Lately, I’ve been finding myself engaging in a weird behavior that makes me feel a little wary of myself. I don’t know if it’s complacency, boredom, or something else, but I’ve noticed that whenever I’m around people who are drinking, I’ve started asking them what it is they’re drinking, what they think of it, what they’re interested in these days, etc. If the people around me are having a spirited conversation about booze (ha, spirited, get it?) I find myself piping in on occasion, talking about the things I used to like to drink, or the things I used to not like to drink at all.
I wonder if people have started to notice the fact that I’m taking more about alcohol with them, that I’m talking about the types I used to drink or the flavors I used to love/hate. Like Gin, for example. I hated gin. I still hate gin. The bitterness, the horrible aftertaste. Just yuck. These days, I’ve begun to chime in during conversations about gin. “Oh, ick. I never liked gin.” I’ll talk about it like I’ve actually had it recently, or as if I’d ever plan on trying it again.
Or, there are the conversations about things I did like, or things I used to know a lot about. Like, say, craft brew IPAs. I drank those a lot. I had a rotating selection of “favorites.” I could talk “intelligently” about hop varieties and malt profiles. It was definitely a thing for me. It has been—oh—444 days since I last tasted an IPA, yet these days I ask people how they’re enjoying theirs, or what they think of such-and-such IPA, or what types of beers they’re drinking these days.
I don’t know why. I don’t know what to think of it. I wonder sometimes if people think it’s weird that I, the sober person, am talking and asking about alcohol. I wonder if they think it’s odd that I seem curious. The fact that I find it odd is enough to take notice of. But my question is: why? Why am I starting to interact with the idea of alcohol again? Why am I starting to be curious, why am I suddenly finding myself with the desire to sniff the scent of old beer out of the bottles my roommate leaves on the kitchen counter? That’s gross, and yet the urge is there. I feel confused by my own reaction to the smell of a cocktail on my boyfriend’s breath, even if it’s been a few hours since his last drink. I still hang out with the same crowd as I did when I drank—mostly my boyfriend’s friends, hardly any of my own—and I find that I’m still dragging my ass to parties where the main objective is to drink and get drunk, where I sit in the corner of the room with a Lacroix or diet soda and smile occasionally at something funny someone said. My choices for sober socialization are slim these days. Some of my best sober friends are also in school and working full-time. I often don’t have the time or energy to go to meetings.
I recently started smoking cigarettes again. Not a lot, mind you. Not even enough to warrant buying a pack of my own (though I’ve thought about it). I haven’t even mentioned it to my therapist yet. Regardless, I’ve turned into the annoying friend who “quit” smoking, but who still asks to bum a smoke from you when you’re on your way out to have one. It’s gotten past the point of offering a few quarters in exchange for a cigarette into feeling guilty for asking yet again if I can have one. The habit is coming back quietly, sneakily, as this occasional sort of thing I do when the opportunity arises—which seems to be a lot lately.
And I guess that worries me because I know…I know myself. I have been overwhelmed with stress from school, work, and relationships lately. My personal social circle remains small. I continue to feel somewhat isolated within myself, and I’ve been struggling to feel support from some of the most important folks in my life. I long for a type of community that has been incredibly hard to find — sober folks who I can make a lasting connection with, who aren’t too busy to spend time with me, whose friendship isn’t dependent upon going to a meeting every week in the dark, cold winter hours after work. Everyone smokes there, anyway.
It frustrates and worries me that I’ve picked this habit back up because I can tell that it’s a slide back into unhealthy coping habits for myself. I haven’t been as vigilant lately about taking care of myself, especially with my first semester of internships underway, and it’s grinding away at the foundation of my sense of self, and my inner peace. I keep feeling this stupid ache, this dumb thing gnawing at me on the inside, telling me I need to start talking about what I’m feeling and I need to start reaching out. But to whom? My boyfriend is notoriously bad at handling emotions and providing support without me having to ask for it first. My best sober friend is going through a crisis of her own sort right now. Some of my dearest friends live nearly 1,000 miles away, and the distance eats at our connection on a daily basis. I am tired, I am lonely, I am sad. And so I smoke cigarettes sometimes with my roommate, or my coworker because at least there’s that moment of time when we can connect, even if it’s over something shitty.
I know I’m starting to miss the social aspect of drinking that I once had, more than I have for the past 440+ days, and although I don’t feel like I’m any real danger of relapsing, I know my current state of mind and vulnerability isn’t helping me any.
It’s this constant thing. I feel alone in my sobriety and I don’t know how to fix it. Part of me thinks I need to stop putting so much pressure on myself and just focus on one thing at a time – like school, for example – before I start beating myself up for not having a full and rich social life. Maybe it’s just not realistic to expect to have it all. Maybe my own efforts have been lacking and I’m shucking the blame onto others for my own failed efforts. Who knows.
All I know is that I’m tired and that I wish I had someone who would give me a hug and tell me I’m doing good things and that everything is gonna be OK. Just to hear it. Just so I might be able to believe it again.