It can be difficult for non-addicted people to understand that just because it’s been X number of days/years since your last “fix,” and you appear to be “killing it” in recovery, that doesn’t mean you’re totally OK with confronting the same old “people, places and things” from your drinking life.
It doesn’t mean you’re “cured.”
Familiar “triggers,” or situations in which you drank to self-soothe for years and years until it became an ingrained habit, can be very powerful, no matter how much time has passed. A certain person, or even a feeling, can send you reeling off in an anxiety spiral.
Then, add the ready availability of your go-to “medication,” your drug of choice looking you square in the face, and it’s not so easy to “act normal” or play it cool.
So, when I was overcome by a sudden, very unexpected sobbing fit on Sunday morning before we left for a family barbecue — the first gathering on our schedule in more than 2 months, and only the third time we were venturing out in a non-work capacity since COVID-19 quarantine closed everything down — I knew my husband was not the only one to talk to about it. He’s wonderfully supportive, and I 💯 would not be 428 days sober today without him…but he’s not an alcoholic.
A healthy support system absolutely starts at home, but for me, a well-rounded recovery requires some occasional, non-blog branching out.
Luckily, I have an amazing community of sober women at my fingertips. They don’t need/expect me to explain why getting together with family is cause for panic, or why I can’t stop crying on a beautiful long-weekend morning — or why a cartoon about a talking cup of coffee touches something in me, far deeper than the caffeine receptors.
So, I attached that cartoon to an email and sent it to my group, with a quick note describing my struggles.
Within minutes, I had several responses. “You’ve got this; call me anytime if you need to!” was the overarching message.
It was all I needed to hear.
I also, apparently, needed an entire cooler full of San Pellegrino — the champagne of seltzer — and 47 trips to the bathroom, and my hubby agreeing to leave the barbecue after four hours…but I made it through the day.
I didn’t freak out, unless you consider drinking 12 sparkling waters to be freakish, and I left feeling stronger in my sobriety.
On the way home, after I finished reading a few “checking in” texts from my recovery group 💜, I talked the whole thing out with my hubby. He doesn’t drink anymore, either, which in my eyes is probably the most supportive thing an addict’s spouse can do.
We agreed: Amazingly, abstaining from alcohol doesn’t really seem to alter the social experience, after all. What did drinkers have that we didn’t? How much better would the day have been with, rather than without, beer? Who knows?! Not better enough to warrant any regret.
If you had seen the two of us coming home from a party two years ago, when I would’ve easily consumed a dozen shots of tequila mixed in with my 12 seltzers, while he would’ve kept telling me to slow down, drink water, possibly even “wake up,” and we’d both eventually sink into an angry, resentful silence as he slid into the (permanent designated) driver’s seat…
I guess I’ve come full circle here, because now I’m crying again. It might be difficult for non-addicted people to understand, but the simple act of completing a sober outing can be its own kind of unbelievable high. To be able to share that feeling with a support system I know has my back until the end of time is nothing short of a miracle.