Today, a beautiful post in an online sobriety group caused me to look more closely at a trigger for drinking that I hadn’t really examined: Loneliness.
Although loneliness was a real catalyst for my Valentine’s Day commitment to myself, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to its connection to drinking. But honestly, I believe it was one of the primary drivers. The lack of true connection–having people around me who really know me, soul-deep, not skin-deep, has been tough. Prior to this year of self-discovery, I knew I was craving connection within my marriage, but hadn’t invested much energy into finding it outside of my marriage. And certainly hadn’t examined whether I was trying to find it (or bury my desire for it) in a bottle.
7 years ago, I moved to NJ after marrying my husband, leaving family and close friends 400 miles behind. In my 20’s and early 30’s I’d lived in numerous places around the world and was content being independent and alone, but somehow this move was more difficult. Maybe because I expected my marriage to fulfill that need and when it didn’t, I was deeply disappointed.
There are many reasons why we struggle for connection: young twins, different work schedules, our own individual need for independence. But regardless of the reasons, marriage has not been a place of deep connection for either of us yet.
I’ve always taken awhile to make quality friends. Here in NJ, it’s taking longer than normal though, due to a long-distance commute to work (and coworkers being similarly distant), a suburban home in a development that is still turning over from original buyers at retirement age to younger families like our own, seasonal friends associated with our weekends at the beach who all go into hibernation in the winter, and well – just being a super busy working parent of little kids! These days, life doesn’t leave a lot of room for the type of investment a deep friendship requires.
So…evenings are usually me, alone after 8:30pm, which does not bode well for connection. Drinking was a reward for the hard work of the day, and a friend that helped me unplug and just be myself, pjs, doritos, crappy TV and all.
I didn’t realize that drinking was slowly distancing me from the world of connection, like a possessive boyfriend who chips away at your self-confidence and separates you from your family and friends. I would decline phone calls after a certain point in the evening because I knew I wasn’t sober enough and worried it would be obvious. I wouldn’t accept invitations to go out with friends because it cramped my drinking. Friday night book club? Out of the question. I mean seriously, who goes out to a BOOK CLUB on Friday night? Friday nights are for getting smashed! Right? I’d even leave parties early so I could go home and drink/smoke the way I really wanted to.
Now that I’m not drinking, I have been packing those evenings with workouts, online activity and reading to offset the cravings… but not as much social activity, yet. I’m still figuring my new self out. It’s helpful to know though, that a better connection with others might be part of what I’m craving, not just the alcohol.