A comment yesterday from “BetterWithoutBinging” asked the question that sparked today’s post: “How long does it take to get used to a new identity of being the non-drinker?”
How long does it take to get used to a new identity?
My husband proposed in 1988 on a mountain hike in Waterton National Park. It was a lovely moment, but my most vivid memory of that day is how the ring felt on my finger was we hiked out. It’s amazing I didn’t stumble and fall, because I kept holding up my hand to admire that modest but joyous symbol. I still love that ring, which has nested against the matching wedding band for over 25 years. Funny that this same ring I used to be so continually aware of is now often left by the sink after washing dishes. I usually find it the next morning and slip it back on, slightly surprised that I hadn’t realized it was missing. The ring is an extension of myself that I take for granted, beloved object that it is, yet at some point I stopped noticing it constantly.
In fact, many transitions in life feel foreign at first but eventually fit comfortably.
Most young girls feel both delighted and mortified when their breasts start developing, but eventually we all get used to having them (although with varying degrees of appreciation and acceptance). When I started driving I loved carrying my keys in my hand as a symbol of adulthood and independence. And as a young mom I felt silly giving the babysitter instructions when I felt like I barely knew how to get through the day myself. Even now, four months into my new title of “Grandma” I catch myself asking, “Is this okay for a grandma to wear? Should I stop dropping f-bombs now that I am a grandma? Should I start baking cookies now?”
Some people move so effortlessly through life. They don’t seem so self-aware or self-conscious. They manage to care about others without worrying what others think of them – a distinction I have a hard time conceiving of, never mind achieving.
I have a hunch this has something to do with my new friends co-dependency and narcissism. Until recently I believed that both of these labels could NEVER apply to me, but I was way off. Co-dependency boils down to valuing oneself only through others’ perceptions and narcissism can be a type of self-centeredness that assumes everything reflects back one’s worth. Narcissists usually partner with co-dependent types, and children that grow up in this delightful family dynamic often absorb qualities of both.
Simply put, our childhoods predispose some of us to looking outside of ourselves for a measure of our worth. Since the narcissist/codependent dance usually often involves addiction (hence the incorrect assumption that codependence = spouse of addict), kids who grow up learning these survival patterns may also inherit genetic susceptibility to alcoholism.
My layman’s understanding is that my hyperawareness of what others’ think of me makes it harder for me to easily adopt new identities. Pleasing others makes me feel safe, and to be a person in recovery means I have set new boundaries that might make others unhappy at times. They might judge me, mock me, or reject my new life, and this is very uncomfortable for a person who believes approval is worth.
How long does it take to get used to being the non-drinker?
That is a loaded question. I can’t help but notice the use of “THE non-drinker” instead of “A non-drinker”. To me this suggests a heightened awareness of what others think, and suggests that the question has been asked by someone (like myself) who cares too much what others think and is not asking how to get comfortable with oneself but rather how to adapt to the discomfort of others’ perceptions.
I guess it takes as long as it takes, which will be longer for some than for others. Once I started dealing with my perfectionism, people pleasing, and other outcomes from codependency and narcissism, (around 18 months sober), I began to feel much more comfortable around other people in social settings.