Everywhere I Look, A Bar Says……..Come Hither.
I moved to New York City in October 2014 from Los Angeles, and instantly loved the energy…and the convenience of walking through the city to get to most destinations. No more driving on the 405 frwy, or rather parking on the 405 frwy. The tall, very old buildings, crowding New York are beautiful. The light that bounces off the high rises during certain hours of the day is magical. The shadows. Everything about the experience of wandering the city by foot is awesome.
However, winter is over, the warm weather has arrived, and the bustling of people leaving work and cramming into the bars is increasing. The music is louder coming from the small neighborhood drinking establishments. The people are happier. The drinks look bigger and tastier. Spring has sprung. And with the warmer weather creeping in, I feel my inner cravings coming out of hibernation. My skin is shedding, so to speak.
When I lived in Los Angeles, it was much easier to walk around my neighborhood without being overtaken by bar scenes. They just don’t have as many bars per block as New York does. I did some research and found that there were approximately 2,657 bars, taverns, and nightclubs in New York in 2012, according to shiftgig.com. Wow. That is a lot of drinks being dispensed minute by minute. Los Angeles had 989 bars, taverns, and nightclubs in 2012. That is quite a difference in bar numbers per square foot.
So in moving to New York I found a new challenge on my hands. To not allow my cravings and obsessive mind overtake me as I trot past bar after bar after bar. To not let the lights and music and laughter turn into the glamorized film-strip my mind starts to roll in my head. Or if it does begin to play that fictional movie in my mind, I work hard to get out of the fantasy and remember my drinking reality. It was never as glamorous as my head told me it was.
The truth is, I have no desire to get wasted. To blackout like my pre-sober days. I have zero desire for an awful hangover combined with fear of how I behaved the night before, or what words came out of my mouth that evening. The reality I must remember is that there is no such thing as one drink for me. Or two. One turns into many….many more drinks. And what comes next is rarely a good thing. Generally, it’s quite emotionally unbearable. And in order to get through it, I must start the drinking cycle again.
The falsified truth is, that at times when I walk past these bars, my head is capable of glamorizing the drink. The scene. The smells. All of it. And I momentarily forget the truths about my alcoholism. And that is something I have been forced to deal with after moving to this grand city of New York.
So long as I work my program of sobriety, and remember it’s the first drink that gets me drunk, I m golden. I constantly remind myself about how the night will likely end, should I choose to cross over and order a drink at one of those bars. Luckily I have worked a pretty strong program since getting sober, and am able to recognize my triggers and tricky mind pretty quickly.
Getting sober is not easy. Staying sober can be challenging. Life is not always simple and beautiful. It can be demanding and taxing. And for someone who used to use drugs/alcohol as a crutch to get through life, those bars can look like big, attractive, shiny happy objects in the midst of an overwhelming, scary city. It has been quite a change learning how to maneuver through life’s twists and turns sober. But alas…it has been an amazing reward. And growth experience.
So here I am sober, living in New York, the center of the universe as some describe it. Enjoying this incredible city of energy, without the need to drown and hide behind the booze that seeps out from every corner block. Through my sobriety and understanding of my alcoholism, I am now able to venture inside of these establishments, order a non-alcoholic beverage, and enjoy the music and/or dancing without leaving cross-eyed and in a tailspin. It took me awhile to be comfortable in my skin at bars, without drinking. Or dancing without being highly intoxicated. To be at ease with my own presence. That is still somewhat of a challenge for me. Taking away the alcohol left me with myself…but slowly, I am learning that most people are so self obsessed that they aren’t thinking about me in the crowds, or what kind of drink is in my hand, they are thinking about themselves. No one cares! I love that.
The 12 steps is a program of living for me. It has opened my eyes and made me more aware of my thoughts, patterns, behaviors, and triggers. Thus allowing me to understand them, and be able to walk through life with a better grip on my reactions to its terms…which includes my reaction to the surrounding bars.
New York is the city that never sleeps. Bars are everywhere. But I don’t have to live my life in hiding from the drink, so long as I am able to manage my thinking and decipher the truth from its fantasized script about what the drink represents. It’s like fashion. Is the cover of vogue reality? No, but it tricks our mind into thinking we should look like the cover model.
Keeping it simple is the key. Don’t pick up that first drink, no matter what. It is the first drink that gets me drunk.
I am still able to enjoy New York and all its nightlife. I just do so sober.
Sobriety doesn’t mean life has to be a drag.