Tag Archives: conquering fears

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.)

Hmm.

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!).

90 days sober!

9 Jan

11:59 pm

Wow. It’s HERE. It’s really here. As of today, January 9th, 2013, I am 90 days sober. I made it!

Actually, this is my third try since last summer. I quit drinkin’ the day after my birthday back in June (I had had ENOUGH after yet another drunken night of being alternately up and down, yelling at people, and passing out in the middle of important things, like, um, making out with my boyfriend), went for 60 days, drank twice during the next 2 weeks, went for 5 weeks, then drank, oh, several times over the next 3 weeks before I finally–after a horrendously hungover flight from [big city near my home town] to [beautiful island where I now live]–gave up. That was 90 days ago.

Over the course of these 90 days, things have definitely changed. Majorly, in some respects, subtly in many, many others.

If I think back to June, things have changed immensely. I made some huge, and important, life choices–giving up my place (and all that entails) in [cold west coast city] and relocating most of my belongings back to my storage unit in [cold east coast city] was one. The “and all that entails” was confronting (or, in my case, avoiding confronting with any kind of maturity or grace) some of the emotional baggage from my first time in [cold west coast city] (I lived there for 6 years prior to moving to [cold east coast city] in 2005; I moved back to [cold west coast city] in 2010 for a job), which I’ve detailed in past posts.

What I’m saying is, it wasn’t easy starting. It wasn’t easy continuing to not drink through the fear, the worry, the “wolf” voice in my head yelling at me near-constantly that wine would make it better, that life was literally impossible to do without it. It wasn’t easy getting here.

Moving to the [beautiful island where I now live] wasn’t easy. Deciding to dive in and start freelancing wasn’t easy. Going through withdrawal (for I’d say, 6 weeks of a low-grade “flu”), starting this blog and opening up about my drinking problem–that sure wasn’t easy. Going to my first AA meetings here, on said island, was definitely not easy; reading the Big Book and coming to terms with my own opinion and beliefs about AA and “The Program” wasn’t/isn’t easy. Dealing with constant “God DAMN it, wine would make this SO MUCH BETTER/EASIER” pangs was/is probably the worst thing I’ve ever had to do; thankfully, thinking through these thoughts, rationalizing myself out of drinking over them, and practicing this over and over–in addition to doing what I would say is a “personalized” version of the 12 steps–has allowed me to at least tuck the pangs in for a nap.

Those are some of the big ways my life is different. It’s the small ways that are SO abundant, and so rewarding. While today is my 90-day anniversary, it was just like many of the past 90 days: I woke up relatively early, with no hangover and no regrets; I made coffee and walked the dogs, soaking up the wind, the sun, the water, the sky; I went jogging; I went to an AA meeting; I made cupcakes to celebrate my soberversary; I finished an editing project; I commented on some blogs; I wrote a blog post; I kissed my boyfriend. I mean, my days seem simple, but yet…they’re brimming with possibility! Flourishing, actually, in spite of any and every habitual notion I have of containing them.

And, each one of those “simple” acts and actions reveals a major step forward, personally, for me; and most of them, I see now, involve conquering a grander fear. None of this conquering of fears (like, doing it and doing it and doing it until the fear is less than my faith) would have been possible if I were still drinking. It’s that simple.

Fear? Well, the fear of life without wine, first and most important of all. I mean, I was afraid of doing a LOT of things sober. Like, eating dinner, going out, having sex–you get the picture. I worried about the “weird and awkward” moments that were SURE to come up. I didn’t believe that I could do them anymore without wine, or the reward of wine more precisely (I think I ONLY made it through journalism school and my job as a science reporter with the reward of loads of wine at the end of my days)… I guess I just had faith because I saw–thank God(dess)–that I truly had no other option.

Now? Well, I’ve done it. Felt the fear and did it (well, many of them) anyway. Had to say, Wow, THAT was weird and awkward, and then shrug my shoulders and move on. And, what a HUGE RELIEF, knowing that I CAN do these things without being buzzed, AND that I’m actually starting to truly want to do them sober.

I’m HERE, which means I actually made the decisions that led me to give up my place in [cold west coast city] and move down, which could only have been preceded by me actually confronting my sense of loss, my fear of change, and my apprehension of Things Working Out, both personally and professionally. I was not only afraid of geographic change, I was sort of TERRIFIED of being in a relationship, I see now. Of getting to know someone; of someone getting to know me. I used wine to hide from that truth–for years, actually–and the more I avoided it, the worse I felt and the more I wanted to (and did) drink! So, being here, with this wind, and sun, and water, and sky; with these dogs; with this person–it’s all because I began confronting (and continue; it ain’t over yet!) my fear(s) instead of drinking.

Anyway, 90 days. Like I wrote earlier today, I made a deal with myself that I’d go for 90 days and then re-assess. Well, all I can say is, I feel great, I’m regaining my powers of concentration and affect and memory (sort of), I’m LOVING the consistency of never being hung over, and well…yeah, the list goes on and on as to how my day-to-day life has improved by quitting drinking.

Was today any different than any other sober day of late? Not really. I thought about drinking a few times, as usual, but the thoughts are now accompanied by a quick ushering out. I can’t, is all I know. I could, but I’d drink four glasses, not one–I’d WANT four, this I know. Is an hour of “fun” worth 48 hours of time wasted, spent in agony? NOT. So, the loop goes back to the beginning with me not being able to drink… For now.

Well, there ya have it. What’s next? 6 months? Bring it on! 🙂

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