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Difficulties of Sobriety.

28 June 2012

The next question from twitter I’m going to address is @scitrigrrl’s question: What’s the most difficult thing about sobriety, (or staying sober)? This is a very interesting question, because I think it highlights a couple of phenomena about sobriety the way I’ve been taught to practice it which normal people (that is, non-addicts), have no framework to understand. So, I’m not sure my answer will be elucidating, because in some ways, I think the recovered alcoholic is an entirely different animal from the unrecovered, and the ordinary person.

To a normal person, I suspect that the parenthetical question is meant to restate or clarify the first clause. But difficulties about sobriety and difficulty staying sober are different things. Difficulty in sobriety, to me, sounds like having difficulty doing step-work, difficulty being fully honest (generally with myself) or doing service work. Difficulty knowing how to apply the lessons of my program of sobriety to life, so that I remain planted firmly where I need to be. Difficulty in staying sober sounds to me like having trouble struggling with the desire to drink.

I have no difficulty staying sober. I haven’t had any difficulty with cravings or struggling not to drink since day twelve. Drinking is just not part of my life anymore. I don’t really miss it. I miss the pretend way that I prefer to remember it. I miss how it was in the beginning, sometimes. But those things are remote from me in both time and capacity. I no longer have the option of drinking the carefree way I did in the beginning. My only choices are freedom and life and abstinence, or alcohol and toxic, lethal misery.

Working the program, on the other hand, is often difficult. Honesty can suck. I am required to look very hard and very closely at myself, seek out the defects in my character which prevent me from being useful to others, and root them out. I am, like most of the alcoholics I know, often obsessively self-centered. It is difficult to set that aside sometimes. It is challenging for me to think of other people first and myself second. But the rewards for doing so are manifest in my life. Good things happen to me when I am, as a dear friend taught me to say, focused outward.

But the real answer to the question is that nothing about sobriety is truly difficult. What was difficult was hiding my liquor. Finding ways to drink that I didn’t get attacked for. Trying to live while totally inebriated most of my waking (and sleeping!) hours. Going from that to where I am now? I am astonished daily by how easy my life is.

Once we get past the ugly part of early sobriety, our lives become much more straightforward. Because we have tools for living. We learn to rely on things other than ourselves. We move forward by following the footprints of those who’ve gone before, and then finding our own new way. In that way, it’s much like science.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. laurel permalink
    28 June 2012 19:48

    Has sobriety made you more aware of how many social situations are focused on drinking? I am not a big drinker but sometimes I get frustrated by how some people tend to focus social situations around drinking (bars, wine, beer at a BBQ). Most people are ok with a simple “no thanks” but many times people ask why I don’t want to drink. I’m curious how someone dealing with alcoholism (recovered or recovering) feels or deals with these situations and how others can help them feel more comfortable. is it better to be open and discuss it or keep quiet?

    Food is another thing social situations focus around and as someone who has dealt with food allergies, it often got to the point where I didn’t want to go out with friends or go to events. It sucked when the lab would go out for a celebratory lunch l and I’d sit there with water… I imagine that’s similar to how someone who doesn’t drink would feel when going to the bar with friends.

    • 28 June 2012 21:04

      It depends on the situation. If I feel it’s likely to actually cause unwelcome attention, I’ll get a club soda with lime. Everyone assumes it’s a gin and tonic.

      I’m totally comfortable discussing it, but if others aren’t, I don’t need to bring it up. I’ve found that people who focus on how much others are drinking are generally looking for ways to distract from their own consumption.

      • laurel permalink
        28 June 2012 21:50

        “I’ve found that people who focus on how much others are drinking are generally looking for ways to distract from their own consumption.”

        Indeed! It does seem like people are often looking for ways to justify their consumption and are unable to understand how or why someone would NOT want to be drinking. As a female, most people assume I’m pregnant but not “out” about it yet. I drank way too much as a teen and don’t find pleasure in it anymore but I also find myself much more sensitive about other people drinking and tend to be less tolerant of it. I hate being around drunk people partly because I’m “over it” and partly because I’ve seen family and friends on the addiction and justification road before and it sucks.

  2. 29 June 2012 05:10

    Good post and reply.

    I have to say in some elements my own experience is a little different. I haven’t as such found life easy – my drinking was a way for me to avoid responsibility and to have the bravado to tackle things I saw as difficult. Without it I find some of that hard. I drank from middle teens to my early 40s – in that time I never grew emotionally therefore I believe this has left me a teenager in a man’s body a lot of the time… add to that defects like a massive over self-reliance gene, a very low self-worth and a desire to simply isolate and not interact with people as I don’t know how they’ll behave does make some bits of my life tricky. But I do know tackling those things without drink and trying to figure out how to behave normally is worth the effort.

    • 29 June 2012 09:40

      That not-growing-emotionally thing is dead-on. I need to write about that too.

    • nestor permalink
      16 December 2013 23:10

      Please do. Im just now accepting I may have a drinking problem, and when I try to lessen it or quit, some of the old feelings I had when I started, come back…the same type of dreams and concerns. Im seeking medical help now but wonder if I should seek help for that too…I feel as old as when It all started…kinda like…life has already happened to me..but not the real me…the sober me.

      • 17 December 2013 08:28

        I’m glad you’re seeking help. Please grab on to whatever you find. Don’t fight alcohol, surrender.

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  1. Difficulties of Sobriety. « Infactorium | 4J2D

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