I don’t often feel the anxiety build in my stomach anymore when walking into a room full of people I don’t know. I don’t usually question my ability to speak in front of a group of my peers like I used to. I don’t get the nervous sweats at the thought of going out to dinner with a large group of friends. These things used to happen to me all the time before I stopped drinking, which is why I needed a cocktail before I went out in the evenings. I was an anxious mess all the time when alcohol was part of my life. A lot has changed.
Overall, I have become much more comfortable with myself... Who I am… And where I’m going in life. I discovered an authentic confidence by just being me - without having alcohol in my life. Occasionally though, I still experience doubt.
This weekend I found myself in a social situation with a group of mostly men I didn’t know very well. They were standing around drinking and talking. I felt awkward. Judged. Shy. Out of my comfort zone. I felt like my fifteen year old self all over again.
I suddenly realized again why alcohol became so important to me for so long. During those times when I felt insecure, alcohol made me feel strong. Alcohol made me feel confident around the opposite sex or around women that intimidated me. Being tipsy made me less scared. It was a magical elixir that convinced me I was okay no matter how awkward I felt in a situation. It gave me the inner strength to get through a difficult moment with people I didn’t know well. It helped me feel better about myself if I didn’t really fit in. If I made a stupid comment. Or if I didn’t have anything to say at all. Alcohol dulled the edges. It smoothed over the insecurities and temporarily made the nerves disappear.
Until the next day, when it was time to reflect and think about my behavior. Everything came crashing down. Only then was the self loathing and my own self judgment worse than anything else I could have done while sober. I couldn’t escape the anxiety the morning after. It always found me eventually.
I don’t miss that awful cycle. I don’t miss any of that routine.
So… back to this weekend, for a brief moment, I was surrounded by people in an uncomfortable social situation. For a variety of reasons, I felt myself reverting back to some old ways of doubting my worth. I thought to myself,
“do they think I am lame and awkward?” “do they think I am a bitch?”
“do they think I am ugly?”
It took me several hours and a full night’s sleep to reflect and take a step back. After some meditation and time away from the situation, I realized that - yes my mind still goes to those dark places, and that is okay. I need to be kind to myself and be compassionate to the insecure person inside of me. For so long, I hid behind alcohol and used it to make me feel confident. Alcohol was a shield. I am learning to be who I am without it.
I try to be curious about my feelings now. My goal is to observe what is going on inside and not just move to judgement of myself or others. Why do these situations and people trigger/upset me so much?
I am a different person now. I know I don’t need alcohol to get through situations. I know I don’t need it to carry on a conversation.
I don’t know why I felt suddenly insecure out of nowhere this weekend after feeling such confidence in myself for so long. It wasn’t as if I wanted to drink - if anything the situation only further confirmed how happy I am to be sober. But in order to continue to grow, I need to be curious about it. Self aware. One more step forward on this journey.