Today, a friend who I know through my boyfriend messaged me on Facebook. He wrote, “Hey, Em, would it be okay if I asked you a few questions about your sobriety/sobriety in general?”
This is a friend who I don’t know terribly well, but who has been very kind to me over the past 1.5+ years that I’ve gotten to know him, and who has a history among the friend group of being the highly introspective, frequently self-deprecating type, sometimes to a fault. As with some of the people in this particular friend group, he is a frequent drinker, and binge-drinks with the friend group at least a few times a month. They tend to create events as reasons to hang out and get drunk together while playing games or something similar.
Just yesterday, the boyfriend and I were at a gathering with this friend group. Everyone was drinking beers and bootlegger cocktails — whatever those are, apparently it takes exactly 30 mint leaves and lime juice concentrate — and this friend showed up about an hour after us. He was tired, slightly hungover, and said he felt like shit. When offered a drink, he said he didn’t want one.
Eventually, though, he got up and grabbed a beer. Then another. And another.
I feel like I take particular notice of things like this is social gatherings these days. Where once I was taking part in the festivities and not really paying much mind to what/how much others were drinking, I now feel very tuned-in to people in gatherings like this. Without trying to be judgmental, I simply observe the tiresome cycle I used to be held captive by, and sip on my sparkling water/diet soda/whatever I have available.
So this friend messaged me today and asked me if he could probe my brain a bit about sobriety. He asked whether I stopped because I felt like there was something wrong with me, and he asked if I was afraid of what my peer group would think when I quit. He also wondered if I felt like it had to be “all or nothing.” I answered him as honestly as I could, speaking from my own experience.
I said that yes, initially I felt like something was wrong with me, that I couldn’t drink like normal people, but I also said that feeling eventually dissipated, especially when I started to view alcohol for what it really is: an addictive substance. I said yes, I was absolutely afraid what my peer group would think, but that it has been (fortunately) very positive for me. And yes, for me, I eventually learned that sobriety had to be all or nothing. I tried moderating and setting rules and all that, and it never worked in the long-term.
My friend thanked me for my responses. He said he is tired of feeling like shit, and tired of feeling like he has to feel like shit in order to “be funny” or to be who he is. He described it as a big loop of him feeling dissatisfied, drinking, getting positive re-affirmation, feeling like shit again, and repeat. He mentioned that even though he’s taking steps toward improving his life and turning things around, that at least once a week he hits a massive low. I asked if those lows coincide with drinking, and he said almost always.
It feels both humbling and rewarding that I’m now someone who others feel comfortable turning to, to talk about these kinds of things. The fact that this person not only trusts me to talk about these things, but that he respects me enough to listen to my experiences, is an honor. The fact that even 400+ days into sobriety I can still remember so vividly experiencing the same things he describes now — the endless loop, the dissatisfaction, the fear, the identity challenge — shows me how far I’ve come and how far I’ve yet to go.
I suggested to him that he sign a little drinking contract with himself, to drink one less day a week than he currently does, and he agreed that would be a good place to start. I don’t know how serious he is about cutting down or moderating, or how well he will tolerate the highs and lows, especially since he’s already prone to noticeable highs and lows. We all begin with different levels of readiness, and while I think he’s completely capable of making the changes he desires for himself, I also know how incredibly difficult it is to do when 90% of your social activities involve drinking, as his most certainly do.
If it’s something he wishes for himself, though, I’d certainly love to give him the kind of support I wish I had in my earliest days. He’s a few years younger than me, but very smart, and I can see a lot of myself in him – introspective, reflective, sensitive, and caught between wanting to be better but not knowing how or where to start. I just hope he finds what he’s looking for.
Still sober myself on this lovely day 401. I hope everyone out there in the sober blogosphere is doing well.