On February 11th, 2014, I woke up hung over, depressed, tired, emotionally bankrupt, and sick of being sick. I am beginning to realize that on that day, more than a year and a half ago, everything in my life changed.
I am still very much engulfed in a daily struggle to sort through all of these changes. It is apparent that this struggle will continue as these changes continue to evolve and insert themselves into my daily routine of living in this world, in a state of sobriety. Among the changes that occurred the day I decided to stop drinking include: The way I think, the way I sleep, the way I run, the way I ride a bike, the way I talk to women, the way I relate to my friends and family, the way I eat, the way I view money, the way I view politics, the way I view success, the way I drive, the way I relax, the way I entertain myself, the way I feel lonely, the way I feel sad, the way I cry, the way I feel happy, the way I work, the way I tolerate bullshit, the way I engage socially, the way I handle my introverted self, the way I feel and gain confidence, the way I read, the way I listen, the way I ask for advice, the way I race, the way I breathe, and the way that I sit still, among many other things.
I was 34 the day I got sober. The reason that is significant is because on that day I began the journey of unravelling 34 years of conditioning. That’s 34 years of doing things a certain way, my old way. Now that I’m 36 I’m finding myself still in the midst of a struggle to adapting to this new way of life. Alcohol wasn’t behind my methodology for everything I did, especially as a kid, it just served as a mask for dealing with the various challenges that I faced in life, and the attached baggage, that accumulated over time.
I find myself trying to explain to my non-alcoholic friends and family, on many an occasion, why I struggle with the things I do. Getting injured a few weeks ago was a good example of this as many people didn’t necessarily understand exactly where I was coming from when I tried to explain the root of my frustration. Lots of people in my life are not used to seeing me in this new frame of mind. They’re not used to seeing me seemingly down, withdrawn, calm, relaxed, in thought, or anti-social. It’s a change for them, and people generally don’t like change. So, something must be wrong then, right? And when they ask what is wrong it generally puts me in an even worse place, if I let it or if I’m not present, because I can’t quite explain how I’m feeling with accuracy to someone who doesn’t suffer from the same disease that I suffer from. In fact, someone I care for deeply asked me the other day what was “wrong” when I was just in a focused and thoughtful state of mind. I had to explain that nothing was wrong, that I was just in thought. See, this person was not used to seeing me in this state, they were used to seeing and experiencing the extroverted, gregarious, social, and out-going version of Spencer. I just can’t summon that version of me any longer in a prolonged state. It’s just too hard. This challenge will persist as I move forward, I just need to be ready to be okay with their reactions, and god forbid, their judgements. Sometimes it takes everything inside of me to not say to just “leave me alone.” Deep down, I know that if I did say that every time that I felt it, the path to loneliness, as I define it, would get shorter.
I understand that people are worried about me, care about me, and want me to be happy. I get that, I do. The trouble I have is that I am still trying to be okay with asking for space when I need it. I’d rather just disappear. That is also a change, because lately, I’ve needed a lot of space and time on my own. I need time, time to grow comfortable with all of these changes so that I can move forward to not only be good for the people around me, but to be good to myself. That’s a really hard adjustment for me. It’s terrifying in a sense because I don’t like to feel lonely, a state of mind that can come with the territory on occasion.
This whole process is ever-evolving. Once I feel like I am beginning to get traction in this new skin a new challenge presents itself to test my sense of being. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I know it! I’ve seen glimpses of it. At the end of the day I just try to sit back and respect the process, for this moment, this feeling that I have today, is based on the past and future, both of which are illusions. Get present Spence, get present.