I have felt very lonely in my sobriety and have struggled with this since deciding to live a life free of alcohol. I’ve realized that it’s because I feel that no one really understands the sacrifices made when quitting drinking. Was it a good choice? Yes. Was it a sacrifice? Yes.
There is little understanding of the fundamental shifts that take place in life when coming out of active alcoholism. There has been no attempt from me to seek connection with loved ones regarding these shifts. Unless you’ve been there, unless you’ve been sober – how can you even begin to understand? I don’t want someone to humor me, nor do I need pity; I want someone to sit in front of me, tell me that they understand how I feel and mean it.
Alcohol was an integral part of my identity; I feel like I’m out at sea without a life jacket without it. Like I’m floundering about in the water, trying to stay afloat for dear life while alcohol is trying to anchor me down. It is a scary feeling to not know myself, as I believed that alcohol gave me all the answers I needed. I feel at odds with myself. I want someone to understand me, but I fear that I lack the courage to admit how entangled I had become with alcohol.
Not everybody feels the same when quitting drinking, but I have never felt so isolated. Recently, I met up with some friends, and I had to leave as I felt terribly alone in their company. Let me be clear, it is not their fault, and I am not blaming them for how I’m feeling. Only one of them really knows what’s going on, and she always checks in with me, bless her. Even so, I feel that I can’t be completely honest with her. If I can’t even understand my complex feelings and thoughts, what chance does she have of understanding them?
Loneliness has become embedded in my marriage. Although my husband is extremely supportive, he doesn’t understand the sacrifice I’ve made by giving up alcohol. He sees that he has a wife that’s sober and may be battling a bit of depression; however, he is not privy to the turbulent thoughts and feelings and fundamental shifting that I’m going through. Why? Because I don’t want to explain it to someone who can’t understand it. Am I isolating myself by doing this? Maybe. My household is the same, my family is the same, I still live within the same four walls, but I feel like a stranger in my own home because, well – I am. I am becoming a new person, and the growing pains hurt.
I feel lonely because my identity has been stripped away, and it feels like every single nerve ending in me is exposed. Yet the world carries on as if I didn’t just rip the safety blanket that I’ve hidden myself in for the last 12 years out from under my feet. The world continues to grow bigger while I shrink further into myself, terrified to really start living because I don’t know how to live without my safety blanket. I’m scared of getting out into the world sans alcohol, and I’m equally terrified of falling back into active alcoholism. I am scared of who I am without alcohol. Am I really this insecure little girl that never grew up emotionally? One that can’t control her own thoughts and fears? That needs acknowledgement but refuses to seek it in fear of rejection and misunderstanding?
I drank for a lot of reasons; I’ve been focusing on one specifically lately. I drank out of fear. Fear that who I am as a person isn’t good enough, interesting enough or likeable enough. Drinking hid these insecurities and allowed me to be who I’ve always wanted to be. I felt free, opinionated, funny, and wild in bed. Like someone easily loved, both by my family and friends.
There is no reason to doubt that my husband loves me, but we met when I was actively drinking. I’m not the same person sober. I’m quieter, more reserved, and I live in my head with little patience for anything or anyone else. It exhausts me to be around people, and it exhausts me to be around myself. I feel like I am boring and miserable sober, yet I don’t want to be drunk either.
So, where does this leave me? Now that I am free of alcohol I’m in some kind of limbo in-between. Continuing to look back and frozen in fear of moving forwards. Sober who am I? What do I like? Am I a good wife/mother/person? I know I am none of those things when I am drunk, but I don’t know if I am any of those things sober either. What happens if my marriage falls apart because I tried to do something good by getting sober? What if I don’t love my husband like I thought I did because I don’t need him like I once did anymore? Will my husband love me when he realizes this?
Can I love my husband properly, without the neediness that alcohol created? Do I love my daughter properly? Do I know how to love at all? Did the hole inside me come from alcohol or was it always there? Will I always feel that there is something wrong with me? Will my inner critic rule me for the rest of my life? Am I going to like myself and forgive myself one day? Will I always think that I need to be fixed? Am I going to ever get used to feeling everything or am I always going to wish for the oblivion that I sought out in alcohol? Will I ever be at peace will myself?
I do know that good things do come from living my life alcohol free. My husband recently admitted to me that my drinking made him miserable. I knew this while I was drinking and I believe he did too, but it was our normal. When I took alcohol out of the equation, he had something to compare it to, and it really dawned on him how miserable he was.
He told me that when I was drinking, a sense of relief would wash over him when I would fall asleep. He told me that he constantly walked on eggshells. That the last five months that I have been alcohol-free have been the best of our marriage. He now looks forward to spending time with me and while it hurt to really realize the misery I inflicted on him- our happiness together is something that will always be worth being sober for. It is important to remember that alcohol doesn’t just take from you, it almost always has a ripple effect and will take from those around you. They’re your collateral damage.
Rethink the Drink – the spirit is not in the bottle it’s in you
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