So, This is What “Comfort in Your Own Skin” Looks Like

If you get 2000 sales people in a single room and mix in cocktails, football, and music, then the noise level in the room is bound to become significant. To be fair, this is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be a social event. But to a person like me it quickly becomes unbearable. In the past, these events were the perfect excuse to get good and numb.

Cocktail parties are a professional hazard in my line of work. They are somewhat unavoidable. As a sober person who is also an introvert, they are incredibly draining. Not only are there too many people, not only are most of them drinking to excess, but the noise level is just plain overwhelming. I am someone who quickly goes into sensory overload in situations like these.

In addition to being surrounded by drinks, bored with idle chit-chat, and generally overwhelmed, I have difficulty hearing individual conversations in a crowded noisy room. I can be standing right next to someone and not hear a word of what they are saying over the din of the room. I’ve been told that it is a specific kind of hearing impairment that cannot be corrected — I just have to live with it. As you might imagine, this is incredibly frustrating.

I’m in Orlando, FL for my company’s sales kick off and the next 72 hours will be filled with many events like the one I just described. Even when there is no booze involved, meals are crowded, filled with chit-chat, and noise. I don’t have a car here, so escaping to meetings is more challenging that normal. We’re at a resort, so everything is self contained. Everything is planned for us, including our meals. It’s not comfortable, but it’s bearable.

These events drove me insane before. Even last year, when I was newly sober, they were incredibly challenging. At the time, I was still not comfortable with who I was becoming. I was afraid that people would notice that I wasn’t drinking — and some did. I didn’t know how to cope with these events and so I spent as little time at the social events as I could and hid in my room. It was not fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I still find the events challenging, but over the past year, I’ve learned how to deal with things differently. I’ve learned that it’s okay to order a coke rather than a beer. I’ve learned that the only people who care that I am not drinking are the people who might benefit from investigating their own relationship with alcohol. I’ve also noticed that many, many others either aren’t drinking at these events, or are drinking in a way that I never could — having one and then switching to non-alcoholic drinks for example.

I’ve also learned, that when I’ve had enough, I can simply say good night to a few of the people to whom I’m close, slip out, and retreat to the comfort of my room. No one cares, and I’m better for it.

Last Friday night, the topic at a meeting was “what are you going to do this weekend to stay sober?” There were many people who publicly said that they’d do what they always do — pray, go to meetings, read literature, call their sponsor. All of these are great ideas and I practice all of them with regularity. But as I sat there, I was thinking about the fact that I had this trip ahead of me and that there would be a lot that was out of my control.

As I sat there and listened, I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t be making many meetings in the next week and so I needed strategies to stay connected to my recovery. Connection with people, in and out of the rooms, is so important for me in my recovery. My disease wants me to isolate. It wants me to feel lonely. I’m really good at isolation. Really good at lonely.

Saturday morning, I met two friends from my Twitter #RecoveryPosse for breakfast. We had a great time catching up and talking about our lives as well as sharing stories about how things had changed for us in the last year, in particular as a result of our activities online in the sober community. One of us shared how he’d been sober for 7 years before starting to tweet and to blog and that he’d been much more alone than he is now.

We are blessed to be living in a time when we can carry a meeting in our pockets. I’ve got a phone with me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it can keep me connected to my recovery in many ways. Sometimes a simple tweet is all it takes. Sometimes it’s a text or a phone call.

Meetings are incredibly important, but they are not the be-all and end-all of connection in my recovery. I’m thankful that I’ve learned to reach out when I need help, and to be there to help others when they need my help. Still, I’m looking forward to getting home later this week, and going to a familiar meeting.

With all that said, I’m also much more comfortable in my own skin these days, and I don’t feel the least bit awkward without a drink in my hand at these company events, nor do I feel guilty about excusing myself at a reasonable hour and snuggling up in my hotel bed with my Kindle or my Intapaper app.

11 responses to “So, This is What “Comfort in Your Own Skin” Looks Like”

  1. Wow…being comfortable in your own skin IS a miracle. Yay you! AND…I too have what’s called mid-range hearing loss…I can’t distinguish voices well when there’s a ton of other mid-range noises that drown them out…like music or other people talking….Anyhow, I hope you get to enjoy your trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is fantastic, Damien. I can relate to so much of this. In my first year of sobriety, I too went to a resort. Part of me was bummed out that I couldn’t take advantage of the free-for-all bars. But I knew that those days were over. They still are. There is no turning the clock back on that.

    As far as the parties, etc. I guess I am lucky in that I don’t have to worry about work functions and things like that. Frankly, I am rarely put in a situation when people are boozing it up and all that. Having said that, I can understand those feelings you mention. I am introverted too, and would rather just slink out and read that book, etc.

    I think what you talk about re: connections makes total sense to me. Reading posts like this, talking to you guys (either through blogs, twitter, phone, etc.) keeps me connected, and I think that is why I have had no inclination to go to a meeting since last April. I think if I didn’t have the recovery posse about, I would certainly have the pull to go to meetings.

    Thanks for this post, Damien – wonderful stuff!


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your post gave me flashbacks! I lived in Orlando for over 20 years, so am very familiar with that resort/steel band/drink all you can fake atmosphere. I so feel for you. I also have the hearing and sensory overload thing going on, and that’s why drinking is such a big part of those events. Nobody sober wants to stand around with blasting music and try to make conversation with people they don’t know. Ugh!

    There are a lot of lakes around there that are quiet and that you can walk around. Maybe you can escape for an hour here and there. So glad you are hanging in there!


    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was glad to read this post Damien. If you ever need an excuse for the cranberry juice in your glass, I use “I’m allergic” quite often and it really works quite well. If pressed, I just add that my liver can’t take it like a normal person, so it’s drink and die or abstain. I’ve never had a comment after that.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. This was an interesting post, I recognised many of my own traits in this. I can relate on the introversion, the social overwhelm and the inability to hear speech in busy environments – I also struggle to use my mobile in a loud place. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So proud to be mentioned in your post, sir!

    That feeling is amazing. You describe it so well. It is so new to me, too. It makes me realize I never felt that way before in my life, comfortable.

    Enjoy your FLA trip and catch you back in MD…Super Bowl? Conference Championship viewing?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. HI Damien!!
    I am hearing impaired big time, and have been for many years.
    I have a cochlear implant in one ear, which helps, but not in a noisy place,
    The other ear can’t hear much and a hearing aid will not help.
    So I get the hearing stuff!!
    I am much more comfortable not drinking at a boozy affair. I too have noticed how many people don’t drink or have one and then switch.
    I tried to do that. Ha.
    I am also glad you are more comfortable in your own skin.
    I am still learning that one!
    PS- Go Packers!!!


  8. So enjoyed your post. It brought back a memory of mine that I had tucked away for a while. The first party my husband and I attended in new sobriety required me to leave for a while to pick up one of our children, When I came back an hour later I walked into what seemed like a completely different party than the one I had left. Loud and confusing with a lot of “drunkalogue’ going on. I was shocked and schooled at the same time because had I been drinking I would have been right in the middle of it. I have left many times when I’ve had enough and I blogged for years at Nomoremerlot. It was an awesome way to “carry a meeting” in your pocket. You are definitely comfortable in your own skin, and that’s an awesome place to come to!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This post has helped me to process some of the behaviors i observe with my husband newly sober…he can be quiet and yes appears to be getting used to his new sober skin, not always comfortable in it. It is getting better and we are connecting more and more but it can still be tough. Thank you for this perspective, it has given me a better understanding of what he may be going through. All the best Damien!

    Liked by 1 person

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