at night, on a Sunday, and I’ll do it. No problem. And I’m sure that my girlfriend would support me, knowing how important it is for me to continue to live an interesting life, a life filled with rich experience and magic memories.
    So I don’t know what to tell you. Other than I’m really glad I’m not you.
    But seriously, so much of learning to live sober has been learning to do things while uncomfortable. Yes, I use prayer to buttress the crumbling walls of my resolve, but often I still feel nervous. I just tell myself that I don’t know shit, and that whatever I’m thinking or feeling, that’s making me so fearful, is probably just paranoid and delusional bullshit, (it’s always bound to be self-centered) And then I take the Nestea plunge. Feel uncomfortable and do it anyway. I can’t tell you how revolutionary that simple concept was for this alcoholic.
    I find it’s easier to do if I know going through the fire will benefit someone. Like plane travel sober. That’s something that…well…is a little difficult for me. When I saw how much my balking was bumming my girlfriend out, and frankly, limiting our relationship, I decided okay, if I’m going to die in a fiery crash, it’s going to be out of my love for her. And I’ll tell you, it’s gotten easier and easier. My dread only starts a few days before, instead of months. And it turns out, not only have I not died in a mangle of aluminum, but have gotten to see and do some really cool stuff.
    That doesn’t mean that I have to do everything. After all, normal people get to not do things. And it’s no big deal to them. Certainly not something they torture themselves about at night. So I have learned to blue pencil out a lot of events out of my social calender. Mostly because they would suck sober or drunk, and nobody’s life depends on me being there. Other times, I have to make an effort not to let my sobriety “limit” me. I have to feel uneasy while doing something. But it’s always worth it. Lots of times in ways I never suspected.
    Anyway, I’ve gone on for too long. Too much coffee this morning. Chatty as bird. Sorry.
    Okay, here’s hoping you continue to find the courage. That you find out there’s so much more to you than you ever expected. And that you’re always safe. No matter what.

    • sobermalarky December 28, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      Very very funny! 🙂

    • Drunky Drunk Girl December 29, 2013 at 11:16 am #

      Wow, thank you thank you thank you! It means so much to me that you took the time to comment and, well, have me rolling on the floor, LOLing. Haha. Seriously, I’ll take this advice to heart–and keep believing that it will get better, that there are things I’ll be able to do if I just do them, and things that I don’t necessarily HAVE to do, even though I tell myself that I should want to, by now…

      Again, thank you for this comment! xxx

  7. carrythemessage December 28, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    I don’t know if I can top what Herr Gustaitis talked about there. That’s A Class experience and penmanship he has there. The kind you can smuggle past the border without any sort of license or medallion of merit. Not even a bribe at the Los Maracas border. So I can only offer penny thoughts (and you can give me back the change 🙂 )

    I must say, the line ” If you want to be part of something, go and do it, but stop making not being able to drink an excuse for not having the guts to do it.” strikes me as quite tough lovey and bang on, as I can relate to that. You see, when things really went downhill for me, it wasn’t that I needed wine to talk to a colleague outside of work or some beers to brave it on the dance floor…I needed vodka in the morning just to get up. To look at myself in the mirror (briefly, to shave). To try and think of a reason to stay alive just one more day. To hope to God that I could quit. Fear ruled me then. And no matter how much of that liquid courage it gave me, it was all an illusion.

    A lie.

    You see, this whole idea of us having this old life, where things were a lot more “fun” and “free wheeling” is a fib. A big one. YES, we did have times where a drink or two turned the tide a bit. Sure, many a person got laid because their inhibitions dropped a bit and it was fiesta time in the sheets. YES, I may have seemed that a pint of beer made the world a lot less mad. And that’s okay as long as that’s where I stop. But I don’t stop. Never have and never will. I drink until shit gets bad, until I am hospitalized, until I am arrested, until my wife threatens to leave me, until I get fired. One doesn’t need to go down that path (or worse), but the breadcrumbs are there to follow. I had to learn that my old life was gone. for good. Like when I used to weigh 180 lbs and I had no love handles…lol. Done! But that can’t stop me from wondering what I am going to eat today.

    Fear is a killer, and like some of the commenters so far have wisely mentioned, it’s about moving past these fears, slowly, that we can start to change the way we approach things. the most uncomfortable things are often the most rewarding at times. When I can talk to a stranger or two and kind of be myself and not hold back and not sweat out and stress and be alright with it and get a laugh or two out of them and me…man, you’d think I swam the English Channel in record time. I am on top of the world. something as simple as a simple chat, something my 6 yr old can accomplish easily, can feel like victory to me, because it is. Moving past things requires one thing – action. Doing it. That;s the only way I have been able to do it. Now, you can fortify yourself with prayer (if you’re that kind), meditation (if you’re that kind), talking to others about it, perhaps coming up with an action plan, role playing, etc…lots of information I am sure out there about it.

    Anwyay, I am yapping a lot here because I relate. I was a lurker my whole life, and I sometimes do the same today. but moving past this shit is the only way I get to live life, or I might as well just sit under a rock. and rocks have worms under them and I don’t like worms 🙂

    Love and light

    • Drunky Drunk Girl December 29, 2013 at 11:41 am #

      Thank you, Paul–amazing comment, as usual! I think you’re spot on: action. I’m not big into “visualizing” or “meditating” my way through things, which is why it tends to be so either-or for me: either I’m doing it, or I’m not. There actually just might be a fine line, or a grey area, where I (we?) can give ourselves credit for the small, incremental steps forward that we’re taking every day, though!

      Thank you… xxx

    • mariusgustaitis December 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

      My hero.

  8. themiracleisaroundthecorner December 29, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    I want to comment, I really do, but there is simply no way to top Marius’s and Paul’s comments. I could not breathe while reading Marius’s, I was laughing so hard, and yet, it’s the God-awful truth, how we all used alcohol. And Paul… well, I could never top Paul, he’s the bomb! DDG, I hope soon we get to see a post where you force yourself to stop lurking for a day, and then write about the results! Finally, is it wrong to admit I really, REALLY want to know what your boyfriend wanted to do?!? My imagination is running wild!

  9. Former Escape Artist December 30, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

    Great post, but it hurt.

    I fear that I’m the same way. Despite all the neat and interesting things I do, I still often fear life is just passing me by.

    Do I not go to clubs to hear DJ’s because I’m fearful of alcohol or fearful of people? Do I not go to college parties when my friends invite me because I’m fearful of alcohol or just don’t want to face my fears of socializing sober (which I do plenty of, just not at parties)?

    • Drunky Drunk Girl December 31, 2013 at 10:51 am #

      I know! But, I’ve realized that it just takes what it takes–and, there are some things in this life that it’s OK for me to just say no to. Like, I just say no, and that’s it, no thinkin’ and (not) drinkin’ on it, you know? The first stage of my sobriety was necessarily–and I’m just seeing that now–one of me being a slight (haha) hermit. Sure, I went out, but barely. Now, I’m ready to go out and participate in the world. Step by step, we’ll get there. It’s not black and white (I’m either going out OR I’m fearful)–we’re doing the best we can, sober or not! You are really inspiring, DC and so young. I predict awesome things for you this year–just do what makes you feel good and right, and everything else will come along as it should.

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