SOBER MUSCLES

There are these really disgusting men at the gym that wander aimlessly and look at themselves sexually in the mirror as if they might take themselves home and get themselves pregnant. They seem to be performing and appear to believe wholeheartedly that the entire gym population is staring at them and admiring their very large muscles and, in most cases, tiny chicken legs that don’t match the upper part of their body. They want everyone to know just how hard they worked to get into their current shape and they drive that point home by grunting and screaming like gorillas as they lift big metal bars into the air and put them back down on the floor with a THUD.

I get it, boys. Really. I do. I have been wandering around New York City over the past few weeks working out my sobriety muscles. I’ve been lifting really heavy emotional shit like death and anxiety. I’ve been curling very cumbersome and socially awkward situations in hopes that maybe I’d get stronger. And I have! Really, I have. And like you, I want everyone to know about the hard work I’ve put in and how it’s paying off. But I can’t run up to complete strangers and say things like I JUST DRANK COFFEE WITH A FRIEND WITHOUT GETTING DRUNK BEFORE I WENT! Well. I CAN say that to a complete stranger if I’d like to, but they aren’t going to understand the significance of it. They’re going to look at me the same way we look at those meatheads in the gym that scream with the intensity of someone taking the world’s most massively large shit. So who can we tell? EACH OTHER!

I went out to dinner the other night with the boyfriend and another couple. The discussion was had via email before we went regarding alcohol consumption and whether or not it was kosher for them to drink some wine at the table. I told them to do what they wanted to do and that I was fine either way. And I was. They got their wine and I got my club soda and we ate delicious food. There was nothing awkward about the beverages on the table. There WAS however some awkwardness on my part in terms of not feeling open and connected to the conversation being had. I felt pressured and cornered and had a hard time finding things to say. I think it was because they are friends that I’m not particularly close to and don’t see very often. They are LOVELY people, but there just isn’t a familiarity that makes me easy going around them yet. An amazing thing did happen, though. I suddenly became extremely aware of the fact that I was feeling off. As the conversation progressed, I was able to internally dialogue with myself briefly. I accepted the fact that I was feeling shy and uncomfortable, I told myself that it would all be okay and to just relax. I reminded myself that there were no expectations being placed on me and that the people seated across from us just wanted to have a good time. RELAX. RELAX. RELAX. And I did. I left that dinner feeling stronger and more prepared for future situations that would be similar. Like the musclemen, I wanted to GRUNT LOUDLY and let everyone in Williamsburg know that I just did something HARD. I ATE FUCKING DINNER WITH PEOPLE AND TALKED. And it is hard. No one gets that. But you do.

I recently spoke about my concern that I was declining invites and backing out of things due to the fact that I was simply afraid of feeling uncomfortable. And for me and my sobriety, that’s exactly what I was doing. It’s important to know your own boundaries and it is completely acceptable to avoid situations to maintain a level of serenity in the beginning where you are able to work through things. But I was becoming complacent in my solitude and realized that my sober social muscles would never grow stronger without experience. So I started accepting invites in moderation. And things are getting easier and easier.

I’m not at all advocating for any one person to force themselves into situations they are not comfortable with. You have to honor your own needs and take this at your own pace, I think. But I recognized that my refusal to reinsert myself into the lives of those who care about me was no longer about protecting my own sobriety. It was about an unconscious tendency I have to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Isolation was what I had grown accustomed to over the past 6.5 years and I was doing it in sobriety as well. So I made a conscious choice to start lifting the weights. Gradually and slowly. Easy does it. And it feels really good.

24 comments

  1. That’s a really good analogy. I must remember that. I am very early in my sobriety – taking on my third week – but I also have found myself being more comfortable with just myself and avoiding social situations. I think I still need to do that for a little while, but not for a long while. I need to build my sober muscles a tiny bit at a time. I’m proud of you, and I’m proud of me! Keep going!

  2. Great Post. I am on Day 3 and I am terrified I am going to be a boring person now when I am out with friends. Or, that I am going to have no social life because I wont be able to participate in the same activities. Thanks for making it clear that it all IS possible.

  3. Those sober muscles get stronger with time! I remember declining a few things especially that first year because you have to protect your sober self with the strongest of will & courage that you have..so glad you posted because I missed the chuckles. Hang loose my friends! The hardest part is over 🙂

  4. I know where your coming from on this subject. It’s so easy just to isolate your self and stay at home. Shopping on line, communicating on line and not having to face people because without the old bevvy I’m a very shy guy. well into my 6th year dry and I’ve enrolled into collage just to start meeting people again. About time I hear you say and I couldn’t agree more. Although dry it’s not living so I have to overcome my shyness and meet people. Each time I read something by person or person’s who have been there I gain that bit more strength. Just for that I thank you. I’m so pleased I enrolled into college and not the local Gym lol. All the best from Tony Toeknee2sticks

    1. Hi! Actually, this post you are commenting on is Sept 23. So it has been 12 days. But who is counting?? Yes, super busy and I plan to post soon. This has had to temporarily take a back seat due to other obligations. Still sober! Also, why does your name link to Jean’s blog, Unpickled?

      1. Whew! I was getting worried. 🙂 Glad you are busy AND sober. I had a rough patch at 145 days. It took all I had to hold it together. Not sure what the trigger was but I was craving like crazy. Made it through though.

  5. Hey SYHO, we all miss ya buddy.. not meant to be annoying just looking forward to lol’ing again…which is so ridiculously overused in every way.

    But I can honestly say you have that David Sedaris quality that makes me Laugh Out Loud and thatsaysakes quite a bit.

    Busy is good, I know youll get through it ok, Remember were all here for ya. Be Well and TGIF!!!!!!!

  6. I love this post….like all of your posts. I wish we could get giant muscles without having to do all the heavy lifting but it just doesn’t work that way, does it? Pretty exciting though, when we begin to feel the rewards of our hard work and things begin to feel lighter and lighter. Thinking of you. xoxo

  7. Hey, just checking in I hope you’re well and I don’t mean to be a pain the ass but it’s been a month since you postef and nearly 3 weeks since you’ve responded, I don’t intend to annoy or imply but I check daily for something.. If your truly that busy I understand but maybe just a quick shout out? We’ve all been where you were, throughout and currently are now. If your crazy with work we get it but… You don’t have to write a masterpiece, it doesn’t have to be witty, inspiring and full of honesty… You don’t have to produce is what I’m getting at. You owe nothing to us nor we you but I just want you to know I’m still here and I’d guess a bunch of others too… Where’d you go? Are you coming back?

    With respect and all the best
    ~Keith

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