Today I want to revisit some old (unhinged) journal entries I was flipping through from the year I got sober. I went through a series of emotions that retrospectively were quite comical. One particularly delicious quote I found was "Imagine a world where you can eat as much cake as you want.. that is the world I live in I'm out of control!"
For context: on June 29th 2020 I woke up with a severe hangover, blank spots in my memory, a nasty concussion and a very large bruise on the back of my head. Since that day I haven't touched a drop of alcohol. It wasn't a light decision, it was a long time coming and a long time adjusting to once it was decided. I journaled a lot during this time and looking back has been fun.
One month into my sobriety I had made a list of "things I thought were me but it was just the alcohol" and "things I though were the alcohol, but it turns out it's just me". Given how far into my sobriety I was (not far at all) these were bold claims and some were wildly incorrect. I want to revisit them - see which still ring true and make some new lists reflecting what 2.5 years sober me thinks are "just me" or "just the booze". Below you'll find my assumption at the time, followed by my thoughts on the matter now..
Things I thought were caused by the alcohol but are in fact just me (2020 edition):
- Clumsiness/dropping things all the time - I was disappointed to discover that it wasn't just hangovers and alcohol withdrawal that caused my terrible hand eye coordination. Walking into doorways and dropping things remains a solid Rosie trait in 2023
- Craving salt like your life depends on it - I actually don't crave salt anymore, it was an early sobriety thing
- Feeling randomly nauseous - another disappointing realisation that still holds true in 2023
- Forgetfulness - This is still true to a degree, but I am definitely more with it and remember far more since quitting drinking
- Having little to no creative drive - I think this actually isn't true anymore. Alcohol, even when you're not drinking every single day, has a huge impact on your creativity. I have much more of a creative spark since getting sober.
- Missing home - at the time I was living abroad, and I thought I was only missing home so much because I was drunk and sad, turns out I was just missing home but numbing it out the rest of the time until I was too drunk to turn it off
- Being social/wanting to stay out chatting all night - I think this remained true for a time as I was trying to prove to myself and everyone else that I was still the same person, but I'm actually not. I like quieter settings, I like my own company, I don't want to be up all night (although some nights do call for boogieing the night away)
Things I thought were me but turns out it was just the alcohol (2020 edition):
- Being bruised all the time - Although I am clumsy and drop things often, I'm certainly not as bruised up as I was when I was drinking
- Not enjoying my job - I did enjoy my job more when I was sober but find it very hard to remain content for prolonged periods at any workplace.
- Not connecting with others easily - This was 100% the alcohol, I find I can connect with people on a deeper level and listen better when I'm sober. I find social settings much more emotionally draining and overwhelming now because I'm so much more connected to the people I'm with. I actually think this fed my drinking because the alcohol detached me enough to not get so overwhelmed.
- Not eating well - I'm not sure what I meant by this - I suppose I had an idea of how I "should" be eating at the time. I certainly don't think this is a thing and I have gone through very problematic periods with my eating since being sober.
- Too lazy to cook - Since getting sober I've learned that I HATE cooking! I don't enjoy it, it doesn't fulfil me, I'd rather be eating. So no this isn't true - it was always just me.
Things I thought were caused by the alcohol but are in fact just me (2023 edition):
- Feeling unsatisfied at work/finding it hard to adjust to a workplace - I really believed if I quit drinking I would find it easier to put on that work persona and partake in the workplace/office inanity that I'd always struggled to adjust to. I still find it impossible, in fact it's harder now because I don't have the comfortable numbness of a hangover to float me through. I quite frankly find it excruciating. I hoped this was something I could do - care about a workplace - but working for myself is the best thing for me right now.
- Being a night owl - I'm not a morning person and no amount of sleep training, early nights or prolonged periods of working early starts at a job could change that. I cannot feel good before 10am and I feel my happiest at night. Genuinely wish this wasn't the case but it be what it be.
- Social skills/opening up - I've learnt in the last two years that I'm actually really great with people! I'm a really open person who's not afraid to share my experiences, and other people have said they find me easy to talk to. This is something I'd always given alcohol the credit for, but as it turns out I make people comfortable by just being myself. What a lovely thing!
- I hate driving - I thought perhaps when I wasn't in a constant alcohol fuzz I would enjoy driving more. (I NEVER drove when drunk but I did often drive the day after drinking with probably questionable amounts of alcohol in my system). I still hate it.
- Creating my most prolific art - I think this is the biggest lie creatives have been told since the dawn of time. The "starving artist" the "struggling creative". Did I write some of my best songs while I was still drinking? Yes but I wasn't drinking when I wrote them! It was on the days when I was sober, that I had a clearer head and a focussed mind. Since quitting drinking I've created some of my most incredible pieces of art and I've been able to explore themes with far more depth and clarity. When I was wasted or in the hangover fog I had nothing to say, I wasn't capable of saying anything interesting. Don't buy into the hype that you'll make your best work in your darkest places, difficult times can certainly inform great art, but for the most part you're going to make and do amazing things when you're taking care of yourself.
Things I thought were me but turns out it was just the alcohol (2023 edition):
- Extreme anxiety - It's not that I don't experience anxiety as a sober person, of course I do. But the constant chest fluttering fear had become so normal I didn't even realise it was there. It went away when I got sober, and it was incredible.
- Needing "friends" to get me through a difficult time - I just needed the pub, I never arranged counsel sessions with friends in any other setting, the friends in question would often head home before 11pm and I'd be out with strangers or acquaintances until ungodly hours
- Thinking my partner was being "boring" for not wanting to get wasted - Many an evening after work would I suggest we go for a pint, which would turn into 2, at which point my partner would suggest we head home and eat some dinner. I'd usually get into a mood and think "god he's so boring" for "never wanting to stay out". 2.5 years later we have more fun just me and him in our pyjamas in front of the TV than so many of those nights sat chasing a high on a pub bench.
- Being a social butterfly - In social situations where I used to flit from person to person (largely to stop anyone from talking to me long enough to realise how drunk I was) I now prefer to have longer conversations with fewer people. I also very much enjoy time alone.
2.5 years later and I still have days where I think god I'd love to just sit in a pub garden with a box of cigarettes and a pitcher of cider and let the numbness wash over me. I only feel this way on bad days - never good days - which is extremely telling.
I still find it difficult to use the word "alcoholic" and I know a lot of my family and friends don't consider me to be one for a few reasons. The first is that they didn't see how bad it was, I was extremely good at hiding the worst of my behaviour from everyone I knew for many many years. Secondly, I know a lot of people close to me exhibit the same behaviours I did, and they find it uncomfortable to be told it's problematic. I want to reassure anyone who feels that way that I make no judgements on anyone else's behaviour. I simply share my experiences, and if that resonates with you in an uncomfortable way maybe explore those feelings and see if there are things about your drinking that aren't making you happy. It's not up to anyone else to decide for you if you have a problem, and nobody ever got sober without accepting this first.
I wonder if this post was in any way interesting. I want this blog to be honest, open. I've spent so many years dancing on the surface of things, too afraid to talk about how I really feel or what's really been going on. I know I get the most from other people when they are open and honest, so I hope I can be a source of information and comfort to you too, dear reader.
I'll be back soon x