When I was still living in Thailand, I had a talk with my therapist about what was going wrong in my life and what I wanted to change. Some of the biggest things were my anxiety and my love life.
I have spent the bulk of my life semi-single. I’ll go on a lot of dates or have some two or three month flings, but long term relationships just don’t happen. And it’s not because I’m undateable and sad and no one likes me…hold your pity, everybody. It was just because I didn’t want a long term relationship. I had the option to pursue marriage at 19 and I didn’t want it. I wanted to go live my life. And I did.
But at 27 I found myself the victim of habit. I was dating the same type of person over and over again–the ones with no potential. Half the time, they were men that I wouldn’t even have talked to if I’d met them sober. But you add a touch of alcohol and suddenly dating a backpacker who’s passing through or a drug dealer seem like great ideas.
I got to the point where I realized that the life I had was one that had been defined by two things: anxiety and alcohol. Dating made me anxious. Social situations in general made me anxious. Hell, being alive made me anxious. But alcohol was a great solution. I drank and then I didn’t feel stressed anymore. And that was what I did for a really long time.
I wasn’t a raging alcoholic. I didn’t drink beer for breakfast or go on drunken rampages every night. I probably drank the same amount as my peers. But for entirely the wrong reasons. I drank because sober life was too hard. And then I made questionable life choices.
So my therapist suggested I take a three-month break from booze and boys. No dating, no drinking. I agreed. I also quit doing drugs (not that that was a very frequent habit) and social media and caffeine. Basically everything fun.
And let me tell you what. IT WAS REALLY HARD.
Like…colossally hard. I realized that the life I had built was one based on distractions and escape. When you strip those distractions away, you’re left with this raw, uncomfortable mess that is your life. And it’s a really difficult thing to come to terms with.
It’s incredibly hard to create a life that you don’t want to escape from.
But that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
Three months passed and I reached the end of my single sobriety pledge, but I realized I wasn’t ready to return to either of them. I was only beginning to come to terms with who I was at my center, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to go back to masking that again.
I don’t think I’ll go back to drinking. At least not while anxiety is trying to run my life. When I started, I thought it would get easier not to drink. I thought three months would reset my system and I would go back to it refreshed and balanced.
But quitting drinking only pointed out to me how easy it is to rely on an altered state to survive the difficulty of being alive. And I really want to do more than survive my life.
And so I am attempting to build a life that I don’t want to escape from. One that is healthy and happy and open and vulnerable. It’s not easy and it’s far from perfect. But I am trying. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job.
The first few months were especially hard, as I was transitioning back from life in Thailand and was traveling to a new place every couple of weeks. But since moving to San Diego I have felt a lot more solidity in my life and have put a lot of effort into building a good life here.
In the past couple of months I have:
-Redefined what socializing means to me and learned to accept a quieter life
-Embraced routine and ritual in my life and found that I thrive when I go to bed before 10 and wake up before 6
-Attempted to fill my days with positive activities like playing music, woodworking, crafting, and writing
-Sought a more active and healthy life and tried new hobbies like kickboxing, pilates, hiking, and yoga
-Tried to embrace vulnerability and share my stories honestly
-Pursued a career that I feel passionate about and spent my time developing my skills
-Learned, just a little, how to love myself despite all my issues
This weekend marks five months of sober living. And those five months sober have taught me that these are the things worth struggling for. A life that is sustainable and whole and full of potential and love and hope.
It’s still hard. It will always be a little hard. But that’s OK. I think the new me that’s emerging is better than the old one and I think it’s worth the effort.