A goal that I had for myself this year was to try something new each month. It could be attending a class or Meetup group, or even just hitting a new museum or yoga studio. The idea was not only to help me push through fear (because social anxiety seems to be a problem for me these days), but to broaden my exposure and maybe even make new friends along the way. Developing friendships outside of my usual social circle has become of particular importance to me now that I’m in recovery.
January went by without much action on my part, but deciding to get sober in February brought this goal of mine to the forefront. My first step was giving a new yoga studio a try, which may not seem like a tremendously brave act to anyone else, but it did force me to step outside of my comfort zone. Next, I’ve been browsing the Meetup site looking for groups that are sober focused, but the only one I found was geared towards 20-somethings, which clearly wasn’t going to work. I next thought maybe a fitness related group could do the trick, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for a 50 person 5-mile hike just yet, and some of the other categories felt downright intimidating. After weeding through various women’s social groups, buried beneath all of the Happy Hour and Cocktail Night activities, I did manage to find a simple dinner and dessert meetup for women at my favorite café up the road. That sounded promising because the place is familiar and there was no mention of alcohol. The café does offer wine, but it isn’t what they are known for, so I figured this was a safe choice.
I put in my RSVP about two weeks ago and felt completely ready for it. I wasn’t even nervous, until about 3 hours before I was due to attend yesterday and wanted to cancel. This has been so typical of me in recent years and it’s what I desperately want to change. I constantly cancel events at the last minute because I’m suddenly filled with anxiety and the driving need to stick with what is familiar and comfortable. While this isn’t so terrible sometimes, it’s turned into an awful habit that is holding me back from so much experience in life. I don’t know how I became this person who is filled with fear and trepidation. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, but not to this degree. In fact, I used to be quite the social butterfly, or at least I thought I was.
On Thursdays I work from home and I went from waking up in the morning feeling ready to take on the day to feeling agitated and questioning if I should go to this meetup at all. I couldn’t stop feeling like it would be so much easier to stay home and then somewhere in there I started craving a drink and craving it hard. I was pacing around my house thinking of the gin bottle still in the freezer. I had gotten rid of the vodka, but kept the gin because it was so full and I thought friends might enjoy it one day. I almost poured it out right then, but I was scared that the smell of it would push me over the edge. I then remembered reading on a blog somewhere recently that a craving supposedly only lasts an average of 18 seconds and if you can make it through that, you’ll be okay. I counted slowly to and from 18 about 6 times until I decided that wasn’t working. I somehow managed to refocus my attention on my work for a while, but I kept shifting over to group’s meetup page to hover my mouse over the cancel button. It came close, but I never pressed it.
I continued to think about how important attending was to me and how disappointed I would feel in myself if I didn’t go. I also knew that if I stayed home, it might mean it would be easier to give in to drinking and the fear of that happening outweighed my fear of this new social activity. It’s no secret that I’m still finding my way on a spiritual level and I’ve been turning to the energy of the universe as my higher power of sorts. So, I stood over my kitchen island praying to the universe out loud. I turned over my fear and asked to learn from and find peace in this moment. I read the faith statement that I recently created for myself, compliments of guidance from Gabby Bernstein, took a deep breath and headed out the door. I was going early, but I convinced myself that if I could make it as far as the café parking lot, I wouldn’t be able to turn back. That almost wasn’t true.
I arrived about 30 minutes early and the anxiety over this had built up so much in my body that my back and head were aching. I was uncomfortable and wanted to pull back out of that lot and head towards the house. I sat parked for a moment before hopping on my phone to consider hitting cancel through the Meetup app. Instead, I accidentally hit the icon for the app store and I was reminded of a search I did earlier that had been interrupted. I had originally been browsing sobriety apps and staring up at me was one that provided the closest AA meetings and schedules. I hit download. I then knew exactly what I had to do without any question. I either go in to this event, or I attend an AA meeting. There was no choice, it had to be one or the other because if I went home, I was likely going to drink. I found the closest and next meeting and was moments away from putting my car in reverse when I saw a woman get out of the car next to me and start to head in to the café. I didn’t allow any more time to think and instead got my ass moving out of my car. I approached her and sure enough, she was with the group I was here to join and we walked in together.
I won’t go into the blow by blow, but I spent two hours with a group of 5 women who were all different from one another, but the one thing we had in common was our search to meet new people. I was nervous the entire time and felt a little bit awkward, but I know I wasn’t the only one. In the past when I’ve been in a new social situation I’ve been much more at ease and can usually chat with anyone about anything, but I also normally have alcohol in my hand. This is the first time that I can recall that not being the case and it was very different. While there were no life-long friendships on the verge of forming at this event, it was still a great experience and one that may have saved me last night.
As I drove home, I felt so proud of myself. I was proud for having courage and I was proud that I chose this instead of drinking. I know it’s a step in the right direction, and I do believe that I can find my way back to being more at ease in social situations, it’s just going to take a little practice and time. As much as I have been trying to convince myself that I may not need it, I think the next time I push myself should be by attending an AA meeting. I can see how important being around other sober people is going to be for me in my recovery, even if I was secretly hoping I might be different somehow.
For anyone wondering, I poured out that bottle of gin this morning.