Recently, I realized that I forgot how I viewed sobriety when I was actively drinking and even when I first stopped last November. I forgot that I always thought being sober would totally suck the life out of me. I thought there would be no more excitement left and that the weekends would be uneventful. But the truth is - these last several years, there was this inability to feel happy without having a glass of wine in hand, it seemed. Because my brain began to lose the ability to experience joy on its own. I craved the high that I felt when I started drinking, and the normal things like playing with my kids, golfing with my husband, watching my kid's baseball game, or hanging out with friends watching the sunset just didn't provide the same joy for me anymore. I didn't know how to be happy without booze. I needed the artificial dopamine high that I would find in alcohol to make any of these things fun, otherwise life just felt bland.
It is safe to say that my life is actually better than I ever could have hoped it would be without alcohol anymore. My days are fuller, brighter and more joyful and I feel all of this naturally without a chemical substance helping me, but it is sometimes hard for others to see that this is possible. Also, my body and brain needed time to learn this too.
This past weekend at the wedding we went to, I realized after the fact that my friends felt badly for me that we had so much downtime in between the cocktail hour and reception. We ended up going to a bar to kill an hour, and my friends felt a tiny bit awkward around me. Thankfully, I didn't notice. I had a nice time and sipped some water, chatting amicably to them all. I didn't feel strange about not drinking, but I think everyone else felt badly that I couldn't!
It was a beautiful evening, and it was nice to be dressed up and out of the house! I had no idea at the time that anyone else was worried about me not having fun or feeling uncomfortable at the bar. It was nice of them to be concerned, but I was truly fine. In the past, I would have been desperate to get my drink on, so excited for the chance to get a head start on my buzz before the reception, but instead, I was at ease. I wasn't frantically searching for the "high." I was just so relieved to feel a genuine sense of joy, being with my husband and friends.
Going into the night, I was grateful. Without booze in my system - I wasn't going to make a fool of myself, and I felt confident and composed. There would be no slurring words or falling down, ZERO anxiety, and I knew I wouldn't black out and be hungover the next morning. I was excited for dinner, dessert and knew that I wouldn't fight with my husband. I love weddings and was just happy to be there. I ended up having a wonderful time, and I did not need alcohol to "get me through" it.
Recently though, it has been completely lost on me that not everyone can understand that us sober people are actually truly happier in this life. Maybe they think I say this to make myself feel better. I actually forget that people who weren't on this journey with me don't fully understand how grateful I am to be here. It had been so long since I had considered the fact that others think I actually miss my drinking life. My feelings could not be more different.
I cannot emphasize enough to my friends, that I am okay. I don't miss drinking. I don't want to drink. I think some people are scared to be around me, drink near me or even talk to me when they are drinking for fear of being the cause of me relapsing. I have done so much growth and come so far in the last almost 10 months, that it doesn't even occur to me that people are still treading lightly around me.
I don't want to go back to that time where I couldn't feel joy. I want to stay up here where I feel released from the depths of that awful, treacherous place.
Maybe people still think I stare longingly at the glass of wine in their hand and that all I can think about is grabbing it and chugging it down. I am probably safer being around alcohol now than I was before when I was drinking.
Maybe my friends feel badly because they think I am not happy. Maybe they feel badly for me, because they think about how they would feel if they were in my shoes. I know when I was drinking, the thought of EVER having to not drink made me feel awful. I remember meeting other people that were sober and wondering, "how do they have fun? What an awful existence! I hope I never have to give up drinking!" And that was the drug talking. The hold it had on my brain, and it wasn't until I experienced sobriety myself that I was able to see the real beauty in it.
To those that are newly sober and still feeling the early ickiness of it all... If you are still staring at a steep mountain ahead of you, feeling like you will never be happy again without booze, please, please know that on the other side of that hill is a beautiful, incredible new life. Keep going. It gets so much better on the other side. Don't give up. There is a freedom unlike any other.