For Laura, coming out as a non-drinker coincided with coming out in so many other ways. Read on and see why living a Naked Life has meant living an authentic life for Laura.
When I spontaneously sobered more than two years ago, I became perplexed as to why I don’t crave alcohol and am truly at peace with the idea of never drinking again. It happened seemingly overnight; with a courageous conversation, my bubble of lies burst and I began anew. I voiced a need to know my truth. Since then, I’ve struggled with separating the details of my coming out to my family and friends from the effects of my simultaneously quitting drinking. Remaining until recently quite unsure whether I truly stopped alcohol or really just stopped straight sex, the reason why I recklessly used alcohol.
Regardless, life is so much better being fully myself. Living with a mind and body free from self-destruction and not looking back. Reading This Naked Mind, especially chapters 10 and 13, brought so much clarity to a formerly mystifying aspect of my “new” life. A life free from faking happiness and deep self-loathing.
Before This Naked Mind, I had no idea why I no longer possess any desire to drink ever again or why my cessation correlated with my coming out as a lesbian? This freed me from 15+ years’ worth of pain from sexual self-abuse and brutal shame. From my now ex-husband’s drinking to moms’ nights out at wine bars to dating relationships with regular drinkers, so many factors surround me that “should” cause temptation. I continue to exhibit zero desire to partake in any alcohol consumption, which has stumped me every time. Reflecting on my last two years of sobriety, I’ve not only questioned my previous drinking habits but also whether my sudden success in stopping drinking once and for all could hold up forever.
Will This Last?
I’ve wondered – if stopping drinking is so hard for some, then why was it a breeze for me? Was I not addicted to regular binge sessions? Did I drink to numb myself on an unconscious level? (Assuming my sexuality issues were actually repressed and not a part of my conscious awareness as my alcohol misuse weighed on my mind.) Did coming out free me from the reasons I needed to escape a painful (yet socially acceptable) cycle of self-harm with alcohol and sex that wasn’t right for me?
This Naked Mind answered all of those questions, as well as satisfied other curiosities I’ve harbored about the nature of addiction, along with questions about tendencies to become dependent on substances that make me feel something other than plainly myself.
“Alcohol doesn’t permit one to do things better, but instead causes us to be less ashamed of doing things poorly.” W. Osler
That quote starts off Chapter 10 in the book. In this chapter, I learned about how my inhibitions to not sleep with men — my one partner, once a boyfriend then husband of 13 years — were in place to protect me from harming myself with interactions that were wrong for me. I inadvertently defied my inhibitions by drinking to “fit in” with my straight boyfriend. I did question my sexuality in college and I’d always felt there was something different about me, but was more afraid to explore being myself than I was getting blitzed at a frat party and passing out alone in someone’s lawn in nasty weather after a heavy night of consuming keg beer.
Coming Out Is Scary
Coming out to even myself was scarier than remaining depressed, suicidal and driving drunk after nights out with my college golf teammates. So I stayed hidden to myself, eventually entering a dating relationship with a guy who liked me a lot and who let me feel secure in my “don’t ask, don’t tell” secret state of limbo. And he liked when I drank with him, so that “liquid confidence” made a physical connection all the easier. Really, I was dying inside to break free and find out who I really was meant to be. I felt trapped in a half-truth, and the only comfort was to people-please with beer.
Drinking Is Easy
Drinking was an easy way to not care much about sex. To not care how “right” it felt to be sexual with a partner whose company I greatly enjoyed during the less intimate moments, when we were good friends and had fun hanging out. Alcohol surrounded all of our social interactions and it was always there to numb me while I unconsciously created shame by betraying my true self, drifting further from the person I am meant to be. Early on, we were both almost always under the influence of alcohol when sex happened in our relationship.
By the time we started a family several years in, I was used to just giving in. I was so estranged from any sense of true self, that I didn’t even need to be drunk to partake in sex. I just had to slip into that numb, detached state of being and let it happen, then drink after the fact to deal.
Fast forward 10 years and three kids and I’ve recently learned that inhibitions are protective and serve an important purpose.
They help us to avoid risks, such as marrying and starting a family under false pretenses, but I washed away my inhibitions with beer to avoid the pain of truth-telling, ultimately repressing my sexuality and any semblance of self-respect in favor of numbness – courtesy of a couple/few evening beers and occasional black-outs with social binge drinking.
Reading This Naked Mind has taught me that my drinking while closeted gave me a perceived sense of control over my emotional state and ultimately my sexuality. It did nothing but suppress my real feelings and promote dysfunction. It also made me susceptible to showing my kids the worst of me. Eventually even passing out on the living room floor among our playing children (mommy’s taking a quick nap, I said). I passed out a half-hour into a friend’s chili cook-off because the pain, the cognitive dissonance, and my identity crisis (think security versus loss) peaked.
The alcohol use finally reached a tipping point where it was no longer providing numbing relief from my internal struggle. Instead it was fueling my psychosis as I grappled with truth and consequences of coming out. Could I do it alone, without alcohol to drown my sorrows? With a commitment to taking a risk to be fully me, I had to break up with alcohol to find out what I really need, want, and believe as a person free from shame and denial.
Thinking of coming out as a non-drinker? Start reading This Naked Mind for free today and break free from alcohol once and for all!
There’s so much I could tell about the years of living separated from my own self. Feeling empty and feeling desperate to become comfortable in my own skin. It all relates back to how alcohol allowed me to believe controlling factors outside my control (sexuality) was possible via numbness, denial, suppression. This Naked Mind helped me decide I was no longer afraid to be my real self, 100 percent me. I no longer desired anything “poisonous” that would alter my state of being me.
Reading This Naked Mind helped me to see that my wish and need to be my true self is only possible without alcohol ever again. Until I read the book, I thought maybe someday I’d want to drink in moderation. Now I see that I have a gift in this lack of any desire to drink ever again. It feels like a miracle. I now understand understand this grace that I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy for the last two years. I’m learning to love myself for who I am and I clearly see that alcohol has no place in my story.
As I learn more about addictive tendencies and why we become psychologically dependent, I see that others may find correlated behaviors with their drinking – things that may be easier and safer to quit than just stopping using alcohol. Maybe it’s gossiping, online shopping, binge eating, smoking, lying, etc. I wonder if actively choosing to abandon an undesirable, no-good behavior connected to drinking (as I did with sex with my ex-husband), could add a new dimension of success to quitting alcohol? Another layer of support that’s deeply personal and meaningful. A source of healthy pride instead of shame.
Removing blankets of shame helps recovery efforts no matter where the feelings stem from – food, money, vices. I’m sharing my story for many reasons. I think there are other queer people out there who feel so lost and still afraid of “losing it all” by coming out. They fear that big step without the aid of drinking. This Naked Mind helped me connect my unnecessary, damaging behavior (heterosexual sex) with alcohol – the enabler that made matters so much worse in the big picture. After reading this book, I see that my shame about my wrong lifestyle was at the core of my alcohol usage. I wonder what behaviors are lurking behind other people’s addictions to alcohol. This Naked Mind tells me that choosing to quit something because it’s categorically bad for self, can and does work. What if there’s something more than just the drinking that needs to stop too?
Share Your Story
You might have your own story of coming out and overcoming years of pain and hiding your true self. Will you share your story with others?