I’m really not that fussy…

I’m not very good at putting myself first!  I genuinely feel that I am doing people a service by elevating their needs, wants and desires above my own.  Yet, when I am honest about it it actually tends to be of disservice to me in the long-run.  While I was drinking I did it because I felt like I needed to be constantly finding some way to apologise for my bad-days behaviour.  So putting others first seemed like a good way of showing them that even though I may have been verbally aggressive towards them over the weekend or failed to show up because I was too hungover to function, didn’t mean that they weren’t important to me.  So I got into the habit of doing things for my friends and family that didn’t always take my needs, wants and desires into consideration and sometimes even left me feeling a little hostile towards them.

Unfortunately this is now seen as being part of who I am.  Always happy to be agreeable and maintain the status quo to avoid confrontation where possible and go along with what the other person or people have in mind.  The problem is that now that I’m not drinking and having to be constantly apologetic, I find that I’ve started to feel really hostile towards these same people when they do this, because now I feel like they are taking advantage of my niceness.  I’m not a total pushover, but in the realms of insignificance I chose not to do battle.  So I’ll consent on the trivial things over and over again, and it’s started to piss me off about myself.  I’m not talking anything that goes against my moral fibre, but rather decisions over evenings out, places to eat, leisure time, what’s on the TV, which movie to watch…you get the idea.  I’m starting to think that I should stand up for myself a little more in the respect that my opinion, no matter how insignificant the subject, should matter to the decisions taken.

I constantly hear myself saying things like, “whatever works for you” and “I’m really not that fussy”, but actually when I start to think about it there are times when I’m not that happy with the option.  I grew up with parents that fought about really stupid things that still don’t make any sense to me and I’ve always believed that compromise is important.  The problem is I think I’ve swung to the opposite extreme where there’s no compromise because that actually entails discussion and reaching a mutual decision.  And I don’t want to carry this into my new relationship because I can only imagine that I’ll start to become resentful of the fact that I’m just too acquiescent.  I’m not talking about constantly disagreeing over the silly little things, but if I don’t have any practice how do I voice what’s important to me on the larger issues!?

well-behaved-women-rarely-make-history-marilyn-monroeI’ve learned how to stand up for myself professionally.  I guess I just need to take myself more seriously in the personal sphere of my life and talk about the things that matter when choices crop up.  There are things that I’m willing to let slide, but I suppose what I’m getting at is that I need to be more vigilant about just letting things go and then regretting that I didn’t give voice to my wants, needs and desires at the time.  There are so many new skills that I’m having to learn as my journey into sustainable recovery lengthens that it can be a bit daunting at times.  However, I do need to remind myself that I have 20+ years of self-neglect and bad habits to undo and underdeveloped and new personal skills to sharpen and acquire.  At the moment I’m going to focus on looking for the assurance inside and sticking up for myself when it matters.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

No New Year’s Resolutions!?

my yearI don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore!  And in the past I’ve only ever managed to make one that I stuck to.  It wasn’t so much a NY resolution as a life-saving necessity.  I’m not sure what would have happened to me if I hadn’t stopped drinking six years ago!?  Maybe I would have continued along, binge drinking, never achieving anything personally or professionally, spending my weekends in the fogs of depression and self deprecation…  I think I would have inevitably ended up losing everyone that matters in my life and become a scarred, jaded alcoholic making new friends every Friday night with whoever was sitting next to me in the bar.  It doesn’t sound like an emotionally fulfilling life, does it?

Sure there’d have been a few laughs over the last six years and maybe even a couple of short-lived periods of happiness, but I think that my life would mainly comprise of a set of shallow, mercurial  experiences that were semi-remembered and easily forgotten.  But this is only a supposition on my part.  Overcoming addiction is definitely no walk in the park, with blue birds and daffodils.  It’s brutal at times!  Addiction, although not the right choice, is often the easy choice.  There are nights in the early stages of my sobriety that I’d be at a party, loitering on the sidelines of fun, thinking about sneaking a quick tequila just to get me in the mood.  Often my whole night would be spent making small talk with people I didn’t particularly want to be spending time with just to prove to myself that I could resist the temptation of having a drink.  I am not advocating this course of recovery for anyone!  “White knuckling” it is not for everyone and that is why there are rehab centres and support groups around the world.  The recovery statistics vary, but more people seem to stay sober if they attend a support group.  There are other options of course which include therapy, counselling and coaching.  And I’m prepared to go out on a limb and say that everyone needs to find the one, or a combination thereof, that works for them.

Just because I never gave myself over to a higher power, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  It’s not about how you chose to get and stay sober, it’s about doing whatever it takes to find your way to sobriety.  For myself, I don’t believe that substituting drinking every day of the week (or part thereof) with meetings and support group.  It seems like exchanging one crutch for another, and I believe in finding ways to break the restrictive confines of addiction in positive, constructive ways.  I’m not sure that sitting around talking about an unhealthy past is the way towards a healthy future!?  I might upset a few people in my outlook, but I believe in present- and future-focused recovery rather than dwelling on the negative behaviour of the years gone by.  Yes, take stock, make amends, lay the demons to rest, but then for goodness sake move on!  Don’t spend months and years rehashing what you did as an alcoholic gripped in the clutches of your disease, but rather look forward as to how you want your new life to be.  Don’t go digging up the skeletons of the past, but rather aspire towards the new life that you chose for yourself.

