What is the biggest trigger, the biggest threat to our sobriety, especially in the early days?
I suspect it’s the same for many of us: the fear of not fitting in socially. The fear of being so awkward that we’ll explode. The fear that our awkwardness feels so tangible that we wear it like a giant clown mask and giant clown hands for all to see. The fear of THE FEAR, and frustration of knowing that, honestly, a drink or two WOULD switch off the fear and remove the clown hands and the clown mask. Oh, and did I forget mention the clown feet? It’ll remove those too.
Today, at 18 months sober, I am on my way to what would have been the biggest trigger situation a year ago: a reunion in my university city, an epic concert and night out with friends from Music College. Friends that only knew a super fun party girl, out all night, singing in church choir at 8.30am on Sundays, then straight to the pub to start again (for those were the days when it was still fun, when I was invincible, before drinking turned dark, although I see now that darkness was always its destination). This city is the birthplace of my addiction. These friends unwittingly nurtured my drinking. Many of them are, I strongly suspect, problem drinkers themselves.
But I am not triggered. Even though I moved house yesterday (another huge prior trigger). I feel anxiety deep in my belly, but I’m ok with it. “Hello, old friend, here we are together,” I say to it. I breathe into the feeling and let it be. I think it’s partly just excitement. I also feel a deep sense of openness, of curiosity, to see what a sober night will be like with these old friends. At this point in my sobriety I can recognise that there’s only one person I deeply care about spending time with there, an older friend, my “uni days surrogate mummy”, who I’ll be staying with. I’m looking forward to seeing a few others too, but I know I’m truly just travelling all this way to see her.
Yes, excitement. What is it about sitting in solitude on a railway platform early in the morning? I love it. And I can’t wait to see my friend.