Why is being social so difficult in early sobriety? I may have put the cart before the horse with my last post. Let me back up and do a some explaining.
For me, alcohol gave me a place to fit in. Alcohol was my societal lubricant; it gave me friends, romance, courage, self-assurance, and a host of other attributes of which I considered myself void as a sober person. Being so readily available, drinking made sense. Watch any TV commercial advertising alcohol and at its foundation you will see human connection. Advertising promotes alcohol as everything we hold dear: camaraderie, relaxation, masculinity, femininity, celebration, individuality, and reward. The next time you watch TV, take a look at any booze-oriented commercial and try to figure out what they are actually promoting. Becoming sober shed a huge light on this for me and I am still astounded and disgusted by it, mostly because it is everywhere. We are told that we must drink in order to form human connections. Human connection is a fundamental desire, so we’re pretty much fucked. To drink champagne is to celebrate, to drink wine is to unwind, to drink beer is to nourish friendships, and drinking liquor fosters adventure.
I don’t know about you, but drinking made me and my chosen company tolerable.
Whether you feel as though you don’t fit in or you can’t stand to look at yourself long enough to make that determination, alcohol gives you an easy out. Alcohol has the magic ability to dull you while sharpening others, so it seems. Or sharpen you and dull others, depending on what you’re looking for. Either way, if you’re dulled, nothing is so sharp that it cuts anymore. And if you’re sharpened, you’re the sharpest one in the room. What a magical combination. When nothing cuts, nothing hurts. Acceptable company becomes exceptional company when you’re drunk. Alcohol has fostered the connection you seek, thus it is the cure. But using alcohol to do so diminishes our ability to do it ourselves.
When the work is done for you, there’s no need to learn it for yourself, so thrusting yourself out into the world without the thing that helps you function is like a small child searching desperately for mommy in the market. How can I be me without it? How can I be safe and whole when I was only ever looking the part? Suddenly you are on a stage in front of the entire world and people are raising their hands for questions How can you be expected to answer without a microphone?
And so it all comes crashing down. Sobriety asks hard questions. Sobriety makes life and relationships tangible things that require your attention and care. My friends were all drinking buddies, but my drinking buddies were not my friends. I hated my job and drank to forget it when drinking is what kept me from finding something better. I drank to soften the continuous blow of an unhappy life when in reality, drinking was the cause of my unhappy life. What an incredibly treacherous thing to discover and then change.
I’m sorry to say that once alcohol is out of your bloodstream you will not magically know how to cope, relax, communicate, connect, grieve, heal. These are things that you will have to learn or relearn to do. And it’s not expected that you learn them in a snap – sobriety is not always so hunky-dory. Becoming a person again is one of the most overwhelming (and gratifying) things you will ever have to do. You have to learn to feel again, to sit still, to be in a room with yourself. You have to learn to do this alone and in the presence of others. You have to learn to do this without aid, undiluted. This is your largest undertaking; it is going to take time.
Early sobriety is the first time you will look at someone knowing they can also see you. You have only just caught the first glimpse of yourself and allowing others the opportunity to look is a big fat risk. So like I said, do what you can when you can. Your only job is to stay sober, so cut yourself some slack. You cannot get to know yourself if you go into it with expectations – take what you are given and be grateful for it. There will be more. You are the thing you are looking for – the rest of the world can wait.