Outside of the Comfort Zone

I have given myself a new job title: “Conference Queen.” 95% of the time, my job keeps me at a desk, chained to a computer. This month, I’m living the other 5% and spending each week in a different city, whoring out the company that writes me a cheque several times a month.

I’m naturally painfully shy, making it difficult to strike up conversations with complete strangers. Even more difficult is that my only reason for introducing myself is to give them a sales pitch (yuck!). Multiply that by several hundred conversations and that’s my entire experience at any conference.

That said, I’ve forced myself over the past few years to become the person who can man an exhibitor booth on a trade show floor and come out the other side with solid new leads. Hell, I’ve even gotten pretty fast at setting up and tearing down the booth on my own.

However, the one piece I’m having a hard time getting comfortable with is the after-hours networking. Every night is an event designed to outdo last year’s host. I’ve had dinner on a museum rooftop overlooking the nation’s capital, dinner at a historic fort, followed by a fireworks display that would rival most city’s Canada Day celebrations and a 70’s themed cocktail party at a war museum surrounded by dozens of tanks, planes and machinery that date back as far as the 1800’s.

The venues are always amazing and the alcohol is everywhere. It’s free, it’s abundant and it’s an opportunity for attendees to have a good time away from home. I don’t directly struggle with wanting to drink, however I do struggle with interacting with people as they slowly become pickled.

The jokes aren’t as funny to me as they are to everyone else. I’m not “in” on the inside jokes that inevitably come out between long-time co-workers as they become more and more drunk. I imagine a lot of people are uncomfortable around drunks, but as an alcoholic in recovery, there’s an added layer of discomfort.

So I politely excuse myself from attending the after-after-hours hospitality suites that flow free booze until 1am. And when I hear the rumours over breakfast of a broken elevator and vomit on a wall, I’m happy to have missed the “party.”

The setting for one night's cocktail party

The setting for one night’s cocktail party

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Scenery, Not Seen

Daily Prompt: Standout
When was the last time you really stood out in a crowd? Are you comfortable in that position, or do you wish you could fade into the woodwork?

I do not feel comfortable being the centre of attention.  What?  The bipolar, ADHD gal with anxiety who used and abused vodka as a social lubricant for two decades doesn’t like attention?  Weird!

For my job, I force myself to be more social at conferences.  Although my position is the furthest away from sales possible, I work for a small company, so it’s everyone’s job to develop new contacts.  When sitting at a table with industry peers I don’t know, it takes extraordinary effort for me to start up a conversation.

But!  I’m better at it today than I was yesterday.  It’s a daily effort to develop conversational skills when, for so many years, I isolated myself with alcohol.  I chose not to maintain existing friendships and I chose not to seek out new ones.  The same can be said for my relationship with my husband: I chose not to have a fun, social life with him.  For many years, we’ve lived together almost as roommates, eating dinner together in front of the tv, then retiring to separate areas of the house to engage in our own hobbies, alone.  For years, we’ve been living in a frat house.

But!  That is changing.  It’s a slow process requiring that daily effort, but we’re finding little things to do together that collectively make a big difference.

Whether it’s a work or family scenario, it’s an effort to be social because I so badly want to fade into the background.  Knowing that fading away is a lonely way to live, I challenge myself to live a more social life.  The more time that separates me from my active alcoholism, the easier it is.  It’s all part of a complete personal evolution.girl_hiding-300x196

Day 119: Recovery & Re-counting

Barbie Math is HardComplex mathematics has never been my strong-suit.  However I thought that I had a good grasp of basic counting.  1, 2, 3, carry on… Apparently I was wrong!  My sobriety count was off by a few days.  So here I am, on (legitimate) day 119.

I’ve been taking note mentally of some of the things I’ve been doing sober for the first time. Some are little things like going for a tan.  Some things are bigger.  Tonight I went to a bar.  Hubby recently joined a band and they did a short set tonight.  So I spent a couple of hours in a bar socializing with people that I’ve only met once before.

That scenario, for most people, is pretty innocuous: have a drink, chat with the band wives, get to know people.  For me, however, it’s fraught with potential pitfalls.  If I picture this scenario happening 4 months ago, I would have drank heavily before leaving the house (in “secret” because I was pretending to be sober).  I would have been very irritable with hubby before leaving the house, hoping to get out of even going because of the anxiety of spending time with people I don’t know – what the hell would I say to people?  I would end up going, but I’d be bitchy in the car ride over, sucking the fun out of the night for hubby.  And of course, there would be a water bottle filled with vodka in my purse and I’d excuse myself to the bathroom every half hour.

Such a miserable scenario.  Thankfully my head is a little clearer, 119 days in, and the night ended up being a lot of fun.  I was supportive of hubby, who thoroughly enjoyed himself, which is the most important piece of the night.  I even enjoyed chatting with one of the wives.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had friends and it was nice to have a small reminder of what it’s like to just chit-chat and get to know someone.

My take-away at the end of day 119 is that I want to be conscious of little snippets of life and how different they are to experience sober.  And that’s how I’ll get through this final half hour of day 119…

Day 97: Recovery and Reflections

I am exhausted.  On Day 90, I mused about my upcoming week and its built-in hurdles.  I wondered if it was my 90 day test: dinner and a concert with girlfriends I haven’t seen in 12 years, a 3 day out-of-town conference riddled with boozy evenings, a weekend sleepover with my young nephew, and a day of visiting with the in-laws.  Phew!  Just listing all of these things has me worn out, let alone living them in a span of just 6 days.

I am exhausted.  Although, there is a little flicker of enthusiasm deep within me because I made it through this past week without having a drink.  I’m even able to keep my self-loathing inner voice relatively quiet as I reflect on the past week and remember moments that triggered and what worked to move past.

One trigger came from my boss, which was surprising because I’ve recently had to confess my addiction to her.  We were at a cocktail event and she was drinking a gin and tonic, made with a local spirit that tastes quite different than the commonly used Beefeater.  She was trying to describe the flavour and said “well here, just try it” and she held her drink out to me.  I politely declined, quickly saying “thank you, but I don’t enjoy gin.”  It was an odd moment.

A couple of hours later, I was eating dinner with people I’d never met and I was filled with social anxiety.  That’s when I really wanted a drink.  I gave it serious thought: my boss would never know (and would she even care after our exchange earlier?), it would take the proverbial edge off and I’d magically be able to start selling the virtues of our company to anyone who listened (enter the delusional thinking).  I rode out the uncomfortable social anxiety and white knuckled it, eventually overcoming the delusional thinking with truthfulness: one drink would turn into many and any attempt to promote the company would come out as a slurring mash of words that would leave a less than professional impression.

I’m proud to be able to survey the past week and say that I did it all without alcohol.  Just a few months ago, that would have been unfathomable.  Hell, even just a week ago I wasn’t sure I could.  It’s satisfying to have these successful days tucked under my belt.  And that’s how I’ll get through Day 97.