So far, we have covered some of the myths that lead up to the initial stages of quitting drinking, or any addiction for that matter, and now we are in the 'probationary' phase of our sobriety. We are in the first couple of days of living alcohol-free and trying to figure out what our lives look like without alcohol and how we deal with life while feeling all those feelings we never had to feel because we perpetually kept them stifled and numbed. Rather quickly, we begin to realize that we feel a lot more than we were ever aware of and that is confusing because all we want to feel is better. I hate to break it to you, but you are going to feel a lot more as you walk your path. Try to remember, the ability to feel is a blessing, we just are not used to it yet.
Once we start taking those crucial steps into the world of sobriety, a couple of thoughts begin to creep up and make us nervous about our newfound choice to live alcohol-free. The first few thoughts for me were how differently my life was going to look, how differently I was going to act, and how different people were going to perceive me. All those thoughts led to one inevitable thought that I hear time and time again.
Sobriety Myth #4: Sobriety is boring Most of us see alcohol as the thing that made life fun. It made us more fun. It made other people more fun. Unfortunately, none of this is true, but we believed it for so long and we have been told it for even longer, that it is hard to let go of the notion that alcohol equals fun. Look at the advertising everywhere around you. Nowhere does an advertisement portray alcohol as something boring people do. Nowhere does it portray alcohol as something you do alone. Nowhere does it portray alcohol as something you do when you are depressed or struggling with life. Advertisements generally portray alcohol as something that is done by well-dressed successful people, surrounded by friends, doing fun things, all while smiling greatly, and or laughing from the joy of what is held in our hands. All of this to portray one of the greatest lies ever told: Alcohol makes life more fun. How then, could I possibly have more fun living without alcohol than I did with alcohol? It is a genuinely fair question. The illusion feels real, we believe the lies, and we have experienced things that suggest all of the lies are true. We have all experienced a setting where we did not feel comfortable and so we had a drink or many to loosen up. Did it work? Sure, it numbs all of our abilities to feel things we are supposed to feel. We begin to say things we would not normally say, we begin to do things we would not normally do, we begin to talk louder than we would normally talk, and so on... All of these actions are actions that do not accurately represent who we are and therefore portray a false version of ourselves to the people with whom we are supposed to be spending quality time. If we cannot be ourselves with the people we surround ourselves with, are we with the right people? Is alcohol helping us have fun, or is it simply hiding us from the people with whom we should be having the most fun; people who like our truest selves. When we feel we have to numb our feelings, we need to remember that we may be numbing feelings that might be trying to tell us something important. Our feelings may be telling us that we feel insecure, that we feel unappreciated, that we feel scared, that we feel we don't belong, that we feel we are not worthy, or any number of feelings that falsely warrant the desire to numb them because they do not feel good. Unfortunately, as long as we continue to numb those feeling we never allow ourselves the ability to learn about them, to grow away from them, or to find ways to deal with them which subsequently only furthers our need to numb them in the future until it becomes our go-to coping mechanism to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Does it still sound like alcohol equals fun? Not to me.
Sobriety Truth #4: Sobriety is a blast I will be honest in saying that I held the same fear that sobriety meant I was boring. I quickly learned that the reality was quite the opposite. Not drinking meant I was always in control of my faculties, which meant I could do more physically more often because I was not physically impaired. This became very apparent when I snowboarded after a nonalcoholic lunch on the mountain. I snowboarded better and had more fun because I was physically able to perform at a higher level without alcohol in my system. I found that I worked out more often because I never had the morning mimosa in my system that killed my motivation to exercise. Feeling physically fit gives me confidence and directly affects the way I approach the world. Another interesting benefit I quickly learned while living alcohol-free was my ability to hold an intellectual conversation. This is an interesting one because when we were drinking we thought we were pretty fucking smart, didn't we? I'm sorry to tell you this, we were not. Just pay attention to the quick exponential decline in the quality of conversation once the libations begin to pour at your next social gathering. It has become one of my favorite things to pay attention to when I am out, now. Living alcohol-free affords you the ability to, at almost any moment, approach a conversation, task, or situation with a clear and unencumbered mind. Now that is fun. Remember thinking how funny we were? Were we? Or, were the people laughing at our jokes laughing because they were just as impaired as we were and felt it was the proper thing to do? Remember how we commanded people's attention in a group setting? Did we command the attention or were we just so loud people gave it to us to shut us up? All of these potentially misread interpretations of ourselves were made possible by the introduction of alcohol into our conscious mind. We would never do the things sober we used to do drunk and there is a very good reason for that. It's called survival instincts. Numb those instincts and you are liable to get hurt, hurt someone else, do something stupid, say something you regret, or simply wake up the next day feeling like you have been hit by a train. Your mind and body making your feel uncomfortable are communicating something important to you. Listen to them. I can unquestionably proclaim that over the past four months, I have had more fun with my family, gotten to know my friends better (or made new ones), laughed more, played more, and generally enjoyed my life to a level far greater than I have ever experienced in the past forty-nine years of my life. I have done this because I am more aware, clear-headed, and present than at any other time in my life. Alcohol does not make life fun. It creates an illusion while killing our ability to remember what fun is.
Come back tomorrow for Sobriety Myth #5: I deserve to drink.