I’m in the middle (ok, Day 24) of a month of being sober. Not sober because I have a drinking problem; sober because I noticed a slight pattern start to emerge on difficult evenings with my child and I wanted to get to the bottom of what was bugging me.
When things felt like they got intolerable and I didn’t have any tools (or energy) left to make them more tolerable, I’d pour a drink. Unfortunately, what was intended to make things smoother only resulted in me feeling exponentially less tolerant the next time a difficult evening rolled around. Not effective.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because I was out walking in the woods today and feeling a lot of intensity around my emotions and what’s what in my world. And it occurred to me that I was grateful for not drinking because if that were not the case, I would be drinking a beer and not walking in the woods feeling my feelings (and subsequently getting clear about what I wanted to do about them.)
As I was saying a quiet appreciation for not being at the local pub, I was reminded of my married days, and how I avoided so many conversations with my ex by drinking.
Only, the problems weren’t avoided.
They just got pushed down.
And, as a result, they got so much bigger than they needed to be.
And, I also didn’t really get to know who I truly was in the presence of the man I decided to marry. I shoved that aside in favor of a margarita and comfortability and doing things the way I thought they were done.
But who doesn’t love a good margarita (especially if there are chips and guacamole around)!?
This is not a rant on alcohol. Trust me, I would never speak poorly of something I’m so fond of. It is, however, an invitation to notice what role alcohol has in your relationships, romantic and otherwise.
And, more important than noticing the role it has, I want to draw your attention to what happens in the absence of alcohol.
Is hanging with your girlfriends not as fun anymore?
Is it more difficult to be alone in the evenings without a glass of wine?
Do you get more agitated around family members?
While it’s not always used specifically to avoid, alcohol inherently allows us to avoid. We get a little bit numb, and don’t have to feel quite so much. We can use it to distract ourselves from what’s really happening on the inside because it gets all mixed up with that pleasurable buzz.
What’s the thing that would be harder to ignore if you didn’t have a way out?
If I had answered that question in my twenties, this list would have been really long. My discomfort with my own desire for sex, my discomfort with someone else’s desire for sex, my inability to say what I wanted or what was bothering me, my fear of not being fun or being too uptight, my desire to be liked, on and on and on.
If I had answered that question in my thirties, it would have shifted a little. My need for love and my inability to really let it in, my fear of not being enough, my fear that I was always being judged, having to admit how tired I was and that I needed help, and having to admit that I didn’t have it figured out one little bit. And, whether or not I was worthy of having the life that I wanted.
Now, answering that question in my forties, the answers have shifted even more. I don’t always fit in with people and sometimes it’s hard to be graceful about that, I sometimes get mad at myself for being human, and currently, there’s something about my relationship with my kiddo that needs some attention.
I think there’s always going to be something on that list of what I could avoid, and I can be ok with that. The real lesson for me, though, is that ignoring any of it makes it all worse.
The subversive message of avoidance.
Avoidance can be such a double-edged sword.
You escape an uncomfortable situation: hooray!
But now you feel like shit because you didn’t tell that guy how mad you are: booooooo!
So, while the instant gratification of not having to address something is a relief, it sends a deeper message to us internally:
Your feelings don’t matter enough to bring them up.
You’re always overreacting and overemotional.
You’re not deserving of sharing what’s going on for you on the inside.
Betcha never thought that avoiding something could create so much wreckage, huh? Let’s not stick around long enough to find out!
What’s something in your life that you turn to when you’re not wanting to deal with how you’re feeling about what’s in front of you? Booze? Cigarettes? Ice cream? Social media? Tell me in the comments what your avoidance vice is, and then set yourself up with a little game to see if you can break the habit for a few days. See what comes up. What do you notice about how you feel? I can’t wait to hear what you find.