Not drinking is hard. Living in a society where nearly everyone around you drinks is insanely hard. The world opening up again in general is giving me anxiety, let alone having to navigate it without my favourite coping mechanism; alcohol. Although it’s been a blessing to ease into my sobriety without a busy social life, I’ve started my recovery in a very sheltered environment and it’s going to be such a shock coming out of it.
If you’re like me, then you’re likely to have gravitated towards friends that drink. Sober friends just didn’t fit in with your drinking career. It was important to know that I wasn’t going to be judged for a having a drink at lunchtime. However, that means a lot of my socialising before the pandemic involved drinking and will mean that although I can find new hobbies that don’t involve drinking, I will inevitability have to work out how to navigate social drinks without drinking alcohol. Very anxiety inducing. I’m currently living on the pink fluffy cloud, only having to deal with staying sober while flatmates get drunk once or twice a week. I’m able to go to my room if it gets too much and I feel sad and angry at myself that I’m not able to drink.
Coping with my anxiety in lockdowns is relatively easy and I’ve been good at sticking with ‘one day at a time’ and ‘just for today’ during the most recent lockdown. However, since the roadmap out of lockdown announcements, my anxiety about not drinking has sky rocketed. I feel completely overwhelmed with thoughts about how I’m going to cope when bars and restaurants open and I’m surrounded by drinking. Every other social media meme and post being on the 21st June and how fucked the whole of the UK will be is not helping either. Every time I see them I cry a little inside because I used to be all over them. I’m just wallowing in self-pity every hour of the day, thinking ‘why me’ when looking at it realistically, I’m not the only person in the UK who doesn’t drink and if the last year is anything to go by, the likelihood of the roadmap actually going the way Boris and his cabinet have planned is very unlikely and therefore the 21st June won’t even be ‘a thing’.
I’m incredibly lucky to have supportive and understanding friends who are thinking of my needs when we’re back into normal life. Understanding that it’s important to do other activities other than those that revolve around drinking. Even when I do have to socialise with others drinking, I personally find non-alcoholic substitutes very useful and without them I would feel even more isolated than I already feel. My family and friends have been amazing and interested in finding alcohol-free options so that I can feel included, and it’s been an exciting distraction from wanting to drink.
I also need to put things in perspective and remember what happens when I do drink. To remember I don’t drink like other people and it doesn’t exactly make me feel great. Although, being sober might be making me feel extremely anxious and making my emotions towards alcohol seriously erratic right now, I know that if I keep doing the work to find better coping mechanisms for my anxiety, the world opening up again won’t be so difficult. Others have had it a lot worse in life and it’s time I take responsibility for an illness that is easily curable if I abstain from alcohol. The idea of the 21st June being associated with celebrating and drinking has made me glamourize my drinking days instead of remembering how truly awful some of the situations and moods my drinking resulted in. So when I see the drinking memes of coming out of lockdown, I now use them as a reminder of all the awful things that have happened because of my drinking. I also sit with my shitty feelings and then write them down as a way of getting some clarity and perspective. Most importantly, worrying about what is going to happen in the future is not going to help me stay sober right now. I need to be taking steps to look after myself today and only today and that is why ‘One Day At A Time’ has been the most helpful phrase in my sobriety so far. It is what I do today that will give me a better future, not the worry of what will happen in the future.