What have you outgrown?

By: Laura McWilliams, Industry Health

Realizing what I had outgrown was a huge part of my self discovery in sobriety. I realized that so much of my behavior was related to either drinking or hiding my drinking. I lived in places where I would be able to drink openly and freely. I dated men who drank heavily and who didn’t care how much I drank. I worked at jobs that I could do hungover. I ate what I could eat on the stomach I had that day. I exercised in order to cure my hangover and stave off the beer belly. I scheduled things on my days off after a certain hour in the morning so that I could drink the night before. I scheduled my evenings around wine.

When I took drinking out of the equation, all of a sudden my entire life was up for re evaluation. How many of the things I did in my life was I doing because I truly enjoyed them and wanted to do them and how many were byproducts of problem drinking? Did I really want to hang out with the people I hung out with? Was I working in an industry that I wanted to work in? Holy shit! Everything was on the chopping block. Big changes were possible, and they were coming.

The biggest change I made right away was shedding the need to go out all the time. When I was drinking, I would go out to be around people and raise the price of booze- both of these things helped me drink less. It was my alone at home evenings when my behavior could get scary. But I love being at home alone. It is one of my favorite activities. I have reclaimed it now. I am safe at home alone. I started going out much less. People told me often right at the beginning that it was dangerous to isolate- don’t isolate yourself!- but I loved it, I reveled in it. It was so liberating to be in charge of my time and in charge of my behavior. I couldn’t get enough! A nice quiet afternoon of reading and napping and watching a movie would have been unheard of before, now it is my go to day off routine.

Another activity I seem to have grown out of is live music. I have always been a huge fan of going to shows, I have been to see hundreds of concerts in my time. Up until very recently, I would have listed it as my number one favorite activity. It was a big part of my identity. But you know what? Standing in a crowd of people who are drinking isn’t really fun anymore. I have developed personal space issues that I never had before. I find it super annoying and distracting when people bump into you over and over. And spill drinks on you and talk through the show and take videos with their phones and dance in annoying ways. Like, I can’t enjoy shows the same way I used to. I have lost my blur bubble. And I seriously cannot stay up that late.

The scariest realization was that I have been working in a career that I may not be the best suited for. I was very excited at first when I quit drinking because I knew that my job performance was going to skyrocket. I always knew in the back of my mind that I could do better- I was already super good at baking and very creative, but imagine what I could do if I wasn’t so hungover! My job did get better, everything did. But I came to see that I could do better. Working in restaurants is very easy and enabling. The lifestyle is all set up for addictions. People in the industry are often there because they can’t work anywhere else. I was, for sure, for a lot of years. But not anymore. I am very smart. And good at a lot of things. My potential to have gone to college and gotten a smarty pants degree and be working at a smarty pants job was there. I made different choices, of course, but now I have the option to revisit those choices. I want to work for myself, and now I can. I want to help people and be in charge and wear nice clothes and actually make a grown up income. And now I can. Leaving the industry is scary and hard and seems like it will never happen fast enough, but I will get there. There is a whole world out there, one that doesn’t revolve around food. I look forward to living in that world.

The last big change for me was with the men I chose to have in my life. I no longer needed to fill a space with whatever egotistical asshole I could get my hands on. I was no longer willing to put up with being a second choice or feeling unwanted. I realized my worth, and gained the ability to be alone- a powerful combination. I didn’t need anyone to make me feel whole. I didn’t need someone to take care of, I was taking care of myself. By changing my lifestyle in such a drastic way, I was able to attract men living that same lifestyle. I had never been satisfied with the men who wanted me in the past, they were losers, drinkers, smokers, guys who hung out at bars, guys who were out of shape or worked at low level jobs. But that was me too. It sucked to realize that why I wasn’t attracting the quality humans that I wanted was that I was attracting men who were just like me. In transforming, I also transformed the type of guy who I encountered on a daily basis, and therefore the possibility of a better type of relationship was there. I developed a hardcore crush on one of my yoga teachers and, although it took me almost a year to do anything about it, he is now my partner, my support, my love. I deserve it, and it feels good to know that. I earned this, I worked my ass off to get where I am. I put myself through some terrible relationships, I cringe to think about that poor girl who hated herself enough to have put up with that shit. But that is how I learn, I guess. Best to look forward, while appreciating the past for its lessons.

It’s important to take stock once in awhile. What parts of your life are you still holding onto that you have outgrown? What are you still doing that no longer serves you? It’s scary to let go and make change but that is how we make our lives better. I received an amazing lesson the other night from my wise friend Steve about letting go, he said: Think of a trapeze artist. They can do amazing, high flying tricks in the air. But in order to grab the other bar, you must first let go of the bar you are holding onto. And when you do, there is a period in the air where you are not holding onto either bar, a period of floating, untethered, unsafe, ungrounded. That leap of faith is necessary to get us to where we want to go. Even if you can’t see where you are headed, take the first step.