I was going to call this post “Personal Best,” but why tempt fate. Today is day 165, a few days longer than my previous longest continuous sobrieties. Still ambling along. If a bit superstitiously.
In the past couple of years I’ve had two very nice goes at continuous sobriety that each lasted in the four- to five-month range. In both, obviously, I knocked myself off the path. I have a pretty clear view of why. They were both about intense anxiety-provoking situations, one physical and one social. The first one happened when I was trapped at my partner’s reunion which was being held in a building/room that I cannot sufficiently put words around. We were in a museum-sort of space that was perhaps three stories high and made of hard surfaces (glass, metal) such that when a couple hundred people who hadn’t seen eachother in decades got to talking, the result was a deafening metallicky roar. Three stories of hollow museum (complete with small airplane suspended from the ceiling) roaring into the ears of a tired introvert who knew all of one person in the room. It was unreal. I thought, my god I’m just gonna have half a glass of wine. So I did. And that’s really all I had that night. But it awakened something in me that wanted (and I gave it) a small glass of wine a few weeks later at a socially stressful work event, and then another glass at another work event a few weeks after that, and pretty soon I was drinking beer alone in the evenings again.
The second time a few months of sobriety got derailed was at a stressful dinner with acquaintances, which I think I’ve written about recently here, and which from the outside would have looked, very much in contrast to the three-story metallic nightmare, entirely lovely. But something in me just wanted to get the hell out of there, and I used alcohol.
This time around I feel much more capable of dealing with both of these stressors. I’ve had practice. It’s not that hard. One practice session was a wedding a couple of months ago in which I found myself in a deafening reception, knowing relatively few people, and hosting a migraine. First I sat down on a couch on the edge of the room and drank a nice NA drink. (Having a glass in my hand at receptiony things I find critical.) My partner and another well-intentioned friend sat down with me, at which point it was all too much and so I left. I went out into a busy nighttime Boston street scene near the ballpark and started walking. It was wonderful. I may be the only person to have found relief and peacefulness on a busy Boston sidewalk.
The social trigger is a bit harder and requires some letting of honesty float to the surface. I’m learning to recognize when I’m feeling anxious about something in a group conversation, which is often all the anxiety needs to melt, or when I’m forcing myself to present myself as something other than what would come naturally. (I learned a new concept the other day: surface acting.) Some of that is commonly necessary and fine, especially in professional contexts. But some is overkill and useless. It leaves me feeling like everyone but me gets to be themselves in the world. Untrue, and an unhelpful belief.
Note: it’s so funny to talk about social anxiety, because I am so not an obviously socially anxious person. I’m friendly and social, enjoy speaking in front of groups, etc. So it took me a long time to recognize the anxiety in some of this that drove me to drink. Rather, that I medicated with alcohol.
So there’s a brief trip through the past. Now I’m back here at 165 days, with more skills and really, really loving life without alcohol. Though that doesn’t prevent Wolfie from saying (or potentially saying) ridiculous things. I still feel nervous about that. (A recent one was, “if I were to start drinking again, I would be a dark beer person” (I was an IPA person). What the *$#%??!?) One nice thing is that it’s glaringly obvious that I had a problem (something Wolfie likes to question since I had a high bottom and tended to drink in the three-beers-per-night range). Glaringly. It’s been more than five months since I quit and I’m still OBSESSED WITH SOBRIETY. I think about it many, many times per day. Did I have a problem.
But I feel like I want something new — I don’t know what. A new sobriety chapter of sorts. Something other than just dragging the numbers ever higher. Something about that feels heavy, even though in actuality the bigger the number, the lighter the burden.
Happy sobriety, wherever you are. And if you’re still thinking about starting, start today 🙂
Have a good one!