THE COMPANY YOU KEEP
In this post I’m going to look at an important piece of the mosaic of the whole having fun sober picture looks like, the company you keep.
Sometimes my clients have asked me if I was really happy being sober and if it was truly possible to have a happy sober life. I am always grateful for that question, because there was a time when I didn’t think it would be possible, so if you’re asking yourself that, join the club.
Yes, I had made up my mind that I would never drink again and that was a point of non-return for me, but being happy and having fun again? Well, I’ll honestly say that at the time, when I made that decision, that was not my priority, because my mental health and the quality of my marriage had to take the front seat. But I remember very well the feeling of resignation and dullness that pre-emptied the start of the weekend, because I couldn’t think of anything really fun in my life apart from drinking alcohol, I was addicted to that unnatural peak of excitement and that feeling of fake freedom that it gave me.
Going through the first weekends sober was hard, but not as hard as giving birth to a baby – something that I have never done but which I have been told is an excruciatingly painful experience and that your threshold of pain changes dramatically after that. I have never experienced that and never will, but I have lived through very painful events in my life, and going through a weekend sober, started to have an annoying quality rather than feeling like Armageddon. That piece of internal work helped me.
But, going back to the fun part, what I replied to that person was that yes, I was now able to have a lot of fun, laugh a lot, and felt real excitement … and that I had also become more selective of the people I spent my time with. And that, for me, was key.
You are not going to have fun with EVERYONE you know, go out with, or meet at parties, dinners, weddings or social gatherings. Even if you are the most sociable person on the planet, you will probably have the most fun only with certain people, your people, and you know who they are if they are in your life and, if they aren’t yet, you will find them.
How many of us have found ourselves with people we didn’t really feel that much connection with, didn’t have much in common with, didn’t know that much or at all, who maybe didn’t even like that much, but all of a sudden, with a few drinks in, the awkwardness subsides, we feel more at ease with them, those same people seem now bearable, good company even, and we just stop caring because by then we have drunk so much that we could actually be with Lurch (the Addams Family butler) and think of him as a barrel of laughs?
Well, that’s probably not going to happen when you put down the alcohol-tinted glasses because people will start to look as they really are to you and you will feel around them the way you feel in that moment in time. The veil has been lifted and the ugly ducks don’t turn into beautiful and prize-winning comedians. Simply because they are not and never will. That was never real.
What are you going to do then? Does it mean you’re never EVER going to have fun because alcohol is not going to turn the pumpkin into a white carriage that is going to waltz you over to the fun ball? Or you can take this as another growing opportunity to evolve and becoming stronger and more confident.
Some of us who ditch alcohol have to re-discover who we really are, what we enjoy, what we detest, who we like, who we don’t want to waste our time with, and choose our people accordingly and with confidence. Quitting alcohol can be a gift we give ourselves to make our life more meaningful because we can get to decide who our real friends are, who the ones who support us are, the ones who are happy for us, who don’t mind what we do, eat or drink, because our friendship goes beyond all of that, it has roots that go deep into the soil.
It might feel awkward and unfamiliar being there with them, in a social setting, when they are all having an alcoholic beverage and you have your lime and soda in your hand. Or maybe it won’t, because they are your friends, and it’s about the conversation, the jokes and the love you share. But if you think you won’t be comfortable, tap on it before you go and meet them, because there will be something there that needs to be acknowledged. Tap on every thought or emotion that you are feeling thinking about that moment. That’s why we have this tool, to help us facing difficult situations, to bring to the surface our unpleasant emotions and clear them.
You might also find that sitting around a table with your friends is not going to cut it for you anymore, because once alcohol is out, the rest of your life is allowed in and you will need other sources of fun and laughter. Maybe now you can’t think of anything else, but it will come to you. It’s like when you decide to become a vegetarian and meat and fish are off the table, literally, and you find this whole new world of succulent recipes you didn’t know existed!