Even though I get on well with mum and dad and we have plenty in common, there are also aspects of their outlook and behaviour that are totally alien to me. Not only totally alien but eye-rollingly disagreeable. Spending time 24/7 with them is proving challenging at times.
In the past, I would have dealt with the stressful moments by numbing out with alcohol. Alcohol would have provided instant relief and would have given me a sense of relaxation, happiness and peace when I felt irritated or stressed. The problem was that I was hiding the stress under the alcohol and next day, not only would I have the original source of the stress to deal with but I’d also have the depression, anxiety and hangover on top. This would result in even higher levels of stress and a heightened dependence on alcohol the next evening to deal with it.
Being sober doesn’t mean you never experience stress. In fact, without alcohol you end up staying with any stress for longer because you’re not running away from it. But you ride through it and when you’re out the other side, you don’t have the hungover symptoms to contend with so you can get on with your life. You recover quicker.
So, for example, today has been a particularly stressful day in that the weather hasn’t been great and we’ve been stuck together inside for long stretches of time. I’ve been getting irritated with my mum’s endless polite questioning, faffing and worrying, to the point where I’ve had to work hard to not snap at her, I’ve pretended to smile and be interested in stuff I’m not interested in and I’ve had to walk out the room to get some space so I can breathe and re-set myself.
And, now I’ve ridden through the stressful moments, I’m drained and tired. I’ve managed to have a rant with my partner to get some frustration out, I’ve vented some energy and frustration on a high-intensity workout and I’ve laughed at some comedy to release any remaining pent up energy. I feel calm and relaxed and know that I will sleep well and feel fine in the morning.
All alcohol would have done would have been to disguise the frustration and stress. It wouldn’t have allowed me to feel the emotions and get through them. They would simply have been buried and might have come out in inappropriate ways when I was pissed or hungover. As it was, I felt some uncomfortable feelings, allowed them to pass and will wake up in the morning clear-headed and fresh.
What staying sober also does is allows you to figure things out logically and healthily. So, I’ve been able to work out what I need to do tomorrow to avoid getting to the high stress levels I got to today. If I’d been drinking, I wouldn’t have any strategies in place and would have felt ten times worse tomorrow.
Although staying sober might seem like the tougher option in the moment, it makes life so much easier in the long-run.
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