Yesterday was what can best be described as a “grey day.”
You know the kind of day where you feel tired, tearful and moody?
The sky was grey and so was my mood. Things weren’t going my way: the internet was slow; I was trying to upload files and they wouldn’t upload; I was responding to every set-back with a toddler-like petulance that now makes me laugh at myself though at the time I would have been furious had anyone pointed out the comedy in my behaviour.
At one point, my partner and I were driving to a local electric shop to pick up a wifi “booster” and I felt about two years old. I was pouting and arguing with everything my partner said. The more soothing and reassuring he became, the more stroppy and contrary I became. I was literally curled up on the car seat, hugging my knees with my mouth in a pout and scowling furiously out the window, determined that nothing would go right for me.
There are lots of explanations for why I was feeling and behaving like this: I hadn’t slept well the night before – I was genuinely tired; my hormones had been doing some kind of frantic jig for some time; and I had work to do that I didn’t feel like doing – I wanted to take a break but couldn’t. And, my partner was being intolerably reasonable in the face of my ridiculous behaviour.
The reason I'm sharing this, despite the fact it paints me in a very unflattering light, is because it's important to know that we all have bad days, even when we’re sober.
Yes. I’m afraid it’s true.
Even those of us who have been sober for a while and don’t even think about drinking anymore experience the normal gamut of tricky and disturbing emotions. Bouts of low mood, anxiety, frustration, anger and impatience still occur. For me they occur a lot less frequently than when I was drinking, but they still appear occasionally.
A lot of blogs on life sober focus quite rightly on the gains and benefits that being sober brings us. This is natural as our lives improve dramatically when we have ditched what had become an unhealthy and damaging habit. We have more control over our lives and our decisions. We become more authentic. We learn to love ourselves if didn't already. We form better connections with other people. We have more energy. We sleep better. We're more productive. The list of benefits is endless. We want to be focusing on all the ways that living life sober frees us because we want to paint an inspiring picture of living life alcohol-free to help readers feel motivated to do it themselves.
But this enhanced experience of living also brings us feelings. We feel more. Whether they're good, bad or bland emotions, we get to experience more of them because we're not numbing out anymore.
Yesterday, I was surprised and struck by this unusual wave of negativity that I found myself struggling through and I want to share it and to reassure you that it's perfectly normal and okay to have a bad day. Uncomfortable and sometimes distressing but normal.
For me, even though it was a bad day, there were moments to be grateful for that I never would have had in my drinking days. For instance, we stopped at a café to have some lunch on the way home. The café was in the middle of a big park and there were lots of families and children coming in and out of the café, walking dogs, making a lot of noise and playing outside. When I was drinking, I would certainly have had a hangover as this was a Sunday. My anxiety levels would have been sky-high and my tolerance levels would have been low. I would have been trying to control waves of anxiety and panic, wanting to get out of the noise and chaos and would have been focusing on six o’clock and my first gin and tonic as my “rescue” and relief.
Instead, despite my stroppiness, I was able to enjoy the food in front of me, rather than panic about eating it, and I was able to enjoy watching the children’s antics as they played in the playground through the window. I was able to make conversation with an interesting old man with a twinkle in his eye and a library full of terrible jokes that were so bad they made us laugh. And I was able to banter with the manager of the café and get exactly the lunch I wanted even though it wasn’t on the menu.
None of this would have been possible when I was drinking. The lunch would have been a pressured and miserable experience that would have added to my already bad mood.
Because I was sober, I was also able to reflect and to recognise what was going on. I was able to make choices that helped me through, like deciding to have a quiet night in and to indulge myself in fiction and sugar.
Without drink in the equation, yes I was feeling tearful and frustrated, but I was feeling. I was engaging with the world around me and I was feeling my feelings even though they were negative. With drink I would have been running away from these feelings and using alcohol to make me feel better. Which, of course, would have made me feel worse the next day.
The point I'm making is that you need to expect to have some bad days. But bad days without drink are still better than bad days with drink. And you get over them quicker.
By the evening, I had surfed that wave of negativity and landed softly on the sand. I ended up lying contentedly on the sofa with a Magnum in one hand and the TV remote in the other. All was well. And, I got to get up with energy, positivity and motivation this morning and have hurdled over all my tasks and commitments with gusto.
Part of becoming sober is allowing yourself to feel all sorts of emotions, both happy and sad. The beauty of it is that, because you're sober, you have the control and brain power to figure out healthy ways of recognising them, handling them, sitting with them and letting them pass, managing them or simply enjoying them.
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