Getting Out of My Own Way
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this, but after my divorce, I spent what seemed like ages feeling stuck. In reality it wasn’t that long and things weren’t bad. I was healing and I was feeling good a lot of the time. I’d made a huge amount of progress on my overall well-being. I still had bad days every once in a while, but everyone has bad days, right? They were nowhere near as bad as they used to be, and my attitude was mostly positive and peaceful. I had goals and was actively working on them. There was joy in my life. But still, I felt like there was something just out of my reach...like I was just on the other side of something amazing and I didn’t know how to get there. It was frustrating. I knew I wanted a big shift in my life and that in order to achieve that, I had to make a bold move. It couldn’t be an easy one because I knew that an easy change wouldn’t create the size of shift I was looking for. I talked to a couple of my girlfriends about giving up alcohol. I had done it for a few weeks the previous December and at different points in my life for different reasons. I kept meaning to do it again, but then I didn’t. When I got laid off I knew I had to because I couldn’t justify spending money on alcohol while I was worrying about keeping a roof over my kids’ heads; but I wasn’t ready just yet because I was waffling between having faith we would be fine and stuffing stress when I felt it. I was on this vicious roller coaster that was making me crazy - shaming myself for not doing what I felt like I needed to do, aware that I wasn’t always pleased with the choices I made, feeling like it shouldn’t be that hard, and not being ready to do it. It felt like a battle between my soul and my ego….and it led to a mini-meltdown two days in a row which a few generous people talked me through. And then I was ready to see what was on the other side….
The decision to stop drinking and actually doing it were a lot harder than living with the decision day after day. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected, even though there were some very big things going on in my life that were stressful. There were many times I thought, “This would be a great time for a drink”, but my desire to feel the way I’d been feeling without alcohol was much stronger….so I continued to abstain. The desire to have a drink eventually started to diminish. After about 8 months, at a family party I decided to try it out. It was fine and I had a good time, but the next day I realized I enjoy the feeling of being present without alcohol more than I did the night before with alcohol. I experimented one more time about a month later with a different crowd, and my feeling was exactly the same. As of now, I’m definitely done with hard alcohol. A glass of wine every once in a while may feel ok, but I’m just in a different place in my life now. I created the shift I was looking for, and the best way I know how to describe the feeling is that I’m more in alignment with my soul now. I know that sounds kind of way out there, but it’s a very real feeling of peace and of being on the right path.
Just to be clear, I’m not on a soap box touting complete sobriety for everyone, including myself. People abstain from whatever substance or behavior that is challenging them for different reasons. And people judge others for said behavior, for pausing or stopping the behavior, for revisiting the behavior after they’ve stopped, and for all sorts of things in the middle. The experience is different for every single person, and they have to make the decision to do whatever is best for themselves, not because of the judgement they face. I didn’t know where I fit in on the whole scenario at the time, I just knew I was struggling and I felt like I was in my own way. I decided to let go of what other people thought because I needed to figure things out for myself. I told someone I know who is in AA that I was doing fine and that it wasn’t very hard to keep away from alcohol. I had other things to focus on that I was excited about. The response I received was that this is a phenomenon most people in AA experience and that the hard part was coming. Her intent was to be supportive, but I knew that how we experienced alcohol was different. Yes, I had struggled with the decision to let it go, but I did it and I was growing both emotionally and spiritually...and those things felt good. I was finally out of my own way, and I was right. What’s on the other side, for me, IS beautiful.
What’s changed for me since I’ve changed my relationship with alcohol? So. Many. Things. I was able to dive in further on things that I had been actively working on within myself and do more healing. I was able to gain clarity on many aspects of my life, let go of what I no longer needed to carry, and deal with feelings that I’d been hiding from or was afraid to feel. I was also able to find peace and a spiritual connection on an even deeper level than I already had. There had been times when I was definitely drinking more than I wanted to be, and I had a lot of shame around that, but I’ve let all of that go. When I think back about the last 7 years of my life, the struggles I faced, the positive attitude I tried to keep, the amazing children I’ve been raising, the deep friendships I maintain, the fact that I’m able to manage a household on a single income in the Silicon Valley, all while healing my relationship with my ex to a place where we lovingly stand on solid ground together AND separately…..I can honestly say that I don’t feel like I have a thing in the world to be ashamed of. There were days that I had to remind myself to breathe in and out, yet still found something to be grateful for. There were days that I wasn’t my best in one way, but did my best in a bunch of other ways. I can’t say that I know of anyone who could have walked my path better. And if I had walked it any differently, I would not have grown into the person that I am today...and I love ALL of me as well as the amazing life that I am living…here on the other side.