6 months: Community

Things have felt a bit hard lately.  I had my birthday recently and spent it the way I would have every other birthday – at a bar.  Only this time it wasn’t fun for me. Sure, it was great having friends there to celebrate with me – but it ended there.  Out of comfort, I decided to celebrate how I always had, but this year is different. I guess I am different.  Bars used to be my haven. I used to spend most of my time going to different bars and breweries, thinking I was fulfilled. I thought I had made friends with certain bartenders that I had become a regular at.  How naive.   Since I have been sober, I have gone to the bar only a couple of times.  Those relationships that I thought were real, have been gone in an instant the second I decided to change my life.  It makes me feel a bit sad because now I just see inauthentic connections between patron and bartenders and amongst people sitting wasting their life away in those bar stools.

After my birthday experience, it has felt like more of a struggle.  I am looking for suggestions on other methods of finding sober community that is not AA.  I don’t identify with the word “alcoholic” and do not feel like I have no control over my drinking.  I have proven this to myself as I celebrate 6 months sober.  I do however feel like I need some sort of social network that doesn’t see going for drinks as the main source of fun.

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Learning & Loving

Today I have hit my 3 month mark of sobriety and have reached the goal that I set out for myself.  In my first blog post I said that when I hit three months I would, with a clear head, decide whether alcohol is something I can have in my life.  These are some realizations that have erupted throughout these three months:

  1.  Not having hangovers is way more fun than a night out drinking. It wasn’t until I cut the drink out completely that I realized how much of my life I spent feeling like garbage. With my nursing schedule I would work 4 shifts and then have 4 days off. Of those four days off, I would be feeling terrible for at least one of the days.  Added up, that is a lot of time to be feeling anxious, nauseous and unmotivated. I have done so much more with my time since taking hangovers out of the picture.  Instead I wake up earlier, get shit done and play outside.  And on those days that I laze around doing nothing but binge watch Netflix or get lost in a book, I know that what I am doing is because I chose to have a relaxing day – not because I couldn’t bring myself to leave my couch due to an overwhelming hangover.
  2. Relationships are more meaningful.  Pretty self explanatory.  I’ve been forced to sit in awkward silences and get to know people without that liquid courage I relied so heavily on just three months ago.  The connections that I have made and the friendships that I have been working on in the last few months has been a welcomed challenge.  I have been fortunate enough to totally fall for someone, by way of giving in to my true self.  Not drinking has made the relationship feel so authentic, as there has been nothing clouding the process of mutually exploring one another.
  3. I’m still fun and I’m still me.  This has been both the biggest learning and the biggest challenge.  For reasons that I am still piecing together, I have had huge fears around people no longer wanting relationships with me now that I am that “lame sober girl.” (Even referring to myself that way shows I still have work to do in shifting negative self talk).  I think it boiled down to this conversation that went occurred while having a beer with a couple close girlfriends. The following are some tidbits from the conversation when I was sharing that I went on a date with someone who is sober: “I don’t know why you would want to hang out with someone that doesn’t drink…That is so boring…Drinking is such a social thing, what would someone who doesn’t drink do with their time?”…and so on.  I sat quietly and  immediately turned those questions inward, thinking that everyone would think I would be no fun the second I stopped drinking. I have had that conversation pop up in my head probably more than it should over these past months.

    Over the last three months I have been able to process and work through those feelings. In response to that conversation after much reflection: Being sober is actually not boring at all.  I have more time for the things I love and am more apt to spend quality time with the people that I love.  I would argue that I have way more fun now that I am that lame sober girl.  And although it might take me an extra song or two to loosen up on the dance floor or being forced to sit with all my feels, it is so worth it because I can be present and cherish the moments spent with others and by myself.

    This process has required lots of self exploration and I plan to continue to explore this new self I have become.  Reading other folks’ blogs has given me a sense of community and makes me feel less isolated in a world in which alcohol is what adults do for leisure.

the comedown.

Tomorrow will be 7 weeks sober! In the past doing a sober month was a self inflicted punishment in response to drinking way too much one night and deciding that I needed to take a break from the drink.  The last time I attempted a month of sobriety, was after a staff party in which the central focus was to get as fucked up as possible.  We played drinking games with straight Jack Daniels. Ew.  With all of my inhibitions down, it lead me to hooking up with the manager of the restaurant in the bathroom, and eventually having to take myself home because I was so wasted.  This, however this is an assumption because by that point I was past the point of forming any new memories.   Unfortunately, this was not a one off experience.

7 weeks with a clear head has made me realize the correlation between anxiety/depression and coming down from booze. The day after the staff party I woke up in a state of panic, with a raging headache as icing on the cake (that I would have thrown up). Trying to piece the night together and beating myself up for the stupid decisions I “made” when I was wasted was something that became an all too common experience for me.  Those kind of thoughts were directly affecting my mental health and lead to so much negative self talk that would spiral me into a state of panic and sadness…until the next time I drank.

