Sobriety really can be a lonely path. It’s odd – because I have support groups that I can lean on and my hubby always has my back, but it still feels like I’m on this weird, secret path that no one in my world really cares about. I literally have spent 9 months changing my entire life and identity, and most people don’t know about it or if they do, they don’t think it’s that big of a deal. None of them understand why I have done what I have done. None of them understand what I’ve gone through to get here. None of them understand how hard or how exciting it’s been. None of them will ever be as passionate about alcohol-free living as I am. None of them want to carry on exciting conversations about it. Sobriety is my biggest success, biggest struggle, biggest thing ever in my life – and it really doesn’t matter to anyone but me (and hubby, of course). Most people, quite honestly, just want to defend why their drinking is acceptable or why they don’t have a problem -so it’s not something I can even have a conversation about. I guess the bottom line is- you just can’t comprehend, care, or appreciate what someone’s going through unless you’ve gone through it too (or are affected by someone going through it).
I’m not a super social person. It took me most of my life to find just a handful of really close girlfriends, and we’ve grown apart over the years. I’m in a situation of needing to start all over with creating new friendships while being what feels like a teetotal, social-outcast. To meet new friends, you have to have something you’re interested in doing. But I don’t even know what I’m interested in doing – I haven’t done much of anything in the past.
This sounds like a horrible downer, I know. I’m not depressed, sad, or any of that. This is just part of the process. I have recreated myself and need others in my life that appreciate that, but I haven’t figured out how to do that part (yet). This is something most of my support group members are going through too – so it’s a real issue that most of us face at some point. This is less about being alcohol-free and more about needing common connection. I could just as easily replace sobriety/alcohol-free with any major life change – moving to a new place, changing careers, becoming a parent, becoming religious, getting divorced – whatever. When you go through a major life change, you want to be able to talk about it with other people who have either experienced it or can appreciate what you’ve been through. The hard part – when it comes to alcohol-free living – is that there just aren’t that many people around me that feel the same way that I do.
To be honest, I’m struggling with social encounters and meeting friends in a big way. Early in life, it was pretty easy to find friends – as we’re all put together in school or other group activities. I am also starting to think that it’s easier to find friends when you’re young because you don’t really know who you are or what matters to you – or at least not that much. As an adult, we have a lifetime of experiences and opinions that we also consider when meeting new people. I have mentioned before that I relocated a few years ago. My new home has some amazing benefits – people are friendly, hospitality is amazing, the weather is awesome, the nature is gorgeous, and OH MY GOD, the food. But there are also differences living here too – mainly religion and politics. Two pretty big topics that define a lot of people are now two topics that I am typically on a different page than everyone around me. I spent a lot of my life feeling like I didn’t belong, and I didn’t fit in. I struggled my entire childhood and adolescence to find ways to connect with people – so sometimes, it’s hard to ignore that here I am, a 40 something, and I’m kinda in that place all over again. How do you find people who wonder how you’re doing, who remember your birthday, who want to support you when you’re struggling? That’s what I still need to figure out.
Right now, it’s really easy to find all the ways I don’t fit in and don’t belong. I know that the first step is to get it all out – pour my soul out to the strangers on the internet until I feel like it’s all been said – the good, the bad, the ugly. (Check!) Then, I gotta get off my ass and try to change my perspective. No one is going to knock on my door, take me by the hand, and show me how to be liked. It’s just not going to happen. I know how important it is to belong and how dangerous loneliness can be to everyone and especially to sobriety – so I need to find a way to make it a priority and change it. Sometimes, I can’t make something a priority until it hurts enough that I become sick of hurting (Check!). But this is not that much different than cutting out alcohol, is it? At the time, that seemed like an impossible feat …but I eventually figured out that I needed to make a change and I did! It wasn’t easy…god, it wasn’t easy… but I did what I had to do because it was important to do it. That’s clearly where I need to get with this whole loneliness thing too.