Reality Check

So I’m adjusting to this whole five-day-work-week thing. And by “adjusting”, I mean going to work, coming home, and watching trashy TV until bed. My poor introverted little heart can only take so much exposure to the human race in the space of a day. “Naked and Afraid” is the perfect coolant for my overheated synapses. If I’m really motivated, I go fishing with my girlfriend, catch absolutely nothing, and assuage my failure with ice cream.

That’s it, really. That has been my life in a nutshell. I’ve been having a hard time drawing the inspiration (or the brain power) to share thoughtfully about recovery.

Today, however, I had lunch with my best friend, and something came up that forced me to recognize, upon later reflection, an issue that has repeatedly reared its head and made me feel yucky inside.

I can see my BFF reading this and going “Oh, no! What went wrong?” Absolutely nothing. I had an awesome day. The weather was perfect. We found a restaurant with outdoor seating. I badly needed best friend time to recharge my battery and we accomplished that by leaps and bounds.

So what’s bugging me? The drink menu. Or, should I say, the complete lack thereof. Upon being seated, we were immediately confronted with a stand-up menu picturing booze bottles and a couple of cocktail options. The regular drink menu featured several pages of wine, beer, and mixed drink selections. Other than a photo of two iced coffees (which, by the way, were unavailable), there were no non-alcoholic drink options listed anywhere. Not on the drink menu. Not on the food menu. Our waitress asked what I wanted to drink and I felt like I was somewhere out in the twilight zone flapping in the breeze. Are non-alcoholic drinks so irrelevant these days that one can’t even be bothered to list them on the menu?

I know I’ve referred to this more than once but why are adults who don’t drink banished to diet Coke land?

The lack of options isn’t what really makes me sick though. It’s feeling like an alien because I can’t participate in a societal norm. My brain is missing an off switch. In a heated discussion about drinking, someone once said to me: “Everyone does it”. Those words were like a knife in my heart. So… who am I? No one?

The legalization of marijuana has been another issue that makes my insides churn. With the appearance of legal edibles, marijuana dispensing vending machines, and blended THC laced coffee drinks, how am I going to maintain a safe space for myself without being constantly inundated?

The sheer popularity of alcohol and drugs creates such an enormous pressure to use that I could have a legitimate panic attack thinking about it. In fact, I just had to take some deep breaths.

I dream of a world where reality sparks a fire in people rather than the drive to escape. But that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

I know the “herd” mentality prevents a lot of people who are thinking about quitting from actually getting help. “How am I going to have fun?” “All my friends and family do it”. “I will be alone”.

The “herd” mentality can be challenging from day one and, in my case, it is still challenging a little over five years later. So how have I stayed sober for over five years? Two things are essential for my success: Focusing on today and surrounding myself with clean, sober, and/or behavior abstaining people.

If I think about staying sober for another five years I might hyperventilate. I can’t even find diet Coke on the menu for God’s sake. Never mind the Mary Jane vending machine that may very well be coming to a neighborhood near me. So I worry about today. I can handle not drinking for just today. Even if I have to take it one hour at a time.

Society may make you feel like “everyone drinks” but there are sober people everywhere. Are we in the minority? Yes. But we have a lot of fun, too. I’ve had more fun in sobriety than I ever had drinking or drugging. I’ve done things I never dreamed I would do and I’m just getting started. I’m not quite sure what’s coming next but I am perpetually excited to see what’s around the bend.

Alcohol and drugs are only ever an arms length away. But so is the phone. I can ask for help. I can tell someone I’m afraid. (Isn’t fear what this is really all about?) I can go to bed sober for just tonight.

Do I feel left out and hurt in recovery? Absolutely. But I have also never felt so loved and included. There is nothing more lonely than active addiction. Absolutely nothing. And I wouldn’t trade my life today for anything. So bring on the diet Coke. I choose happiness.