I don’t want my disease to define me!  I’m so much more than that…  Yes, I am an alcoholic, but I’m also a woman, a partner, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an educator, a future coach…  There are so many parts to who I am that I choose not to be defined by this one part of myself.  I’m a fighter, a survivor and a passionate believer that anyone can overcome this disease if they are prepared to do whatever it takes to get and stay sober.  If that means walking away from certain people, places and situations then by all means do it, but remember that it’s not them that have the problem.  Sure there are a few people that were part of my life when I was drinking that no longer feature, but the majority of the people who meant something to me then are still in my life now.  They weren’t to blame for my addiction and new starts can be made within existing circumstances.  It’s not the people around you that need to change to overcome your addiction, it’s you.  And the people that love you and believe in you the most will be there for you along the journey, holding your hand, giving you strength and cheering you on.

So as the new year starts think about all the wonderful, positive things that make you the person you are and don’t just focus on alcoholism as being all that you are.  Look inside yourself and find those attributes that make you the unique and special person that you are, then use those to develop a plan to get and stay sober.  It’s what I did, and although I am an alcoholic, I am so so much more.  I chose to focus on the positive, uplifting parts of who I am to keep moving forward towards my dreams and aspirations, at the same time acknowledging and honouring the lesser parts of me that make me who I am.

‘Til next time

Sober Something

“In vino veritas”!?

This Christmas was an immense personal challenge for me especially since it really is my favourite holiday – even though there is a lot of drinking that goes on at this time of the year.  I adore taking time to chose the perfect gift for each of the people in my life, wrapping presents and decorating the tree, planning the menu and everything that goes with the spirit of the day.  For me it’s about the people and the precious time that we spend together.  Don’t get me wrong there are always times that are less than idyllic when the family gets together, but that not even the little family arguments detract considerably from the time as a whole.  But this year I was a long way from home, in a country that doesn’t even acknowledge that the celebration exists.  I didn’t see a single Christmas tree, hear one Christmas song in a shopping mall or wrap a gift.  I did feel a little like the Grinch, but there just wasn’t that Christmassy spirit or the tune of “Last Christmas” in the air.

In the same vein there are times over the Christmas/New Year week that can be trying for a non-drinker!  Over the years I learned that there is a time in the celebrations when I have to slip quietly away from the festivities before it becomes too “messy”.  It doesn’t always happen and it definitely depends who I am with, but family can be very tricky once they’ve had a few too many Crimbo cocktails!  As I’ve mentioned before I hale from a family of big drinkers and I have to admit that sometimes the hours that come at the end of dinner can be a little tedious, but I love the feeling of being with the people who are most important to me.  This year I didn’t even speak to my family on Christmas day because the thought of hearing their voices was just too traumatic.  And I didn’t want to detract from their fun because I was feeling so homesick.

This is very very different from Christmases past when I was partaking in the revelry!  The wine and song would flow and there’d be plenty of merriment into the early hours of the morning.  But along with the merriment there would often be times when hurtful words would be exchanged and the evening would be marred with sentiments that would have been better left unvoiced.  I don’t altogether understand why people say things when they have been drinking that they would never dream of saying in the clear light of sobriety.  I don’t believe the saying “in vino veritas” – in wine there is truth!  Yes, there are times when people who are drinking are jovial and loving, but where there is heavy drinking there often comes a stage of aggression and/or morbidity.  Yes, alcohol exacerbates our feelings, but I don’t buy into the idea that it unleashes things that we would never say when we are sober.

Sometimes when people (myself included at one stage) drink it’s like there’s a point that one crosses when they enter into the dark side, beyond (w)here there be dragons!  And those monsters are malevolent, sinister creatures whose soul intent it is to emotionally wound anyone who comes into contact with them.  I said some really spiteful things to people just before I fell off the edge of the earth if I may stretch out the analogy, but I cannot believe that these are my real feelings about anything.  I’ve also been on the receiving end of these venomous outbursts and they are devastating.  However, where one may rise to the challenge after a couple of drinks, fighting mercilessly to slay the leviathans that rise from the “waters”.  In sobriety I see the pointlessness of doing this and choose to believe that it is the alcohol and not the person talking.

In six years I have seen some nasty exchanges after long hours of drinking.  And words spat out that are so out of a person’s character that they cannot possibly be true.  I’ve seen mild mannered people turn into maniacal social miscreants and perhaps there is a part of them that wishes not to be shy and retiring, but I don’t believe anyone would truly want to be perceived as a complete fool in any state of mind.  I’ve seen positive, open-minded people turn into morose pessimists and I’ve witnessed the happiest of friends and couples fighting over the most innocuous and trivial of subjects .  So I chose to forgive myself for those times when I was that social misfit and in the same vein opt not to take to heart anything that comes out of someone’s mouth after they are past the point when they are able to control their thoughts.  And I believe that’s exactly what happens…thought patterns get out of sync and like the drinker’s vision all the lines become blurred and fuzzy.  Ideas, beliefs, values and opinions overlapping and interchanging in such a haphazard way that nothing makes sense and so no weight can be given to the words that spill from their slack lips.  You don’t have to agree with me on this point and I am have no doubt that there is any real science in my theory, but knowing myself and the most important people in my life, I think there is some truth in my idea, even if it is only through having seen and experienced it first hand.

I have enduredSo here’s to hoping you had a wonderful Christmas.  And if your favourite relative said something after too many whiskeys or wines that might have hurt yet felt like it came out of left field, don’t take it to heart but rather forget it and put it down to blurred lines and muddled thought patterns.  Certainly don’t put any weight in the idea that in wine there be truth!

‘Til next time

Sober Something