Make no bones about it. This is what getting sober is all about. When you quit drinking and commit to spending 100% of your time with a wide open (sober) brain, you are committing to feeling all the feels all the time.
What are all the feels? Oh just the charming emotions like sadness, anger, disappointment, frustration, boredom, annoyance, confusion, disgust, surprise, anxiety, guilt, shame, embarrassment (to name but a few).
Get used to them. There ain’t no escape.
This is what you have to be prepared for. No longer will you be someone who can blur away anger, or numb sadness, or smooth over boredom. There will be no taking the edge off a draining day with a wine or four, or gratefully receiving a beer after dealing with something stressful. Alcohol – the great legal drug that helps humans avoid emotions – has left your building. Quitting drinking means you are now unable to avoid the blunt edges of tough emotions. There is no more avoidance. Your escape route has gone.
I’ll be brutally honest. At first this is not a whole lot of fun. In the early days and weeks of recovery ‘feeling all the feels’ is like being on a furious rollercoaster. After I quit my heavy drinking habit I lurched from one emotional state to another like a crazy woman. One minute screaming at the kids, then crying for no apparent reason, feeling waves of awful hopeless, and often this horrible itchy boredom.
But slowly – very slowly – things calmed down. I got better at navigating my way through tough times. I became familiar with my anger and sadness and less reactive to them. I was able to stop myself from losing the plot at the drop of a hat.
I got used to feeling all the feels and slowly I left behind my numb, boozy, lush-like persona and morphed into a fully fledged human capable of navigating the full range of experiences.
And now – at nearly 6 years sober – I am so used to feeling all the feels I couldn’t imagine it any other way. And I’m ok with it! Incredibly, after being an emotion avoider for the 20+ years that I boozed, I now believe feeling all the feels is actually a really good and important thing to do. Tough emotions are there for a reason. We’re supposed to feel them. They don’t kill us, they actually protect us, connect us with our fellow humans and teach us things.
Every time I grind through a tough time and don’t drink I come out in a better state that I would have if I’d turned to wine throughout. I don’t feel confused about what occurred or unsure about how I felt. I know exactly how I felt and surprisingly this alone makes it a bit easier to get over. Know this: doing nothing but feeling all the feels makes tough phases easier to process and get over. And over time, the more that I do this, the more in touch with myself I become. It’s a very calming and affirming way to live.
I now know what frustrates me and what causes me stress. I know that my anger isn’t to be feared and my sadness isn’t to be avoided. I know that it’s normal to go up and down, to struggle at times and not to always be on some sort of artificial ‘high’. Living sober all the time and feeling all the feels has slowly turned me into a fully realised woman - grounded in myself and my emotions – and this is a very satisfying thing. It feels authentic and brave and very, very rewarding.
And this is the upside to feeling all the feels. You can’t selectively un-numb. In return for having to deal with tough emotions (which ultimately isn’t that bad because they’re there for a reason and it’s healthy to acknowledge them) we get to feel the good ones in all their glory too. All of the lovely positive emotions such as; bravery, satisfaction, joy, elation, pride, excitement, love, contentment, gratitude, hope, amusement, inspiration, awe, interest.
And boy are they good! When they come naturally and aren’t forced by a liquid drug, they are so sweet and satisfying. I’ve had joyful highs sober that have rivalled any chemical enhancement I’ve ever felt. I’ve felt intense love and connectedness that has made my breath catch in my throat. And I’ve experienced deep pride and satisfaction so comforting it’s felt life changing.
Booze will NEVER give me what sobriety has. Feeling all the feels is absolutely the best way to live and I’m so grateful to have discovered that fact.
Love, Mrs D xxx