The other night I went out for happy hour with a friend. We both had a hard week and were eager to meet up, talk, and drink. Over the course of our dining, I had two margaritas. Then something unusual happened. I couldn’t see straight or stand upright. These margaritas were made with something “special”. After laying on the cold bathroom floor of the restaurant for a long time and puking my guts out, my friend had to drive me home. I’m a light weight, but seriously… it was only two.
Sometimes alcohol is a lovely accompany to life. Other times, we wish we hadn’t. This experience at happy hour got me thinking about the temptation we all face to numb out. We need relief from the pressures, demands, grief, and challenges of life. There are countless ways to get a dopamine rush … drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, gaming, gambling, eating, exercise, work, adventure. Some escapes are moderate, productive, and yield positive outcomes. However, if we use a substance or behavior as a means of medicating, then we are avoiding feeling our feelings. When we live SOBER, we feel everything. For the most part, I have done life sober. Let me tell you, it can be brutal. However, it’s a gift to ourself and others to live sober.
It is uncomfortable to feel our feelings, especially the most vulnerable ones. We grow in emotional intelligence as we learn to identify feelings, understand them, and manage them. The Pixar film, Inside Out, did a great job of capturing the internal world of emotion. I couldn’t watch the movie without crying. I identified with each and every emotion and the turmoil to express feelings honestly and appropriately.
I am growing in my ability to sit with my feelings and sort through them. It’s a worthy pursuit. In the clinical world, this process is called mindfulness. In the spiritual world, contemplation. These are practices of slowing down, pausing, being present, and attending to our inner world. The goal is to learn to soothe ourself appropriately and then respond, not react when communicating feelings to others.
One of the things I discovered through mindfulness and contemplation is it’s particularly hard for me to express fear. I processed through this with friends and my support group, and they helped me make an important connection. When I was scared in the middle of the night as a kid, I was reprimanded. In my marriage, my feelings of fear were dismissed. Over time, I came to internalize a belief that it’s not safe to express fear. This awareness helped me choose a new mode of operation. Part of my forward growth is to verbalize the words “I feel scared… ” with people that can hold space with me and hear my fear. If I don’t, my bent when I am scared is to lash outward wanting to control others or circumstances to make me feel better. I’ve seen this reactivity push others away and keep me disconnected from my inner truth.
I want to be connected (not disconnected) to my emotions. I want to risk and be courageous enough to lean into vulnerability and authenticity. I want to love others well by managing and expressing emotion in constructive ways that foster knowing and being known. I want to experience deeply satisfying relationships. This is my quest! Sober Living is essential to this mission for all parties involved.