Drinking makes me cool/funny/interesting. I drink because it makes me happy. Drinking relaxes me so that I can let loose. When I drink, the ‘real’ me can finally come out: funny, wild, sexy, playful. Without alcohol, these traits are trapped inside, and I am awkward and fearful. I am not cool or attractive. But with a drink in my hand all that changes. Drinking not only liberates me, it DEFINES me.
When I initially decided that I needed to stop drinking, my biggest fear was that I would lose my identity. On Day 2 I wrote in my journal in shaky handwriting: Who am I?
I believed that my friendships and my marriage existed because I drank – because I was fun at parties, loose and easy-going. I believed that I was much more attractive when I had a drink in my hand. It relaxed me, made me less uptight. I felt like my whole demeanor shifted with the addition of alcohol – like the mask was lifted and my authentic self was finally able to shine through.
Plus, I prided myself on my high tolerance and drinking endurance. I was almost always the last one standing, closing out bars and looking for more when I got home. I wore this fact like a badge of honor. People knew to bust out the reserves if I was at the party.
I knew that once I took alcohol out the equation I would be bland, beige, vanilla. I would never have anything to say at parties or dinners. I would stand alone in a bubble of vapid isolation while everyone else bonded over their beers. I would stumble around on the dance floor like an awkward baby giraffe. Words would clunk out of my mouth, and people would shake their heads with embarrassed pity at my futile attempts to fit in.
In her book, This Naked Mind, Annie Grace writes, “It is common to hear people say ‘I don’t trust someone who doesn’t drink.’” (Yep, I have definitely been guilty of this snap judgement. I would go so far as to give sober people a wide berth, eyebrows raised in scorn. Who were these oddities of nature?) But then she goes on to say, “The truth is that the cool people are cool if they drink or not. The funny people are funny if they drink or not, and the lame people are lame if they drink or not.”
Now when I first read this assertion, a little over 3 years ago, I was resistant. My self-deprecating inner voice piped up. That may be true for other people, I thought, but I know I will plummet from cool to lame in a nanosecond.
But then a flicker of remembering happened inside me.
I thought back to being a teacher (I taught high school science in urban schools for 10 years prior to becoming a stay-at-home mom). I was authentically myself in the classroom and greatly enjoyed the easy-going rapport I had developed with the teenagers I taught. To say they thought I was ‘cool’ may be a bit of a stretch, but I can say with confidence that most of my students saw me as interesting and funny, maybe a bit goofy and dorky…but also compassionate and caring. Often they went out of their way to be around me. And I did NOT have a drink in my hand at school.
Hm, maybe this Annie Grace lady had a point, I thought.
Maybe there was a person underneath all the booze who had a pretty likeable personality. Maybe I had been using wine and vodka as an excuse to let my genuine self shine through, rather than the alcohol being the tool that activated my authenticity. Maybe I didn’t need the alcohol at all; I just had to drop the crutch and be myself.
So I tried it.
A little over a month into sobriety, I went out to a Moms’ Club event. These kind of things typically have the wine flowing. I decided to play a mental trick on myself. If I tell my brain I already drank several glasses of wine, my inhibitions would be lowered. I decided to give myself permission to be as loose as I would if I were 2 or 3 drinks in (the ‘sweet spot’ if you will… you drinkers and ex-drinkers know what I mean. It’s the point where you have had just enough to really let go, but not so much that you’ve become slurry and loud.)
I showed up at the event in good spirits, with lots of positive energy. I laughed and cracked jokes. I tried on silly clothes and poked good-natured fun at myself. I had a blast. And I wasn’t actually drinking, so I was also able to listen to my friends with genuine (not overly-slobbery) attention and have a much quicker wit. A friend even offered to refill my wine glass and was shocked when I told her that I’d only been drinking water the whole night.
I left the event totally giddy. I had done it! I had not only survived a drinking event without a drop of alcohol, but I had proven to myself that I could have fun and BE fun while sober.
I realize now that a lot of my drinking stemmed from an underlying belief that, “unsauced,” I was not worthy enough. Not worthy of friends, love, attention, pride. I believed that I had to marinate myself in booze in order to deserve any of these things.
Unfortunately this is such a common limiting belief for so many of us. Whether it’s alcohol or clothes or body size or job title or fat bank account or the achievements of our kids, we believe that without some outside thing to define us, we have no inherent worth.
But is that really true? Aren’t we all born worthy, valuable humans?
Take a look at a baby—any baby (or better yet, a baby picture of yourself). Would you tell them that when they grow up they must become a thin, rich, popular party girl in order to deserve happiness and love? That they must alter their pure selves with a substance/diet/workload to gain attention from others?
In this week’s This Naked Mind Institute training video, Annie Grace said, “Worthiness is a given. It is a baseline. We just have to remember that.”
Now try this belief out instead and see how it makes you feel:
for more on the recovery/discovery journey and freedom from self-limiting behaviors!