The Mighty Logo

Inside the Mind of a Sober Woman Seated Near the Open Bar

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

If you’re looking for creative inspiration, check out the Daily Inspirations group on The Mighty.

Everyone is drunk and seemingly bonded to each other. The open bar at the wedding is right next to where my husband and I are seated for dinner. I am acutely aware of everyone drinking endless amounts of cocktails. I feel self-judgment creep up inside telling me that I shouldn’t be noticing the alcohol.

You have been clean and sober for a decade now, why are you triggered?

This shouldn’t phase you.

You have a wonderful life because of recovery.

I feel the burn of my negative thoughts begin to seethe in my brain as I find myself judging my feelings. I am finding myself awkward talking to people from the past as they drink their drinks. I criticize myself for being shy. I notice my thoughts telling me to be different. My old ways want me to conform and play the actress.

My old ways of trying to change myself to mold and fit with others almost killed me emotionally, spiritually and physically. Striving to be a chameleon, I changed my skin to match my surroundings too many times. In choosing recovery years ago, I made the choice to no longer conform for other people. I am not willing to jeopardize my heart to feel a part of for one night. Even so, I’m uncomfortable.

Seeing everyone get further intoxicated as the night goes on, dancing and laughing together, I have the blaring thought that I am always the black sheep; separate and different. That negative thought process, though quiet usually nowadays, is never quite silenced. Certain situations like this can trigger insecure thoughts to speak a little louder. They want to crawl back to my ears, where the chaos can dance. I remain present with the self-conscious voices and take notice. Shaming myself for all the parts of me does not help me to grow. It is not useful anymore. It never was. Even having this knowledge, that familiar feeling of being 16 years old and cramped in my skin, craving to belong, sits in my gut. I notice the inner pull to disguise myself is still there. I realize it may never go away. But it doesn’t have to take hold of me like it used to. I don’t try to shut them up. I just say hello for a moment, and then ask them to go away, as I remember the deep healing I have experienced and the journey I am on for self-fulfillment. It doesn’t need to dictate my every move. It is only fear. My fears so often are not even true. They are merely irrational thoughts that I am not good enough; my fundamental circuitry that I am learning every day to rewire.

Then comes a new inspiring thought; an idea of recovery and self-acceptance. I am who I am and that is exactly OK and right. I can love all the parts of myself. I am shy sometimes, and I am also very social. I am friendly, confident at times, and then there are moments I am totally awkward. I am kind-hearted while thinking of others and also, I can be judgmental and selfish. Sometimes I feel superior living in my ego, while at other times I am at peace in my soul and don’t need a label of where I level out. I am good, and I have struggles. I am all of these things because I am human. That’s all I want to be today — Human; flawed with beautiful and strong assets. I now have the ability to show up authentically and true. I get to arrive with dignity and grace, and I get to leave with dignity and grace. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

“Would you like a drink?” a server asks as he is pouring glasses at our table.

“No, thank you,” I say.

That question is heavier than a simple ask. In it, I hear, “Would you like to throw away your life, your family, your dignity and self-respect?” In my bones, I feel the depth of hell that one drink would take me. It would never be just one drink. It would be more; always more. And in the “more” I would lose everything. As I say, “no,” I continue to say yes to myself, my future and my freedom.

Follow this journey on Unordinary Life.

Getty image Picsale

Originally published: May 13, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home