22 May 2020
It was timely to read Mrs D’s post “Who am I now that I don’t drink?” on the Living sober blog today, https://livingsober.org.nz/who-am-i-now-that-i-dont-drink/. Today is my 2nd soberversary – two years since I last had a drink of any alcohol. I wrote about my one year soberversary on this blog and how in my first year, I struggled a lot with identifying as a non-drinker. It just felt outright weird.
Truth is, I still mourn that little bit of ‘release’ that comes when the alcohol blurs the edgy bits and lets you stop thinking about your life’s problems. It’s really difficult to sit still and live with all of the emotions in the raw. It has taken me a lot of time to adjust to not picking up a glass of wine to wash away the angst of a bad day. Finding substitutes and healthy alternatives to dealing with stresses in our everyday life is harder than picking up a glass. It’s hard work turning down that liquid release and it takes a lot of strength and courage not to succumb. Lockdown, has not helped either, it’s been an unusual situation for all.
Plus, I would be dishonest if I did not acknowledge that there are some days where I miss the ‘good times’ that happen when wine is involved. Things like:
- The annual day out with my BFF to watch the Auckland Womens Tennis
- Drinks with my Mum at 5 pm when I am staying with her or she is visiting
- A drink after work with work colleagues that turns into a long night
- Drinks at Algies Bay with N and R.
- A few drinks after a game of golf
- Drinks on holiday when you are experiencing something new
- Celebrating occasions, birthdays, weddings and achievements
BUT, at the end of this, my second year, I have moved on from justifying myself about my non-drinking status. It’s simply not necessary to explain. New people I meet, don’t know the other drinking me and I don’t find myself being asked why I don’t drink. Plus, I am more likely to be in situations now where alcohol is less of a focus. I am now able to see that people do things without a drink in their hand and they can still have fun.
Looking back over the last year I feel that I have had a shift from fighting the urge to drink, to looking for other ways to get relief from stress and have fun. I still suffer from depression. I still have terrible days when it feels like the world is against me, but I am not pushing them aside, I am trying to find solutions to fix them OR accept that some problems just can’t be fixed, so I just need to accept that and make the best of it. I have been focused on searching out things that make me happy and I have been writing/journaling my thoughts out loud on this blog, and continuing to read about ways to discover who this new me is. In essence, finding a non-drinking authentic me.
Viewing my middle life years through a sober lens, has opened my eyes to the fact that I don’t actually know myself that well. I certainly understand what is expected of me, how to achieve goals that I set for myself and how to fit in most of the time. I also know that my favourite books and movies are chick lit/flicks and that I love Thai food and good (mild) flat whites. Plus, I absolutely knew that my alcoholic drink of choice was Sauvignon Blanc – there is no way I wanted to drink Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. But, this isn’t exactly knowing yourself is it?
It’s strange to be in your 50’s and suddenly realise, you don’t recognise yourself. In 2018, I had journaled a page called I AM, and on reflection, it was more about the roles I play, (and what I like to eat), rather than a page about who I really AM.
As this second year progressed, I have grappled more with who I really am, and what makes me authentic. Part of this was the reason I read, Authentic – How to be yourself and why it matters by Professor Stephen Joseph. I found this book quite enlightening for two reasons – firstly, that there is a strong relationship between authenticity and creating a happy and meaningful life and secondly, that to be authentic you need to:
- Know Yourself
- Own Yourself
- and Be Yourself
After finishing the book, and going back again and again, I have been trying to gather information about myself to understand who this authentic and non-drinking person is. Over the years, I have done a lot of personality tests and I know that I am an ENFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale, an eagle in the DOPE personality test and a 837 on the enneagram (Challenger, Achiever, Enthusiast). I enjoy learning about personalities and how they work together. As my personality types would suggest I am an extrovert, I am constantly looking for and learning new things and will often challenge the status quo. Some of these are inherent traits and some of these are learned traits. The strange thing is that the even though I consider myself a strong person and I stand up for myself, family and colleagues and my values in tricky situations I find it difficult to deal with emotions and ask for help. Most of the time, I end up aggressive (rather than assertive) when I don’t feel others try as hard or contribute the way I want them to. In getting to know myself, I have learnt that one of my weaknesses is not being able to ask for what I want clearly. Even though, I can easily stand up for what my children need, it’s harder for me to articulate these things for myself. This is the strange thing about alcohol – it makes you less inhibited, and this is why we often say things when we are drunk, that we would not normally share. Learning to share these problems or desires when sober is harder and takes some practice. And I am working on that.
Another aspect of knowing yourself that I have looked at a lot this year has been my political beliefs and values. When I joined the Living Sober group, I met people from many different walks of life who I previously may not have thought I had much in common with. Alcohol is not fussy about your background, your race, your religion, your politics, family status or how much money you have or don’t have – in that group, I discovered a range of people who I normally would not have a fireside conversation with. I realised most of my social group are from the same backgrounds as me, and while we don’t always agree on everything, we are more similar than different. So, I have listened and read more widely than previously to expand my understanding of human nature and that has widened my social circle. I have come to the conclusion that is healthy to be exposed to wider points of view – and while this might be something that comes naturally to some, I am traditionally not that person who talks about politics, religion or sex to anyone outside of my most intimate circle. And that’s okay.
There are so many aspects to building authenticity – the way we choose to dress, what music we like, how we choose to parent, the way we treat other people, the list is long. I think once I settle on knowing myself a little more, it won’t be hard to ‘own myself’ or ‘be myself’, the challenge for me is to work out who I am as this crazy non-drinker person. I hope that as I continue to write this blog and play in my art journals, I will uncover more of the authentic me, which in turn will help to lead a happier and meaningful life.
3 June 2020
Finally publishing this post, after editing several times. I can’t seem to quite finish it how I want, but I have decided that if I wait for the perfect ending, it will never appear.
Knowing yourself is after all a work in progress.