One of my first-ever posts was on sober holidays. That was six months ago, right when I began my blog.
While the notion of sober holidays hasn’t changed much - you guessed it - I’ve changed. I have more to say. That’s the thing about uninterrupted consciousness: it changes you. You don’t even have to ask it to.
For the first 21 years of my life, I never celebrated the Fourth. I first acknowledged it in 2015. That party began on the dock at a frat house and ended - well, I would assume it ended. I don’t remember that part.
The next year, I was sober. I looked back a bit mournfully at the year before, when surely I’d had the time of my life with a drink in hand. Before I’d given it all up.
Conveniently, I’d forgotten the fact that my drunk holiday wasn’t so seamless. I’d forgotten that I spent a few tortuous hours at home prior to heading to the dock. I nervously checked my phone, wondered if plans would fall through, wondered if I’d feel like a loser, wondered if I was irritating the host by asking questions. (Questions like where and when felt so distinctly uncool. Why couldn’t I just go with the flow?)
In short, when I reminisced about the drunk holiday, I’d forgotten that drunk Anna was still Anna. And rather than accepting those human issues like self-consciousness and social anxiety, loneliness and fear, I simply anesthetized myself against them. Those issues were front and center up until the drink set in, and they were present immediately once it was gone.
I told you I’d changed since I last wrote about sober holidays. I told you that consciousness always has something to teach me. And lately, it has taught me that even “bad” emotions are just energy. I didn’t come up with that; I heard it said in a Buddhist recovery meeting. The same energy that sometimes creates anger, for example, also creates vigor, intensity, joy. Things I love feeling.
When I first got sober, I felt I was owed a chemical-free antidote to feelings. I'll stop drinking, but only if you give me a good alternative. These days, I sometimes remember that consciousness doesn't need an alternative.
It’s been three and a half years without a drink, and I have not discovered the antidote to fear. I have learned, however, that my fear is forgivable. It is just energy. Sometimes, my fear is expressed as hiding, as isolation, as resentment. Other times, that same fearful energy looks like productivity, compassion, insight. Sometimes it makes way for a really good workout or a really raw blog post.
On this holiday, I pray that we are all a bit more willing to look at ourselves, that we have a bit more compassion for the whole picture - whatever we see.
Are you worried about the sober holiday? Do you fear who you will be in the absence of alcohol? Are you afraid of being too much or too little? Too overwhelmed or too bored? Too lonely at home, or too lonely in the crowd?
The measure of healthy sobriety is not whether the bad feelings have gone away. I doubt there is a single measure, but I know that acceptance is often meaningful. Have you considered accepting your feelings today? Have you considered pulling up a chair for them?
I don't care what you do today - whether you make plans or cancel them, whether you show up late, leave early, or have nowhere to go. If you do it with a clear mind, that’s already enough. Let this Independence Day mark your independence from alcohol.