No wasn’t an option when I was still drinking. I didn’t say no to another drink, I didn’t say no to going out, I didn’t say no to going out with people I had nothing in common with. I didn’t say no to some sketchy situations. I didn’t say no to DRUNK DRIVING!! (This is perhaps what I’m most embarrassed to admit.) Alcohol made me feel powerful and invincible. interesting and sophisticated. I could carry deep philosophical conversations about the universe as much as I could carry long conversations with top executives about closing multimillion-dollar loans. You may be familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies. I’m an obliger through and through. I want to people please. I shape shift and camouflage to be one with my surroundings. My inability to say no extended to areas of my life where alcohol wasn’t physically present. I couldn’t say no the greasy foods or to sitting on the couch for hours. I couldn’t say no to getting off social media. I couldn’t say no to spending money recklessly.
I couldn’t say no because I didn’t know what I was a yes for. I’ve been doing a lot of work lately in getting clear on my yes, my why. And huge changes are to come. Scary big changes that have my sobriety set as the foundation. And social situations in which alcohol is prevalent are helping me to practice my no. Saying no to alcohol has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Saying no is even harder after being REPEATEDLY asked if I want a drink or if “[I’m] sure” when I tell them no thank you. I can feel the discomfort from the other side and I want to fix it by giving in and making them happier. These scenarios have gotten easier only because I know what my yes is. My yes came unexpectedly after I downloaded a sobriety tracker app. It asks you during set up “What’s your reason?” And before I consciously thought of anything, my fingers typed “I want to feel alive.”
Having this be my yes makes not drinking easier. At work, after a pure shitshow of a night, we would joke about how our hangovers made us feel like death. I realized that at the core of my desire to feel alive is that I just wanted to FEEL. I had become so numb to most of my life. I used alcohol to numb out my overstimulation from work. I used alcohol to numb out dread for work. I used alcohol to have difficult conversations. I started to notice that by trying to numb out the undesired feelings, I was also numbing out the most desired ones. Because I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable in any given situation, I couldn’t feel comfortable in even the easiest of moments. Because I didn’t want to be sad, I rarely felt truly happy. What I place my attention on becomes my reality. I was focusing on all the things I didn’t want and wasn’t clear on what I do want. I want to live a full, rich life and it requires experiencing the full spectrum of my feelings. And to feel a dark feeling reminds me that I’ve experienced its counterpart light feeling. When I feel sad about the sudden loss of my beloved dog, I am reminded of how much I love her. And it’s because of my deep love for her that allows me to experience this despair. I am grateful for my despair. If I didn’t grieve her as much as I have, it would mean I didn’t love her as much as I do. I refuse to limit my love to try to prevent any feelings of grief or sorrow. I am a yes for feeling all the feelings.
When no wasn’t an option, my experience of life was dull. I systemically desensitized myself to everything with every drink I consumed. When no wasn’t an option, I felt lost and alone. When no wasn’t an option, I felt jealousy towards those who were doing the things I wanted to do. Now that no IS an option, I feel purposeful. Now that no IS an option, my relationships and experiences are more meaningful. Now that no IS an option, I feel like I’ve taken my power back.