Another Year Sober

On growing to accept myself.

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January 1st will bring not only a new year, but another year of choosing a life that does not include alcohol. When I made this decision nearly three years ago it felt like the only way to get myself on track. I was never the person who needed a drink after a long day. I was never the person who drank often but I drank hard. Blackouts were the norm. I was the person who drank to get through a party; often I drank to become someone else entirely. I will never know who I was while I was drinking, and I think that’s something she always liked. She could hijack my body and consciousness. She didn’t have to be me for a while.

Throughout these years I hadn’t thought about drinking much at all. The decision to stop was never an awfully hard one to make. I don’t know if I was truly an alcoholic, but I knew that I would never grow if I continued using this crutch. I had always thought that the hardest part of it all was learning who I was. I now know that the hardest part of this is making myself accept who I am.

Three years ago I didn’t know what to say next in a crowd, most times I still don’t. Back then I had no idea that I had social anxiety. I believed with every bit of me that something was terribly wrong. I’ve spent these years craving normalcy instead of acceptance. It left me lost. I keep a quiet but watchful eye on how the people around me interact with the world- and I just can’t figure out how they’re doing it so easily. I watch how they maintain eye contact or how their charisma draws others to them. I reflect on their interactions and try to practice them, in hopes that one day I’ll be able to do the same. I’ll probably never be able to do these things, and that’s okay.

I’ve been so preoccupied with learning how to be who I think I’m supposed to be that I forgot why I even stopped drinking. Tackling my anxiety was the first step in becoming sober. Tuesday evenings were my nights with a virtual therapist who helped me understand where my feelings were coming from and how to override my racing thoughts. She once told me “It seems like you are really just never going to be someone who enjoys the company of others, or likes being in groups of people”. She challenged me to understand myself, and I was finally beginning to though I didn’t accept it until much later.

Late this year was the first time I had thought about alcohol in a long time. I’ve matured so much. I understand myself now. If I just have one drink I can feel normal again. All in all, the thing about normalcy is that it doesn’t exist. Normal is what we perceive others to be, and everyone has their own version of it. The normal we conjure up in our minds is not the normal that anyone is actually living through. When I think of normal I now realize that I think of what the ideal version of myself is.

So again, I reflect. Why is it so important to be “normal”? Why have I spent years chasing a perception? Is it possible to just embrace who I am, can I ever really be enough? That answer is yes. More than I ever have before, I’ve been practicing meditation and mindfulness. Living in moments and not days has made a world of difference, so that if one moment is bad my day isn’t ruined. I challenge myself daily to find the good in any situation. If I can’t find the good, I’ll come up with a few things I can appreciate at that moment. A friend of mine recently even told me that she admires my ability to find inspiration in such mundane things. I’m learning to appreciate life and the person I am as I travel through it.

Perhaps I’ll never be as charismatic or self assured as I wish I was, but I’m capable of so many other things. I try my hardest to put myself in anyone’s shoes. My anxiety means that I’ve thought about myself in every possible scenario, so I will always be empathetic towards another person’s situation. I can find silver linings. I am strong. I have a persistent need to take care of the people I love. I’m becoming my own biggest fan. I’ll make myself laugh so much that eventually you’ll laugh too.

When I began thinking about alcohol a few months ago I almost caved. I almost chose the normal I’ve spent so much time envisioning, but to do this I would also be choosing to never truly accept who I am. Besides, when has “just one drink” ever been a good thing for someone who struggles with drinking? Being perpetually in control of myself comes with a lot of power. Knowing who I am took some time, accepting her took years. As I reflect on what I’d like to accomplish as a new year is approaching all I hope is to learn to love her.

Slowly becoming a person that I’m proud to have in my life.

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