Why the mundane moments are the ones you should be most afraid of in sobriety


I was recently talking to a friend and mentor who’s also in my program of recovery for alcohol and drug addiction. She looked at me and said, “maintenance for people like us is so important and highly underrated. You go to a meeting or wherever and you eventually get and stay sober, and then one day, sometimes months but often years later, you’re enjoying a sunny Sunday watching football with the windows open and you find yourself with a beer in your hand.”

She went on to say this: “It’s never the important times that make us drink again. It’s not the Thanksgivings with our deplorable relatives or Christmases with our overbearing mothers. It’s not the birthdays or the anniversaries. It’s the mundane, boring moments we need to worry about. Those moments are when we’re off guard, taking it easy, maybe missing a meeting here and there and not praying so much. Those moments are the ones that will take us out and, in many cases, never return us.”

If you’ve been sober for any amount of time and then relapsed, chances are it happened on a mundane Sunday (or any day of the week) when you were least expecting to pick up a drink. It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to so many others that I personally know. I guess the real question here is: why does this happen? Why don’t we relapse when we’re stressed AF at a holiday party? Why don’t we drink when we’re crying in the closet after a wedding anniversary that ended in fighting rather than in love? Why don’t we swallow a pill when our kid throws a tantrum because he didn’t get the latest $700 Xbox for Christmas (but got other just as equally awesome toys)?

Here’s my theory: The big moments, the equal parts exciting and fearful moments, are the ones we prepare for. We often stock up on meetings, pray a few extra times a day, and talk to a sponsor, mentor, or close friend in preparation for the big day, whatever that day may be. We’re ready, we’re armed, and we sure as shit aren’t going to be caught with a drink in our hands no matter how many times aunt Karen asks when you’re going to finally, for the love of God, get married. 

The small, boring, inconsequential moments? We have no defense against them. We’ve let down our guard, not realizing that our disease, our addiction, our craving to drink is right around the corner. We tell ourselves we’re fine, we’re just having fun with the boys or girls, we haven’t drank in X months or years, what’s the big deal if I don’t pray today or reach out to sober friends or catch a meeting? What harm could come from hanging out around booze or drugs with a spirit that’s running on low from lack of recovery-related efforts? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, my friends, everything. 

My mentor concluded with a phrase I’ll never forget: “It’s better to call someone for help before you drink than when you’re in a jail cell.”

That jail cell can be whatever propelled you to get sober – a broken marriage, a lost job, a DUI, or the inability to face yourself in the mirror every morning. Once you’re in that cell, it’s so, so hard to get out.

Just make the call. And make it before the mundane moments in life lead you to drink. 

People who need help sometimes look a lot like people who don’t need help_

5 realizations I had when I stopped telling myself I wasn’t good enough

Fear is something that I truly believe compelled me to drink, use drugs, diet myself into oblivion, workout in excess, stay friends or in relationships with people who suck, and all kinds of other behaviors that weren’t great for me or my wellbeing. Fear is the thread that weaves its way through most of my life and links all of my worst behaviors and decisions together. 

Growing up, I was always afraid I wasn’t enough. I have no idea where this idea came from – most likely a combination of messages received from my parents and the media. I watched my mom hate her body since before I can remember, and I watched my dad live in the personal hell that is perfectionism for just as long. Both of these traits I inherited, and both sets of beliefs transferred into “you’ll never be enough” in my still-developing and very impressionable brain.

When I found alcohol, it was like I had been handed the magic elixir labeled “you are enough now.” The more I drank, the better I felt. The freer I was. The more power I had. The less I gave a f*ck about what anyone else thought. For a brief few, highly intoxicated hours, I was finally enough. And when you’ve spent your whole life living under the less-than rock, this is the most seductive and empowering feeling you can experience.

Unfortunately, alcohol abuse turned into alcohol addiction, and addiction is nothing if not fear in the form of a legitimate disease. Fear that you’ll have to be sober for an event if there isn’t enough alcohol. Fear that your spouse will find out you’ve been drinking again. Fear that your friends will know you have a problem. Fear you won’t be able to stop. Fear that when you do stop, you’re life will be over. The more alcohol I drank, the more fearful I became. Because I never really learned how to cope with my not-enoughisms. I just learned how to mask it. And when you mask something like that for years, it ain’t pretty when you finally lift off the veil. 

When I stopped drinking, I had to learn how to face my fear of not being enough in a big way. Because if I didn’t, I would drink again. It was as simple as that. I had found the cure to my problem, and then I had taken that cure away. The problem was still there, and it still hurt. I wanted more than anything to numb out and run from all the things I felt I wasn’t good enough at or for. But I didn’t. And here’s what I learned by toughing it out:

No one is judging you as critically as you judge yourself – This one is common sense, but for some reason is so hard to grasp on a gut level. Literally no one is holding you to a higher standard than you do, and no one is judging you to any degree that you judge yourself. Even your worst enemies are nicer in their judgments of you than you are. That’s not great for personal morale. Ease up on yourself, sis. You’re a pretty great person, and right now everyone can see that except you.

No one is perfect, and no one expects you to be – Look around the room. Is anyone you see perfect? Didn’t think so. Now go into a big crowd. How about there? Nope, still no perfect humans. What about that Instagram model who you believe in your core is the epitome of perfection? I guarantee she doesn’t look half as good without all those filters, and even if she does she still f*cks up on a regular basis. Just like every other human on this planet. Just like you. You’re not perfect, but here’s the kicker: You don’t have to be. And, no one is expecting you to be. So stop comparing yourself to an absolutely unrealistic standard. 

You’re already pretty good – When I was finally able to pause the “I’m not good enough” tape long enough to catch a breath and take in my surroundings, I realized that I was actually pretty good already. Sure, I had some bruises and regrets from drinking myself into oblivion for years, but other than that I discovered that I was actually a pretty decent human. Try to freeze your “I’m not good enough” thoughts for a few minutes and give yourself the chance to truly assess yourself at that moment. You’ll find you’re actually just fine and, compared to most people, you’re better than fine.

The life you’ve always wanted is right beyond the “I’m not good enough”s – I had lived by this mantra for so long that I didn’t realize there was another way of existing. But there is, and it’s so freaking awesome.

No feeling lasts forever, and most don’t last a day – This is true for many feelings but it’s especially true for fear. The more you sit with your fear and embrace it, the faster it goes away. But, if you deny it and drown it out with alcohol, the longer it lingers.