Here’s the bad news: no matter how long you’ve been sober for, you’re still going to end up in situations where you want to reach for a bottle.
Here’s the good news: you can walk away. These moments don’t have to end with drinking away your discomfort.
Every time I’ve ever wanted to break my 21-month streak of sobriety, it’s never once been about ‘just wanting a drink’. Thank god for Ruby Warrington for teaching me to get interested, instead of judgemental, when an urge hits me like a bolt of lightning (in her bestseller Sober Curious). I have always managed to investigate where the urge came from, and every time I’ve found that the origin isn’t innocent at all.
In my first year of sobriety, I was hit with an all-consuming desire to drink several times while travelling the East Coast of Australia. I was constantly surrounded by backpackers enhancing their adventures with drinking and drugs. I was only about a month into my travels on Frasier Island, which is known for dingos, amazing views of the stars, 4x4s driving down the beach and insane parties. I was on a group tour with a bunch of other backpackers, and the island doesn’t have almost any phone reception.
So we arrived and the first night something inside me was triggered. The avalanche of urges I had been dismissing at every stop along the coast so far slid into me all at once, and it was all of a sudden UN fucking BEARABLE. I panicked. I walked off from the party happening at the main camp to go find a shred of privacy and a place to sit to try to sort my shit out.
My phone was a useless brick and I couldn’t reach out to anyone. I was so embarassed and felt so isolated. I found a hammock, opened a note on my iPhone and started writing a letter to my best friend while crying uncontrollably.
This is it. It’s ugly. It’s raw. It’s one of the most honest things I think I’ve ever put on the internet.
As my friend Sarah says, this letter is me trying to “ride the wave.”
I’m having a fucking breakdown for the first time on this trip on Fraser Island where I have no cell reception and basically have to walk into the bush to get some privacy.
I don’t know what triggered this but I guess I’m writing you because I hope it helps me figure it out.
I think the thing that really made me burst into tears, and the straw that broke the camels back, is that I want a drink. I want a drink so fucking badly I could scream. It’s almost been a year and I still have these moments and it feels hard to believe, but I do. I want to run down to the beach and scream into the waves but we’re not allowed to travel alone because of the fucking dingos attacking people at night (typing that almost made me laugh). I hate that this is the only time I want alcohol – when I’m so uncomfortable in my own head I want OUT. I just want to turn down the volume on my thoughts for like, one day. But I can’t and I feel so trapped.
It started with feeling ugly compared to the other girls in my group. Then the girl I was supposed to share a tent with didn’t want to sleep with me anymore, then the fact that on top of all of this I need to drag myself to this group social outing and act like the ducking life of the party, sober, and I don’t want to talk to anyone.
I’m being a drama queen and I know right now I’m having a really shit attitude because they people in my car on this tour really are lovely but I just am having a day where being around alcohol feels unbearable. And I hate that. I hate that I can’t be like everyone else and just drink to ease the discomfort.
I miss home. I miss having people who understand me. I miss not having to explain myself constantly, and dealing with everyone’s assumptions about me (both that they say to my face and don’t).
I also can’t blame the alcohol. I’m being a bit of a sop.
I should be having the time of my life and today I just can’t help but be so negative. I don’t know when it happened in the day, but it makes me want to roll over and hide. Run away.
I was going to go take a shower to rinse the sand off and I saw some gorgeous girl putting makeup on in the bathroom and I literally just turned around and walked out thinking ‘what’s the point of trying to clean myself up?’
And what is the point? Of me coming here? I wanted to grow and I wanted to learn to take myself less seriously so I guess this is where I’m being tested.
What I need right now, more than anything, and I think you’d maybe say this to me too…is to a) breathe and b) realize that what’s happening in my head has turned hostile and it’s time to get outta there.
Which is why I’m writing you, right now.
Because sometimes you only realize how shitty you’re being to yourself once you write it down.
I’m gonna give myself a pep talk, wipe my tears and imagine you’re here with me looking me in the face and telling me I’ve got this.Reggie
All of the above was hiding under the urge to drink.
Looking back at the East Coast, I was trying to prove myself when I never needed to. I was trying to avoid being the black sheep. I wasn’t asking myself if these were even a parties I wanted to attend anymore or people I really wanted to please.
I like to learn lessons the hard way (apparently) so I can write about them on here for strangers on the internet to read. In fact, I wrote another blog post along the same lines if you want a bit more of about how powerful personal beliefs are.
So if you can manage to turn down the drink you really wanna down, maybe you’ll find what’s really festering below.