To be (sober) or not to be (sober), is that the question?

11 Aug

9:26 pm

Since I’ve been working this new job–my first big-girl job, in a certain sense, since getting sober–I’ve been wondering how my coworkers would (secretly) perceive me if they knew I was once a raging drunk?

I say “first” big-girl job because this is my first full-time, non-contract job since getting sober–I worked as a freelancer for many years, and while I had a long-term gig (because it was freelance, so to speak), I never had to truly commit.  Sure, I gave my all, and my time, and my talents–but I knew that I wasn’t being counted on to deliver; I knew my job didn’t necessarily depend on both my performance and my commitment, however perceived, to that performance.  With this job, it’s full-time and it’s a lot of both professional and emotional commitment.  Shit, I really care what my coworkers think of me, and if not of me, then definitely my performance.  I wish I didn’t care, frankly; but, my obsessive preparation for the presentation I had to give at a team meeting a few weeks ago says that I really, truly DO CARE.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for someone whose entire alcoholic history is intertwined with people-pleasing, perfectionism–a severe self-imposed pressure that came from God knows where, really–well, it’s disappointing that I haven’t sort of grown out of that after seven years sober.

Then again, seven years sober is not that long of a time (and, as you all know, I had slips here and there; my last official drink was January, 2016).

Coming back to what I’ve been wondering:  how does one come out to coworkers when it’s been a long time since you’ve been there, in that raging drunk place?  I understand the desire to come out, and the immediacy of it, when you’re in that place; I came out to a lot of people when I was a few years sober–I was so proud and so free.

Now, though, it’s been a while, and I have had years to sink into this maybe-false sense of self–am I still an alcoholic?  I am no longer a high-functioning hot mess; I no longer consider myself a hot mess.  I have transitioned–at least to a certain extent in my mind–into a new person, someone between “used to be a drunk” to “used to be a drunk but not really sure if it even matters anymore to me, let alone you, if I used to be a drunk.”  With that transition, which has been gradual and ongoing, into this weird place of “long-term sobriety,” I can’t help but wonder, does it matter anymore that I am sober?  Do I still define myself as sober–and, therefore, attach myself to all that that entails, including my long recovery–and if so, how?

One of the things I’ve found hard this year, since I’ve been at this job, is that I know that I don’t have to identify anymore with being Drunky Drunk Girl; I could totally forget that she existed, if I choose.  I am so far removed from jobs who knew me as DDG; I am far removed from my first foray into the working world post-recovery, which was that long many years ago as a freelancer–now, post-post-recovery, I could really just disappear into the world of normal people who work and don’t drink…

That’s where the rub is; that’s where I feel the most disconnect with myself this past year:  I am anything but normal, and my history, my story of recovery is anything but over.  I know this, I do, but I guess I’ve been hiding from it.  Most days, I have this niggling feeling that I’m hiding out in the normal world, pretending I belong there–and, there’s that imposter syndrome again, right?

I would LOVE to reconnect with DDG, with that person who was “on fire” during my immediate recovery, but I don’t know how to do that besides continuing to blog here, to think about my process of recovery, and to continue reaching within and without for direction and support when I bump up into the HUGE unresolved issues that were essential to my alcoholic drinking.

What I don’t really have a sense for is, is it worth revealing your history to coworkers for whom it might be shocking to the point of them wondering if it’s possible that you could be that old hot mess of a drunk AND this person, who is doing a good job?  Like, if I once was that hot mess of a drunk, would they now judge my performance as “someone who is sober, but seems to be doing great work” instead of “someone who is doing great work?”

Sometimes I feel like jumping from the roof, screaming the benefits and life-changing lessons sobriety has offered me for seven years!  Other times, I feel like quietly gliding down the sidewalk, enjoying my anonymity.  I’m not trying to hide it; maybe if I came out, I’d get more of that old fire around recovery back?  Or, maybe it’d just fall flat, no one would care or remember, and we’d all just get on with our work day?  Maybe, it just doesn’t matter right now anyway. 🙂

It’s strange, long-term sobriety, but the lessons NEVER stop coming.  And for that, and for each day still that I am not drunk or hungover, I am ever-grateful.  For those still struggling, you got this; it does get better, it really effing does.

 

4 Responses to “To be (sober) or not to be (sober), is that the question?”

  1. dealingwithalcoholdependency August 12, 2019 at 4:36 am #

    Interesting post- I guess there’s an alternative to coming out as alcoholic or hiding the past which is , “I decided that drink wasn’t for me anymore, I didn’t like the physical impact so I stopped.” In the end each of us has to decide for themselves how we define both our present and our past. Great food for thought!

  2. G August 12, 2019 at 11:59 am #

    More than 6 years ago I decided to taper off. I would be sober for months and then back to weekend drinking and the go back to not drinking for months. I’ve now been 1 year 5 months w/o alcohol. During this time I’ve discovered that most people aren’t interested in my past and I am tired of going over it. What I find works for me is mentioning I don’t drink if it’s appropriate in the conversation. Then I say I didn’t like what alcohol was doing to my body and I couldn’t process it like I could when I was younger and have since learned how hard it is on the body so I quit. I am honest about how sometimes I miss it but this is the best choice for me. I’ve also found that people are interested but they don’t want to hear a pathologized version of my drinking history and it feels healthier to focus on the actions I take to move forward living alcohol free.

    Formerly blogged as Running From the Booze.

  3. Ainsobriety August 12, 2019 at 12:37 pm #

    I have been sober for 5 1/2 years.
    I work in a professional job. When I change departments and get to know people i inevitably tell them I’m sober and love it and it was the best decision I ever made.
    I also joke about my years as a hard drinking engineering student, etc. But if asked I am very forthcoming that alcohol held me depressed and anxious and paralyzed and getting free of it was life changing.

    Do they think differently of me? I have no idea. If they do no one has ever said anything. Most people offer me their own dark secrets. I feel like my vulnerability allows them to be open too.

    Maybe there’s a cool AA group around you to hang out with for a while. It’s always interesting to try something new!

    Anne

  4. Just Some Woman August 14, 2019 at 4:52 pm #

    Congratulations on the job! In my opinion, it’s no one’s business. I don’t care who knows about me, but I most likely would if I were working. In cases that I didn’t want to have to go into some long explanation (sometimes they irk the shit outta you, wondering why you’re not drinking with them) I just say, “It makes me break out. And once I break out, it’s hard to put me back in my cage”. That usually shuts them up. To be super duper secret (which I think life dictates at times) I just say, “Sorry, I’m allergic”. It’s not a lie, it’s the God’s honest truth. “I DON’T DRINK” is also a good one. LOL
    Sure, I can bury the truth, push it back in my mind, hide it, etc. etc. But I can NEVER forget where I came from. Alcoholism is a progressive disease and I have a healthy dose of fear of it. I prefer it that way. I like that fear. It keeps me sober for another day.
    I’m glad your hanging in there!

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