One of the most difficult facets of being sober has much less to do with not drinking, I've found, and more to do with taking responsibility for our emotions.
After almost six years of not drinking, the need to drink has subsided substantially. I rarely have moments where I found myself with an uncontrollable urge to wash away my fears and problems in life.
What I do find, however, is that I struggle with the very real need to be emotionally responsible. I have spent years learning how to contain the emotional outbursts and avoidance that I have lived with most of my life. And even with all the practices of being sober and living in a new life, it can sometimes take ONE emotional trigger to push me to behaviors that my drunk life afforded.
The one difference that I see now, however, is my ability to rectify these behaviors and be truly aware of those trigger points. Drinking for me was mostly about avoiding a lot of pain at life events that had transpired. Drinking allowed me a moment's reprieve from the clutter and noise that filled my emotional void. And getting as drunk as possible, my thinking was, allowed me to cry at those memories and hardships that I had never fully dealt with.
So, today, I take all of the aforementioned drinking behaviors and thought patterns and I work tirelessly on rectifying my emotional patterns. Not an easy task, especially since it's not the most comfortable place emotionally.
For instance, my reaction to someone who may be critical in the past would to IMMEDIATELY take it personally and lash out defensively. This is a tough one for me and I still have to stop and take a breathe before I react. One of the reasons I turned to drinking were my emotional insecurities. I had a difficult time regarding myself as anything but worthless, even if I did step through many impressive and worthy milestones in my life. Today, I am consistently working to understand that criticism isn't necessarily personal, it is essential to looking at a situation objectively and allowing another perspective to come through.
Another challenge I find is maintaining an even keel of emotion when things don't go as planned. The other night, I was lost in Albany and late for an event where I was scheduled to receive an award. I was driving with incomplete directions and my frustration level kept rising to the point that my significant other was getting uncomfortable with my grunts and tsks . Instead of getting frustrated at his reading of the incomplete directions, I had to stop for a moment and take responsibility for the fact that I had actually not printed out the correct pages. So, I pulled over, called the venue and the situation went from full Kim crisis mode to manageable.
But, these triggers and our ability to pinpoint the source of frustration, hurt or anger is perhaps one of the biggest challenges one faces in sobriety.
The one exercise I have learned is to list every single trigger that I have become painfully aware of in my journal. I have a page called "Triggers". It's a long long list that I review everyday....and every once in a while I succeed in keeping my emotional trap door shut when I feel it necessary.