How To Be Comfortable In Uncomfortable Situations (sobriety edition)

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
Marcus Aurelius

I quit drinking almost a year ago. 

I didn’t consider myself an alcoholic, nor did I thought I had serious problems. Not even after vomiting all over a girl, or peeing my bed one time, as an adult. Hey, I’ve heard lots of stories from my friends and their ‘rough nights’. Mine didn’t seem to exceed the bar of what people usually do when drunk. 

Regardless of that, I didn’t felt I was advancing in life as fast as I’d wanted to, and I hated it. I blamed alcohol in part for that. 

Have you ever lost your work on Microsoft Word? As if, you’re halfway on your essay for the final test, and suddenly your computer dies? You lose all your work. It’s bloody infuriating. Or, for the Millenials out there, do you remember what it felt like when your mom turned off the Nintendo 64 without you being able to save your game? Mooooooooom, how could you?! Never forget. Haha, funny now, but back then, pff, not so funny when you got your Water Temple progress from Zelda erased.

That’s exactly how I felt after a night of heavy drinking. I felt I lost my progress. I felt my brain rebooted and lost valuable information. I hate feeling dumb and hangovers transformed me into a fast-food eating derp.

One morning, with a terrible hangover, bought physical and moral, I decided to try sobriety for the first time in my life. 

This is not a get a sober story. I’ve got lots of friends that seem to cope pretty well with alcohol and who manage to achieve moderation (at least on the outside). If that’s your thing, that’s great. 

I’m sharing my sobriety story because getting sober involves a lot of being comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I didn’t want to lose my life by going sober. I didn’t want to stop going out and being a goof with my friends. I didn’t want to stop dancing like an idiot. I didn’t want to stop talking to girls at the club or at the party.

However.

Do you know how bloody hard it is to do all of the above mentioned, without an ounce of alcohol? Especially after relying on the magical drink for years and years? It’s very difficult. Enter the anxiety championships

Many people, when going sober, stop partying and going out to places where there is alcohol involved. Big mistake. I’m telling you, you can have the best of bought worlds. Dancing, going out and meeting new people, and still wake up to hike a beautiful mountain on a Sunday. Ahhh… good life.

I made a promise with myself that my life was not going to be affected by my decision to stop drinking. But to be successful in my sober enterprise I’d need, still need, and will need, to go through lots and lots of uncomfortable situations and learn to be comfortable with them. 

I’ll never forget the first time I went to the club and pushed it till the end of the night while being sober the entire time. It was hard. I felt like a security guard in the middle of the dancefloor. I felt stiff. Talking to a girl or goofing around with my friends? Impossible. I just wasn’t having a good time. I felt anxious beyond imagination. But I knew that there was no other way to go but through it. 

People making fun of me? Laugh uncomfortably. 

Dancing? Dance even if you don’t enjoy it. 

Having a conversation? Just talk, try to laugh about how uncomfortable you are.

So, here comes the two biggest lessons I learned during this year. I’m sure you’ll be able to apply them to your life as well.

Lesson #1, Throw yourself in the water

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”― Marcus Aurelius

How do you learn how to swim? You get in the water

The first lesson is that you need to push yourself to do the thing that scares you. Be that swimming, socializing, learning to code, dancing, writing, or whatever. There is no other way around it. You need to get in the pool and get familiar with it. This is the keyword, familiarity.

You need to be able to say: “I’ve already done that, it’s not that scary.”

That’s precisely the reason why I was standing like a security guard in the middle of the dancefloor without drinking and without having any fun. I wanted to become familiar with the feeling of being sober while everybody around me was having fun. I wanted to know what it was like to be confident without alcohol (I’m getting there).

My recommendation? Begin with small steps. Don’t throw yourself into the ocean the first time. Throw yourself in a little pond with baby water wings and develop yourself up from there. 

I didn’t talk to anyone but my friend the first night. I literally stood an entire night in the dancefloor sort of dancing. Haha, remembering it makes me laugh.

The fact that you need to throw yourself into water is undeniable

There’s no way around it. If you want to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, you need to get yourself in the water. No play, no game.

Lesson #2 Own yourself

One of the greatest skills you can develop in life is learning how to say no.

Come on mate, you look like an idiot, just have one drink. My mate would tell me.

No! I don’t look like an idiot! I actually look pretty cool dude, I believe you do look like an idiot, that’s a terrible shirt. I would answer. (Jokingly of course)

It’s really hard to say no when you’re being socially pressured. Personally, I have a weakness for pretty girls, or, I’m glad to say, had. Whenever I was around cool people and astonishingly beautiful girls, I craved a drink to feel ‘cool’, to feel at ease. 

Why though? Am I only cool when I’m drunk? Who the fuck says so? 

I didn’t understand just how bad I cared about what other people thought about me until I began to go against the current. Especially when people say Cheers! Haha, they feel insulted when you’re not drinking alcohol and still make the toast. 

If you don’t know how to say no. You don’t really own yourself. More likely, other people own you. You feel more comfortable when you ‘go with the flow’ than when you go against it. You feel more comfortable when you’re a slave to other people, behaving in ways that suit them, not you.

If you want to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, own yourself. Ask yourself: Why am I really doing what I’m doing? Is it because of me or because of my lack of guts? 

This doesn’t mean you have to become a self-serving asshole of course. But you do have to become a person that is able to make decisions and stand by them, regardless of what other people think. 

If you know you’re decision is going to be of benefit for yourself and for others, stand by it. You owe it to yourself and the world.

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.”
Epictetus

In conclusion

Being comfortable in uncomfortable situations is… well… pretty damn uncomfortable. At first. Do you know how I felt after I danced like an idiot, goofed around with my friends, and got to my house at 4 a.m.? Sober?! Well, fucking awesome I have to say. I stood with my decision. I felt I owned myself. Waking up without having vomited a girl’s shirt was a huge plus. 

The more you put yourself out there, the easier it gets, and the better you feel about yourself. But first, you need to walk through the burning coal and train your mind to be ok with it. You’ll soon realize it doesn’t burn anymore.

Finally: 

“He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at.”
Epictetus

This is so true. If you learn to laugh about yourself, you’re invincible. Your feelings are not going anywhere, you need to befriend them and be ok with them. If you learn how to laugh about yourself, you’ll take the heaviness of life out of the equation.

 If you’re not able to laugh, force yourself.

I’ll finish this quote with Tyrion Lannister.

“Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.”

Thanks for reading,

Ricardo Guaderrama

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2 thoughts on “How To Be Comfortable In Uncomfortable Situations (sobriety edition)

  1. I’m currently three and a half months clean from hard drugs. This is the longest clean period I’ve had in eight years. I’m chalking it up in part to discovering Stoicism and its philosophies guiding my thoughts and actions.

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