In the last 7 weeks I have not once woken up with regret or panic or self loathing.  I have been on dates, to a wedding, on a trip and had friend and family hangs that just keep getting better the more comfortable I am with the idea that it is okay to not be drinking.  I never knew I could have so much fun being the sober guy.   Although there have been times that I have had to sit with the fact that I can be awkward and uncomfortable in social situations, I am reminded that its okay to feel that way and am more able ride out those feelings of discomfort instead of searching for a crutch to make it easier.

 

Social Anxiety

This isn’t the first time I’ve realized the need to stop drinking.  But this time feels different. It is the first time that I want to re-evaluate this part of my life and reconsider the need for it on a longer term basis. A lifestyle change. I’ve decided to give it 3 months and then, with a clear head and hopefully stable mental health, I can weigh my need for alcohol in my future. 3 months sounds like nothing, and in the grand scheme of things it is very minor – however it feels big for me and that is all that matters.

Social situations are going to be my biggest challenge. Social anxiety is real and in the past its been something that I have numbed with booze. I had a date last night.  Usually, awkward and anxious me would look forward to having a couple of drinks before or during to cool my nerves.  Last night we met and both shared non-alcoholic cocktails before heading to a show.  At the show I danced awkwardly through the night, slowly loosening up and letting my body feel the music.
Normally at shows I am half cut and the next day I reminisce about how fun the concert was (in actualization – I harbor blurry memories of the actual event).  Instead, today I have crisp and clear memories of the evening. It felt authentic.
Normally, I would have had the (liquid) courage to swoop in and dance with my date. Instead the dance floor became a place of anxiety and I became hypsersensitive to my hand brushing her back side as I awkwardly tried to dance next to her.  Instead of feeling down about my discomfort on the dance floor I am holding onto the fact that if i was drunk I wouldn’t have had the same experience. For example, the electric brush against my date as I danced beside her, and those nervous butterflies in my belly as I walked her to her car and said goodbye. I reflect and am grateful for the authentic connection and memories made.

Typical Tuesday

This past year has brought on change that I would have never imagined.  I have finished my first year in my career as an RN and therefore have been out of school and out of the service industry for a whole year.  Prior to nursing I was a server for almost a decade. Not only was that my job, but it was my life – my lifestyle.

A typical weekend would look like this: Sleep until about noon, usually meet a friend for a beer or more before work, get to work and sip on something most of the night, throw in a shot or two of whiskey, work until 2 or 3AM and then sit and have a “well deserved drink” as a night cap.

I feel like I have changed a lot from that person who would stay up until 4AM getting black out drunk on a work night.
That being said – there is a reason why I have decided to embark on this lifestyle change of sobriety.  It was just last Tuesday that I went to a brewery with a friend with the intention of having a couple beers.  What I realize is that intentions go out the window when your kind of boozy.  A regular conversation can become heightened, laughter comes more easily, and the drinks keep flowing. . . Next thing I knew I was at another bar doing shots of tequila and getting way too handsy with a girl that I dated for a hot second.  I woke up in the morning full of regret and an anxiety fueled hangover as I pieced together going out for “a couple beers.” This is just one story of many stories that look, sound and feel the same.   Sometimes (most times) I would say that I can go and have a drink or two and stop.  Other times, which is what worries me, I have a couple drinks and then end up getting wasted for no reason on a Tuesday.

I don’t want to continue to have those same blurry nights anymore.  I want to be able to go out with my friends and know that the conversations and laughs are from a genuine place not fueled by intoxication.  We’ll see how that goes..

Day One

Exploring sobriety and the art of saying No to alcohol has been on the forefront of my mind for the past little while. There are many reasons for choosing to abstain from alcohol at this moment in my life.  As I was journaling earlier today, I feel as if I had an epiphany. I realized that not drinking scared the crap out of me. Sure, I’ve done “sober months” here and there – and every time it has proven to be a huge challenge.  The fact that sobriety scares the crap out of me is the exact reason why I believe I need to cut out booze from my life.  If I felt that I had the power to say “no” to drinking every time, I don’t think I would need to do something like this.  It’s the fact that (at this point in my life) I have a difficult time saying no.  I no longer want to use alcohol as a crutch in social situations.  I no longer want to wake up the next morning and question what stupid things I had done the previous night.  I no longer want to be riddled with anxiety that hangovers inevitably trigger.

This is a journey for me, and only me.  I am unsure of what I hope to get out of this – but as I navigate life in this new way I hope to document my challenges, successes and changes that inevitably will occur with this lifestyle change.