Stress Testing Sobriety
After 5 years of sobriety, when my pillars of stability crumbled, all I wanted was a drink
This past year tested my sobriety unlike any before.
Abstinence proved itself a professor, my pillars of stability crumbled, and I crawled through dark crevices that I had hoped to never visit again.
The events that mark year 5 of my sobriety include the end of a 4-year relationship, a 1,400-mile move, and a risky career decision that did not unfold according to plan.
On top of those was a surprise diagnosis.
These events stress-tested my sobriety and killed any remaining trace of coward left in me.
Redirection not rejection
The end of our 4-year relationship caught me off guard. I had just walked through the front door. Home from dropping my parents off at the airport. Exhaling, now that I was no longer entertaining. Preparing a mental packing list for the following weekend at a friend’s wedding in Upstate New York.
Then, it happened. The conversation that changed the course of my life.
First came the shock. A denial that created a delusional optimism, which I used to overpromise and overcommit to relationship-saving changes that had never appealed to me before.
Then, embarrassment. Recognizing that I and every piece of me were being rejected by the person who knows us best. Every insecurity raced to return. Money, career, body, sex, how I kiss, my style, my food preferences — a torturous and vain self-examination that tried to pinpoint exactly what about me was wrong. I pulled my limbs back, hugging my knees onto the chair.
I felt foolish. How long has my partner been considering this? When did it stop being real? Who else knew? When their family visited, is this what they talked about on that walk? Unhelpful thoughts that led me to the final stage: anger.
It grew from a feeling of betrayal. Silently, I accused my partner of giving up — on both me and my potential. Angry, because all I heard was that we weren’t worth working on. That walking away was more appealing than any investment in us.