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.