The hardest work I’ve done in life is getting sober. Remember when I used to whine about the trials of motherhood and marriage? I was so cute (and likely drunk) back then. Recovery puts those struggles to shame, mostly because learning how to handle the everyday stressors of parenting and co-habitation while at the same time staying sober, is often a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, uphill battle.
One of the things I miss the most about addiction was the bliss of oblivion. I miss sitting by the swimming pool with a drink in my hand or high on pills, not giving a flying fu*k what I look like in my swimming suit. I miss the moxie. I miss the feeling of not caring about anything, because in sobriety I care a lot about a lot of things.
Part of what drove me to start drinking in the first place was an intense feeling of discomfort, which I seem to have been born with. I am uncomfortable almost all the time, a sensation which drives my impostor syndrome, my belief that I don’t measure up, and most of all, my problem with addiction.
When I was drinking and using, I didn’t care what people thought — I gave zero fucks. Now that I’m sober, I give a LOT of fucks. What will people think of me now that they know I’m in recovery? Am I good at being sober? Have I truly earned a place at the table for problem drinkers? My fear of people seeing who I truly am is crippling. I want approval. I want to be loved. I want to feel like I’m okay.
People who need approval from others seem weak, like they require propping up, and I don’t want to be weak. I want to stand tall, all on my own — and I will one day, but first, I need to learn how to let go of the fear of being judged while at the same time remaining sober. It’s harder than it sounds because it requires re-learning how to exist as a human being. It also involves a lot of therapy and emotional work on my part.
My addiction was a mask for my shortcomings, and without alcohol, I feel awkward, oafish, blundering, and ungainly — and that’s when I’m fully clothed. I often joke that pouring my body into a bathing suit threatens my sobriety, not because it really does, but because I have to joke about it in order to cope with all of the changes that I’m currently going through.
Okay, fine. Maybe it does a little bit.
When I announced to the world that I am an alcoholic, I expected to get some backlash. I wanted to be open about my struggles because then people wouldn’t offer me alcohol or ask me why I’m not making jokes about drinking anymore. I wanted to encourage other women by showing that yes, it really is possible to get sober with small children in the house. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. For the most part, my plan is working; the people in my life are being very supportive.
Deciding to publicize my recovery was a good decision for me, but it brings me around to my original issue: WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK? Not just the people in my life who had no idea I am an alcoholic, but the teachers at my kid’s schools, our doctors, and — this one surprised me — my new peers (i.e. the other addicts and alcoholics I encounter). Time after time I’ve found myself in a room full of people I don’t know, talking about my deepest, darkest secrets, terrified that they will declare me not good enough. Talk about irony.
I thought once I got sober, my mind would straighten out and I wouldn’t fear judgment, but actually, the opposite is true. I now walk around terrified and raw, bracing myself for feeling things I don’t want to feel and knowing that I’ll have to cope with them through prayer, mindful interaction with others, and other things that work amazingly well but still don’t feel quite right.
Learning how to be vulnerable takes practice. They tell me it’s worth it, though, and I choose to believe that.