Headshot of Jo smiling at the camera. Framed picture on wall in background. Jo is wearing a pale pink jumper.

Freedom from anxiety

I’ve had a brilliantly sociable sober week this week. I’ve met up with friends, had afternoon teas and I’ve been dancing with Stuart. And what’s struck me the most about this busy week of social action is the complete absence of anxiety.

A few days ago, I met up for the first time with a group of friends I’d been talking to online. We’d never met in person before but we knew we had lots in common and plenty to talk about so we’d arranged to meet up in a bar/restaurant for a pre-Christmas celebration. I found myself getting really excited about it. I had a 45 minute drive to get there and, as I was driving, I kept smiling to myself in anticipation. It was something I’d been looking forward to all week. I was so excited about it, I got there early and had to spend 30 minutes wandering around the shops, looking at the Christmas displays, and stopping myself from buying things.

I had been the first one to arrive and had happily sat reading my book until one by one, my friends arrived. We ordered teas and cakes and sat chatting, laughing and debating until we had to force ourselves to leave because we had traffic to get through and other commitments to go to. It was such a fun couple of hours that none of us really wanted to go home and we’ve arranged to meet up again in the new year.

This might not sound like anything out of the ordinary to some people but, when you’ve spent years of your life being plagued by anxiety attacks that have sucked the pleasure out of social events and turned them into ordeals that you have to fight to “get through”, it’s a good feeling when you notice that you no longer have them.

In my drinking days, this kind of social situation, or any event where I had to travel, any unusual event that wasn’t part of my normal routine, would have had me experiencing multiple anxiety attacks. I would have “needed” a drink to recover from the anxiety and panic my unhealthy relationship with alcohol was producing. Now I’m happily living my life sober, anxiety is no longer an issue – I didn’t even notice the absence of anxiety until I was driving home after the event thinking about how much I’d enjoyed it and how much I’d enjoyed the anticipation of it and I realised that all I’d felt was excitement and happiness – not a single anxious moment.

This freedom from anxiety and this ability to feel excitement and joy from a simple social gathering has only been possible because I stopped drinking and learnt how to enjoy alcohol-free living. Without alcohol getting in the way, I have been able to find alternative, healthier ways to deal with anxiety and now it’s no longer an issue.

It happened again when I went out to a dance with Stuart at the weekend. I found myself getting ready, doing my hair, choosing my clothes and singing to myself as I did it, a ball of excitement fizzing in my belly… the whole evening was amazing. We danced, we laughed, we enjoyed the music and I literally floated home on a cloud of happiness. I felt literally swept off my feet. None of this would have been possible in my drinking days. Not only would I have been beset by anxiety in advance which would have led me to need to drink to feel better but the drink would have become the main event for me and I wouldn’t have fully appreciated the dancing, the connection with Stuart, the music, the event itself. I wouldn’t have driven home on a high and I certainly wouldn’t have woken up smiling the next morning!

Fast forward to yesterday when I met up with colleagues from work for an afternoon tea which was our Christmas celebration. Again, all I felt was excitement. No nerves, no anxiety. I was fully present and engaged in the moment. The food, the conversation, the company, the beautifully decorated and cosy room we were sitting in – I was able to take it all in and appreciate it in ways that I just couldn’t do when alcohol and anxiety was running my life.

Sober living has added to my life in so many positive ways… but it has also taken away the negatives. Without anxiety, I’m free to enjoy all these pleasurable moments, not only in those moments but in anticipation of them too.

Sober living keeps on giving… what’s it giving you today?


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