Updated: Apr 10
The first time I heard of the acronym, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), was in sobriety. I cannot remember exactly where I heard it but since then I have heard it repeatedly. The idea relates to addicts in the sense that we struggle to let go of our addictions for Fear of Missing Out. What are we afraid of? What are we missing out on? Why do our addictions carrying with them so many unanswered questions? While FOMO does not only relate to addiction and I cannot speak for everyone, I can certainly speak to my own misdirected fear of missing out while in active addiction. As I sit here pondering what areas of my life were most affected by FOMO, I realize what I was missing was not people or activities. It was simply alcohol. My FOMO was solely alcohol-related.
My FOMO stemmed from knowing alcohol was present somewhere
and I was not there
When I first sat down to write this blog, I thought I was going to be writing more about the fear of missing out on activities or people. However, the more I reflected on what specifically I was missing, it was neither. I didn't really care if I missed out on a gathering or if I missed out on time with a specific individual. No, what I missed in my FOMO was the alcohol itself. In my circles, when people got together, it was to drink. When my "people" got together at events, we drank. When my "people" got together at all, we drank. Drinking was always at the core of anything I did whether I was with people or alone. So, my FOMO stemmed from knowing alcohol was present somewhere and I was not there. That stressed me out. For example, if people from work were getting together but I could not make it due to other obligations, I would feel a palpable longing to be there. Did I care who was attending? Nope, most of the time I probably didn't even really care for the people who were attending. What I did care for, however, was the ability to drink without judgment in a socially accepted venue.
The more I think about it, I believe the socially accepted drinking venue and event were from where the real FOMO originated. So often, as addicts, we spend time trying to justify our drinking or worse, trying to hide our drinking. Even if we are not aware of it, we are constantly justifying and hiding our addiction. How many times have you lied about the amount of alcohol you drank? Be honest. Here is a good one: how many times have you lied on a medical questionnaire at your doctor's office? I'll make it even easier for you. I lied every single time. There was no way for me to be honest on that form. First of all, I didn't want to admit it to myself. Secondly, I didn't want anyone else to know about my drinking habits either. So, give me a place where I can openly drink without the fear of judgment and I was there. If I couldn't make it, well, FOMO set it with a vengeance.
We have to be careful to not allow our guilt to control our
emotions and feelings
Here is an even more embarrassing example of which I hesitate to even disclose. My attachment to alcohol ran so deep I actually missed events or gatherings intentionally because I knew there would not be enough drinking occurring there. Let me say that again. I intentionally missed events or gatherings because I knew they would not be drinking enough or at all. I chose to stay home and drink alone rather than spend time with coworkers, friends, or family. With that example, it is clear where my devotion was and why my FOMO was almost wholly related to alcohol itself, not people or events. If I spend too much time thinking about how much time I have given up with friends and family in order to instead spend it with a poisonous chemical that offered me absolutely no connection or anything at all really, I have to check myself and my emotions. Otherwise, I would quickly fall into a pit of grief and despair, and I may never find my way out. This is where self-forgiveness comes into play. We have to be careful not to allow our guilt to control our emotions and feelings. We are human, we make mistakes, and we all deserve forgiveness.
Since I quit drinking, I have become aware of another acronym, and this one I like much better. I heard it for the first time the other day from a person I follow on Twitter, @sobersadie. In response to one of my comments about FOMO she responded with the following: "Yes, it honestly is!!! Since getting sober the JOMO (joy of missing out) has been SO real." I had never heard of JOMO until @sobersadie said it, and I immediately grabbed ahold of it. I asked her if I could write about it because, technically, it was hers or someone else's first. She said go for it. So, here I am writing about the difference between FOMO and JOMO.
I can say with utmost certainty, I experienced an immense JOMO that night
The Joy of Missing Out. What an absolute contrast to the last couple of paragraphs. Interestingly enough, JOMO fits very well with my realization that alcohol was what I was missing when experiencing FOMO, not people or events. With that said, the idea of experiencing joy instead of fear in regard to missing out on the presence of alcohol is pretty much the whole point of finding successful sobriety. I say successful sobriety because I do not believe all sobriety is necessarily successful. If a person is still missing alcohol then they are merely tolerating life without alcohol, not celebrating it. They are not experiencing the joy of living alcohol-free as I so desperately hope for everyone. Finding joy in the absence of alcohol is a true gift and one I wish I could offer to anyone striving to live alcohol-free, successfully.
Since I gave you some examples of my FOMO, let me also give you a few examples of my JOMO. Recently, and by recently I mean this week, my partner and I went out for dinner at a local restaurant. We like this place because it is about a mile and a half walk from our house. We feel we get a little exercise while enjoying a date night. We were unaware the restaurant was going to be playing one of the Final-Four games so it was busier and a lot louder than we had anticipated. While trying to enjoy our dinner and conversation, the sheer volume of the patrons startled me on several occasions to the point I didn't know if I was going to be able to withstand the noise. People screaming over each other, laughing at deafening decibels, and cursing for the sake of cursing at each other overtook much of the joy I was trying to experience with L. We got through it but left as soon as we were done with dinner. We wanted to enjoy each other's company on the walk home. At that moment, I took a sincere look around at the people, drinks, and behaviors with the intent of taking an honest look at my own feelings in regard to alcohol. I can say with utmost certainty, I experienced an immense JOMO that night.
JOMO is real and it is something I truly wish for everyone
Another scenario in which I have experienced JOMO is not so much a scenario but an overarching umbrella of experiences. What I mean is, since I quit drinking, any time I have participated in any type of meaningful activity whether it be snowboarding, having dinner, seeing a show, watching a movie, listening to music, or simply spending time with loved ones, I experience an incredible amount of JOMO. With every one of those scenarios, the fact that alcohol is not present virtually ensures a more real, present, and memorable experience for me and the people who are involved. How could I not experience joy? JOMO is real and it is something I truly wish for everyone.
The difference between FOMO and JOMO is essentially where we place our focus, or in other words, our perspective. If we choose to focus on missing alcohol, then we will miss alcohol and therefore experience FOMO on a regular basis. If however, we choose to focus on joy, then we will experience joy more often and therefore we will experience JOMO on a regular basis. Where do you want to spend your time? What acronym are you going to let define your experience? I do not know about you, but I'll take JOMO every single day. Thank you, @sobersadie from Twitter for the new take on an old adage.
Now, go and choose to experience the Joy of Missing Out and see what you have truly been missing out on.