One of the Gang
Deciding to get help with addiction often begins as a thought kept to oneself. I wrestled internally with the idea for far too long, always deciding against sobriety for fear of losing status with the gang of friends I had accumulated. I perceived myself as the glue that kept things going, and the drinks flowing. I simply would not allow myself the courage needed to chance everything, break away from the party and get my life in order.
Part of the problem with alcoholic thinking is that pesky thing known as grandiosity. I had convinced myself that my presence in my drinking friend’s lives had far more significance than it did. We who drink truly love the camaraderie that the booze helps deliver. I think we have some level of social anxiety which is alleviated by the very thing that leads us back to isolation; alcohol. Truth is; people don’t think about us much. We are forgotten as quickly as we leave their sight. The party goes on without us, and nobody misses our presence for long. That is the way of the drinker; we are all in if for ourselves, even as a group.
The fear of being excluded from the group is as primal as fear itself. Inclusion is imperative for health and well being. Few among us have thrived without some sort of community involvement. The romantic fantasy of the lone wolf who lives life on his or her terms and thrives in the wilderness is just that; a fantasy. People need people; it is as simple as that. We love to be seen, and heard, and know that we matter. Like it or not we need each other.
I learned that we do not need to drink together to be included. All we need to do to be part of something bigger than ourselves is to give ourselves the opportunity to connect with the people around us and to honestly commit to maintaining personal relationships. It is much harder to deal with those annoying other people than it is to drink them away, but far more worthwhile. One true thing about drinking: it always feels the same. Your relationship with booze is one of stagnation. After the first few encounters with the stuff there is no growth, no understanding, and no discovery, just the same old feeling of intoxication. There is no hope for anything new, for all it is, is a chemical that makes us feel better for a little while.
People on the other hand last, if we let them. They change, and we change with them. They surprise us, make us laugh, break our hearts and share this thing called life with us. Sure some people can do the same thing while having a few drinks, but we are not those people. We are the people who have learned that we have the strength to overcome whatever social anxieties ail us, and to embrace our lives without the aid of alcohol.
Drinking was simple; I did it every day, day after day for decades and nothing changed. Trading my addiction to alcohol for a connection with people created more than a simple life of sobriety. I now begin every day with a very real chance that something new, exhilarating and life affirming will happen. Some days it happens, some days it doesn’t, but that is not what is important. What matters is, I now have a chance.