The world has imprinted it into our brains that drinking alcohol is normal. Its what people do. Alcohol is present at almost any party we attend, at most dinners with friends, or at any event for a work gathering. Social gatherings are centered around alcohol. Bars are the places that most people want to hang out, even bowling alleys and arcades are filled with people walking around with a beer in hand. Its what our society does, and always has done.
I used to be one of those people. I grew up in a family that drank, and just like many other families it was normal. I started at a very young age and it haunted me for years. I couldn’t escape it. I drank my life into a miserable blur for almost a decade and finally realized at the age of twenty-two that I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. I started with the “I’m going to cut down” excuse, because the thought of completely cutting it out terrified me. Of course, it never worked. Addiction grasped me, and the more I tried to end that detrimental relationship the more I failed. It took me almost a year to break free from the prison I was held inside of all those years, and I still battle with it. I still have moments where I wish that I could enjoy ONE single drink, instead of always drinking far too much. I think about my wedding day, my honeymoon- wishing I could toast to the happy times with real champagne. I’ve gone through periods of time where I told myself I would try and work myself back into it and learn self control. It never worked, and it always ended badly.
I think a lot of it has to do with the longing for acceptance. The once very insecure twelve year old within me, that is screaming for me to do everything in my power to fit in. I know I’ve grown immensely since then; and I’m so grateful for that. But I’m far from perfect- and the truth is, sobriety is an everyday battle.
And let me tell you, its the farthest from easy.
Honestly, the hardest part isn’t being around it. I can go to a bar, order a sprite and still have fun. Don’t get me wrong, it took me a long time to get to that point. It still can be hard sometimes and I may not stay as long, but I’ve gotten pretty good at controlling my urges. I still feel a little awkward, but I’m willing to deal with that to save me from myself. I’m willing to handle the weird moments in order to wake up with memories, feeling happier and hangover-free.
The hardest part of sobriety, is the normalcy of alcohol.
It’s so normal that people often don’t understand that people can even have a problem. Most people picture an alcoholic as someone who is drunk twenty-four-seven. Someone who can’t keep a job. Someone who wakes up in the morning and chugs a bottle of vodka. That was definitely not me, but in truth there are many different types of alcohol abuse that most people don’t recognize. The people that knew me when I drank just thought I was fun, happy and a girl that liked to party. Then the people that didn’t know me when I drank, just think I’m weird for NOT drinking.
Often when I tell people that I’m not drinking, they look at me with a very confused face and immediately ask me why. As if I owe them some kind of explanation because I don’t want an alcoholic beverage. Sometimes with almost a look of disgust, as if they assume I think I’m better than them in some way. The judgments are overwhelming, and it happens a lot more often than you would think. It’s gotten to the point that I will immediately start to explain myself, saying how alcohol and I just do not mix well and I had a problem with it for years. They usually leave me alone at that point, but still will go on to tell me how its just a phase. For the most part, the ones that I’m closest with understand my relationship with alcohol, and would never try and put me into a situation where I felt uncomfortable. But if I had a dime for how many times somebody has told me, “Oh come on, just have one drink!” I would have a LOT more money than I do right now. It’s not their fault, and I realize they just do not understand. But I just wish people could understand how awful it makes a person feel to undermine something that is so emotional to them, that is so close to their heart, and has had such an enormous impact on their lives. Sometimes it feels as if I shouldn’t feel the way that I do, and it makes staying sober a lot easier said than done.
What I’ve come to realize over the years, is that we are all on our own journey. Every single person you meet is battling their own demons and fighting their own wars. Sobriety has been a blessing for me in this way, as it has been for me in many other ways. I discovered my tremendous love for yoga, I fell in love with who I am, I realized the importance of intimacy without booze and I’ve learned how to deal with painful memories without forgetting them. But another thing that sobriety has helped me to realize, is to practice ahimsa- and to always be compassionate. To live life with little judgment, to be supportive, to love, and to always, always be kind.