(My dear friend, Belle, inspires me daily. She and I have never met in person, but we talk every day. She is a HUGE reason why sobriety sticks for me. This post was motivated by a conversation we had yesterday. Thank you, Belle. Thank you thank you thank you.)
I have always been not a leader, and not really a follower either. But definitely more follower than leader. Because leading can be scary. It means you have to put yourself out there. Be noticed. Fail, in front of people. I have always liked the beat of my own drummer, just not been brave enough to follow it most of the time. I suppose that makes me a follower. Dammit.
Being a follower is what led me to drinking in the first place. I vaguely remember standing outside somewhere passing around a two-liter of Sun Country wine cooler and feeling really uncomfortable but not courageous enough to turn it down. I must have been all of thirteen or fourteen years old. The group I wanted to fit in with were all getting wasted on the weekends, so I was too. How cool. And meaningful. Yeah, right.
Drinking is what made me a follower my whole life. I drank to fit in. It was the only common ground I had with so many people I wanted to be friends with. Booze is the great equalizer- if you're holding a glass of alcohol you're OK, you're one of us. The suspicious weird ones were the people who didn't drink. The ones people spoke of with disdain: "She doesn't even drink." That was not going to be me.
So I drank.
I became a lemming. The uber follower.
At least it started out that way. Towards and through my thirties I drank because I had to. Because it was part of my identity. Who was I without wine? Drinking was something I really, really knew how to do. And even though it made me miserable I was stuck back in that dark outside somewhere not daring enough to try another way.
So much of boozing is being one of the crowd. Trying not to stick out. Not dealing with the way it should be uncomfortable when you meet new people, or when you're in unfamiliar situations. Jumping on the bandwagon of "Jeez, I just need a drink"- which sounds so much more cosmopolitan than "Jeez, I just need to handle this consciously and I might need a minute." Instead blindly following the lemming. For years. Safely and sorrowfully one of the crowd.
Then I looked down and saw my floating device.
I don't have to go "in the drink". I have my handy life raft ring thing. I can be my leader. I can take me to myself. My sober I'm having lemming-ade self. I am my own in crowd. The un-lemming.