March 16, 2018

Elephant In the Brain

The Ides of March, my sobriety anniversary, or "soberthday", came and went yesterday without fanfare. It's been four years since I quit drinking. 

Every year an old friend of mine calls to congratulate me on staying sober, and yesterday was no different. He said that he was impressed that I had made it this far, and that he knew how hard it was to quit. My reply, as always, was that I didn't find it hard. I found that continuing drinking was hard; not drinking was so much easier.

No self loathing. No little mind games. No shame. Much easier.
But I'm carefully ignoring something: the elephant is no longer in the room, but it's still lurking in my brain.  I'm not accounting for the hidden costs of sobriety. I'm not acknowledging the losses. There are friendships and communities of drinking buddies that fall away and disintegrate. It's painful. Even though you have no issue being around drinkers or being at parties, the invitations dry up. You are excluded from certain events.

The photos posted to Facebook of a girls night out, or a trip to a winery stings a little. You can see the party going on inside the bubble, but you know that you are not welcome. Not because you can't handle it, but because they can't.

And that is just the superficial pain. It runs deeper and with greater intensity, and it touches the raw nerve of your identity. People who have known you your whole life accuse you of having changed. They don't recognize you. They're even angry, as though you'd cheated them, or stolen something they felt was theirs.

You spent so many years covering up the fear and doubt, drowning out the loneliness with booze and being a happy, funny, party girl. They miss that girl. But she is not who you are - she never was.

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