So, here we are 92 days sober and feeling all the feels! Alcohol numbs feelings, it’s one of it’s plus points for us addicts. Why feel something if you don’t have to? I mean, sad? have a drink, stressed? I know what will help!, worried?, a drink will calm those nerves, happy? let’s drink to celebrate and on and on. So how the hell are we supposed to cope with life now? How on earth do we deal with life without that massive crutch, that not only have we been using for years, but we have been actively encouraged to use for years.
Look at the alcohol companies, they share images of attractive people enjoying an attractive looking beverage, normally in attractive places. The people are happy, they are having fun, they are someone to aspire to. Imagine if they actually posted the truth, that people drink quite often to numb emotions, because they are bored, depressed and quite often are living quite a shitty life. Wouldn’t be so attractive would it?
Friends on Facebook, posting post after post of them having champers or tasty looking gin and tonics in lovely bars, or on holiday, living the dream, making us feel jealous. I can’t help but wonder (went all Cary Bradshaw there!!), are they going home after those lovely attractive locations and drinking themselves into a stupor and waking up on their sofas the next day feeling like utter shit? Later in the evening did they make a total tit of themselves in the gorgeous bar we saw featured? We don’t know and perhaps they didn’t, but perhaps they did.
Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed nights out, especially when I was young, I loved going to the indie clubs, drinking pints and getting hammered, watching Dawson’s Creek the next morning with friends and going over the events from the night before. That was fun and to be honest I would say that it was genuinely just going out to have fun.
The issue is when you are drinking because you now need it, you need it to deal with feelings and emotions. I don’t know when I started using alcohol to numb feelings, I suspect that it was trick that I learned in my late teens after the death of my Mum. I have always suffered with anxiety too and a quick glass of wine when feeling really anxious works wonders. Not so much the next day though or when you wake in the middle of the night with your heart racing and your brain now on anxiety overdrive. For years though I saw that quick respite as worth it.
So, when you stop drinking, we now have to cope with these feelings in a different way and it is hard. It’s also really quite alien. I actually thought that something was wrong, I was feeling really happy one minute, sad the next, bored, irritated, down all the feels. I even mentioned to my husband that perhaps I needed anti-depressant (typical, looking for another way of not feeling) I then realised, that I have been numbing my feelings for so long that I don’t recognise them. I see them as something wrong, alien and not right. When in fact they are completely normal and it’s just my brain now doing what it should be doing.
So now I have to learn to cope with the feels, I have found that exercise definitely helps, especially when feeling anxious or angry. But mostly I am just going with it and talking when I need to. People feel things, that’s what humans do. I have spent so long masking it that now really, I need to embrace it. It isn’t easy and at times I have actually been shocked by my reaction to things. I watched a film at the weekend that triggered some grief from the past, and I sobbed, really sobbed. I hadn’t done that for such a long time, obviously it was distressing , but it was also normal. I have a feeling that I have years of grieving to catch up on.
It’s not all bad though, I have a real optimism going on in my thoughts, I haven’t had that for a while. I am finding joy in really little things that I would have found boring before and I like feeling things. It’s what we do. I know I have such a long road ahead and I am sure that the next time I feel really down I will be wondering what I can have to take the edge off, but I am building up my tools now to take the edge off in ways that are healthier, less harmful and not just delaying the inevitable.