This blog was originally posted on the Sanford House website. Sanford House is a residential and outpatient alcohol and drug treatment center for women struggling with addiction. http://sanfordhousegr.com
How many times have you heard that thrown at you when you walk into a party, family gathering or business event? This used to be one of my most favorite sayings before I got sober. Now, not so much.
I was really lucky when I got sober in that I wasn’t around other drinkers in my early sobriety. I was living in paradise, Encinitas, CA, right by the beach and surrounded by healthy yogini’s and surfers at every turn. While 3,000 miles away my family and friends, that I had long drinking careers with, were living their lives in Philly. I was grateful that I was ensconced in my San Diego bubble with my sober peeps for the first five years of my sobriety and life wasn’t offering any major challenges, besides getting and staying sober.
When I moved back East after five years of being sober, I found myself around my family frequently and that’s when Life got Lifey. Drinking was much more abundant in my surroundings, and granted by this time I felt pretty secure in my sobriety and being around alcohol didn’t bother me, or did it? I would be attending company work events and family gatherings where just smelling alcohol on someone else’s breath annoyed the crap outta me. I learned to just go with the flow for the evening, stay there for the appropriate amount of time, usually a couple hours, and then leave. I learned not to make any excuses for leaving and usually by that time I left people were so buzzed no one cared to ask where I was running off to. When I started hearing the same stories twice and folks were getting louder by the minute, that was usually my que.
I have to say though, that wasn’t the case for me early on in my sobriety. A couple times a year, I’d fly back East to visit my family and those visits were challenging as it was hard to feel comfortable in my own skin. I felt like such an outsider, more so because I didn’t have my confidence booster of booze. When I was nine months sober, I attended my brother’s wedding in Chicago. The whole family convened for the event. The drinks kept on flowing, and flowing. It was one of the hardest things I had to go through as I didn’t have my sober network with me, nor did I have anyone else there who understood what I was dealing with. I was so nervous about sipping someone else’s drink that I remember sniffing my diet coke each time I took a sip to make sure it was still my drink. I had to leave the event every 20 minutes or so to smoke and call a sober friend, because I felt so out of place and awkward. I felt like I was in a different world with people I didn’t know – and the worse part was I was my family; aunts, uncles, siblings, my parents and friends of the family I’d known for years.
Suffice to say I survived the night and only because I did what others told me to do. I called people, I was aware of my surroundings, and I kept tabs on what I was drinking. I remember going to a meeting before the Wedding at the local Mustard Seed chapter in Chicago, and the women gave me their phone numbers and told me to call them. I didn’t call – but it was a comfort to have them, just in case.