Lilly gave me the idea to make a post about what I have learned since I quit drinking. Strange that I haven’t really thought about it. I just know I feel happier. So let me jot down a few quick lessons I feel I have learned since January 20, 2014.
1) I never realized that I did drink to hide feelings. I always thought I only drank to party and “feel good”. When I read about people in recovery complaining about feeling again, I did not understand what they meant. I thought “I am an emotional person. I always feel things. Sometimes I feel too much.”
I have now noticed I get unexplained spurts of extreme feelings. One extreme is happiness. Not a manic type of happiness. Just find myself loving life. Even on rainy days, I might find myself over joyed about something simple like a baby smiling at me in the store.
I also get bouts of depression. I realize that being sober is not all rainbows and roses. Sometimes I will just feel so down for no real reason. (Actually, usually the reason is I am tired.) But I get sad thinking about past relationships and lack of a current one, or my family situation, or events in the world. But I am very proud that I do not hide those feelings in the bottom of a bottle. Drinking worsened my depression in the past. St John’s wort helped with the first few months.
The more I read my journals and remember my drunk mistakes, the more I see that I did drink to hide pain, depression, anger, jealousy and other emotions I did not want to feel. I thought alcohol would be the antidote to the hurt feelings. I would cheer up with some beer. But it was like a sliding scale. The bottom of the first curve is my hurt feelings, then it curves up as I get tipsy, and then crash down below where it began. I hid the feelings temporarily but they always came back.
2) I never solved anything by getting drunk. Even if I was using it as a social lubricant, sometimes that backfired. Sometimes I annoyed people more than impressed them. The last few years, it seemed more often than not I blacked out and did even remember the people I met. If I used it to get the courage to be with a guy, I usually felt shame later. If I did it to forget my problems, my problems were still there when I was hungover. And maybe accompanied by new problems.
3) There is nothing in the world that could make me “need a drink”. I read my friends on Facebook make update that they need a drink after a hard day. Or they need a drink to celebrate. Or they need a drink because the game is on or it is Friday or it is hot out. A nice glass of water with lemon is great when it is hot out and won’t dehydrate you. When I think of how nothing is solved by drinking and of all the mistakes I have made drinking, I know I do not need a drink. I have seen the hell it takes me to and I do not need that.
4) Quitting alcohol has made me happier even if I lost friends. It hurts when people act different or say unsupportive things once they know I do not want to drink anymore. But in the past, I spent so much energy trying to be liked by everyone. I felt I was always chasing the feeling of acceptance I never found as a teenager. It was like I never grew up from that phase. I did not start getting drunk until I was 18 and in the military. I started realizing I could get attention when drunk. I could forget the feelings of being unpopular.
I felt I started to finally achieve popularity but for all the wrong reasons.
Yet still into my 30s, I was chasing for that popular feeling. I kept wanting to be the party girl. People liked her. And when people did not like her, I felt defensive, hurt, and confused. Who should I be to get them to like me? I surrounded myself with new friends everywhere I moved to by being the party girl. I guess I can understand why some friends do not know how to relate to the non-party girl.
But a lot have stuck around. A lot are being very supportive whether it is abstaining themselves from alcohol around me, texting or emailing to check in, sending me congratulatory messages, or sharing with me stories about my drunk self to reinforce why I can not drink. I am realizing who my true friends are. There is always jokes about that a real friend would bail you out of jail or be sitting in the cell with you. I feel a real friend would help to prevent you from getting in that cell.
5) I do not want to ever drink alcohol again, but I can not hide from it. I have to learn to accept I live in a society full of alcohol and adapt. I need to coexist with that pain-in-the-ass neighbor called liquor and just ignore her. Maybe build a tall fence.
I know the idea of changing places, people, and old habits. And I have changed somewhat. I will not sit in a bar hanging out with a glass of water. The only point to a bar is booze. Only point to sitting around with people in a place like that is to get drunk. I will go to bars for a special occasion. I will not avoid a wedding or other function because there is a bar. I will keep attending my festivals and avoid the free drinks.
Festivals have been a big part of my life for many other reasons besides the partying and drinking. I was amazed at how understanding people were at the festivals that I did not want alcohol. If someone offered me tea or juice, I would ask “is there any alcohol in here?” and they were swear there wasn’t. In the past, I asked that question and was always disappointed by the answer of no. Why would I want plain lemonade?
6) I am glad I tell people I am not drinking. In the beginning, I was so scared to be honest. I thought I would hide it. Order a cranberry and tonic to make it look like I was drinking alcohol. Tell people I was allergic or had a health issue. Now I tell people I just got tired of being the party girl. I tell closer people that I got tired of blackouts. I tell most people I am trying to be healthier. “Do you know how many wasted calories are in that beer? Ew no thanks!” If I am honest, either they will not pressure me or they will go away. My sobriety might make them uncomfortable but that is their own issue.
I made a status update on Facebook yesterday that simply said “180 days!” I did not count the likes this time. I was almost able to predict who would like it. The three friends that gave positive comments have all dealt with addiction with their loved ones.
Then the most awesome thing happened! A girl that I met five years ago while traveling emailed me. I do not know her that well. We never even partied together. We stayed in touch and have swapped travel tips. But she wrote to tell me congratulations and that she had 60 days of sobriety. She said she finally decided to do something about her problem. I never knew she had a problem! She said an article I posted a few months ago made her think about it. She said I was very brave for announcing it. She hasn’t told anyone else. I replied back with some positive words and thanked her for her email. Right away I thought I do not care if 400 people were uncomfortable with my post or if any of my friends wished I would stop announcing it every milestone. I helped one friend get sober. I learned that feeling is one of the best feelings ever. And it is a feeling I would not have felt if I did not stop drinking six months ago.
Mistake 181- I wrote yesterday about meeting a Dating Website guy and then making out with ny friend. I went to my car after the bar closed with plans to sleep in the passenger side. I knew if I was in the driver’s seat drunk, I could get a DUI even if not driving. Dating Website guy called. “Where are you?” I told him I was sleeping in my car. I was too drunk to drive. He offered to give me a ride. I asked about the other girl he was flirting with all night. She went home. I was the leftover. The second choice. But I still told him where I was parked. I left the bar parking lot with him. He asked if I wanted to go back to his place for some wine. I do not know how much we drank but I do not remember the sex. He gave me a ride the next morning back to my car. Once again, I was probably still over the legal limit and drove home anyways.