Choosing Grace Over The Grave

I’m going to a leaving function after work today. I usually avoid these events like the plague but it is for two members of my team, who are moving on to other positions within the organisation. It would ‘look bad’ therefore, if I didn’t ‘show my face.’ Excitement has been building in the office all week as people look forward to an evening of laughter and frivolity. Apart from one person that is….me.

I’m dreading it and as I sit here typing this, the anxiety and tension are already unfurling within me, like a lazy cobra preparing for its next meal. In my drinking days, I would have been the first one in the pub after work today and the last to leave. And by leave, I mean stagger outside, mumbling incoherently after a night of embarrassing behaviour fuelled by alcoholic excess.

All that ended about five years ago, so most of my present colleagues have never witnessed that version of Stephen. Lucky them. I wouldn’t have wished my company on anybody. I was loud and obnoxious, but by equal measure incredibly dull. I thought I was the life and soul of the party, but would always wake up the next morning horrendously hungover, gripped by dread and fear as to who I had offended in my drunken state.

I don’t drink now. I’m Mr. Clean-Cut, Stephen Tee Total, the running bore who pounds the pavements as opposed to pounding the pints back. I take part in marathon runs, as opposed to marathon drinking binges. I’m sure some of my colleagues regard me as a bit of a wet blanket, but it was a choice I had to make five years ago in order to save my marriage, my family, my own sanity.

Alcohol used to shield me from the chronic shyness and low self-confidence I display in social settings. I am incredibly awkward and shy. Alcohol released me from all such inhibitions and allowed me to say what I wanted to whoever I wanted, oblivious to the consequences. Until the next morning, that was. Then reality would rush back in like an unstoppable tide, stripping me bare; my many inadequacies exposed like slick, jagged rocks poking about the waves.

Alcohol was a crutch. Choosing to stop has cleared my head and allowed me to see I never needed it in the first place. This is the real me. Yes, I’m still a bit of a mess at times, but at least I’m a sober mess. I’m no finished product by any means, but at least I recognise my many flaws now and can work towards improving. I’m not successful every time and there are still setbacks but at least I’m trying, as opposed to my former self who buried his head in the sand.

So this evening will be awkward. I will fret all day about it. I’m running at lunchtime which will help and I also have a busy day work-wise to take my mind off what lies ahead. I intensely dislike being around drunk people, which is ironic given the amount of time I spent in my own inebriated company. But I will muddle through, engage in small talk and smile in all the right places. For that is what I do.

Tonight I will be the first to leave the bar and tomorrow I will be the freshest person in a sea of bloodshot eyes and throbbing headaches. I won’t display any smugness for that was me and could so easily be me again, were it not for the grace of God. It was the easiest choice of my life in the end, choosing grace over the grave. It was the only choice. I need to keep making it every day.

Are you socially awkward?

What are your coping mechanisms?

Do you shun social events?

Published by Fractured Faith Blog

We are Stephen and Fionnuala and this is our story. We live in Northern Ireland, have been married for 17 years and have three kids - Adam, Hannah and Rebecca. We hope that our story will inspire and encourage others. We have walked a rocky road yet here we are today, together and stronger than ever. We are far from perfect and our faith has been battered and bruised. But an untested faith is a pointless faith. Just as a fractured faith is better than none at all. We hope you enjoy the blog.

57 thoughts on “Choosing Grace Over The Grave

  1. Before I met my second husband, I found myself the designated driver in my small group of single women friends, so I never could have more than one alcoholic drink at the start of the evening. I found it helped to become an actress and pretend I was a little tipsy like everyone else.
    Also, I love to dance. You can’t dance properly with a drink in your hand.
    My second husband doesn’t drink – not for any ethical reasons. As a police driver, he was often called on to drive his colleagues at impossible hours of the morning so he wouldn’t drink the night before in case of an unexpected call-out. He would go home after work instead of going to the pub and just never acquired a taste for alcohol. With my new resident chauffeur, I tended to forget, when we went out, the other reason for restricting my drinking – the hangovers.
    These days I drink very little, mostly in the interests of preserving my health, and take regular time-out when I don’t touch wine or my favourite whisky for a while, just to prove I can.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this. What you have written are exactly my thoughts and feelings.Your words are so eloquent, clear and honest.
    I have been off the demon drink for 22 months now and it has been hard. When people ask me why, I tell them the truth. Drink was killing me and my family. It was an excuse for bravado and a crutch to get through each day. After the pity the next question is surely you don’t have to stop completely. And my answer is yes I do. I am an all or nothing gal.
    Behind your anxieties and running to hide from the next works do, you should be so proud of who you have become and all you have achieved. You are a true inspiration and I am grateful for your words, for your honesty and your family.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Snap! Tonight I have to attend a work do but I’m driving home afterwards so I won’t have a drink in my hand. Otherwise, admittedly, I probably would have gotten more than a little tipsy to help me cope with the anxiety. I’ve just finished a 5k run this morning however so hopefully I’ll learn to employ that and other more healthy coping mechanisms in the future. Thanks for your honesty.


  4. Every morning I wake up without a hangover is a GIFT. It’s my DAILY REMINDER why I don’t take a drink today. I have to admit, I miss drinking. I miss hanging out with my friends, I miss talking about current events, I miss the laughs & the fun.

    But then I have to remember that current events are so abhorrent right now that I don’t want to talk to anyone about it … because I never know, anymore, if I am going to be talking to someone who is on “our side” or has gone over to the dark side of trumpism. & there are more & more of those people everyday. It’s an evil virus taking over our entire country.

    As for parties … I learned in AA long ago that if it’s an event that you cannot miss … work, family, whatever … to arrive late & leave early. Make that appearance, say your hellos & make those smiles & get the hell out. I used to time myself. Like it was another kind of race. LOL

    Nowadays, that’s not really much of a problem because there’s so many people in AA in my family that most functions are alcohol-free. My father’s funeral, six weeks ago, is a good case in point. Not one drop of alcohol was served at any event before or after his funeral Mass. In fact, the wine was not offered to the communicants during Mass.

    I hang out with people who can go to bars & have nothing more than ginger-ale or a coke while everyone else is getting smashed. Honestly … I am not one of those people. But I am getting to the point where I don’t feel the crushing loneliness I once felt at not partying with the crowd. Besides …. so many of my friends are now dead. Those who are left were never particularly close friends & I don’t feel sad at leaving them behind.

    hugs, honey

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Courage comes through every word of this, Stephen. I don’t drink, because I don’t like it and it doesn’t like me either. There is a loving grace in you showing up at the ‘do’… Hugs x


  6. I don’t think social has anything to do with it, I’m just awkward 🤣😂🤣😂. I love wine, Vodka, and Corona but I don’t necessarily like being around alot of people especially drunk people. But I don’t mind going to the bar with a few people (Iike 2 or 3). I’ve never had an issue with alcohol so I’ve never felt the need to stop my occasional drinking. But when people realize it’s an issue and they stop it shows a sign of strength and smarts. So, good for you. This is a great post! Thank you for sharing


  7. Yes I’m socially awkward and anxious. I gave never liked alcohol. My dad was an alcoholic and I didn’t like what I saw. I have always stayed away from it. I see now that was probably a good thing. But I get treated like I’m an alien. “you don’t drink? Why? That’s so weird.” People don’t invite me to things either because they think since alcohol is involved I won’t like it. Fine by me. I party it up at home in my pj’s, Netflix, and cuddling with my dog. I have embraced who I am. I still feel it’s lonely at times but I’m OK with myself. I’ve never fit in my entire life. Why would I start now?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m an introvert, so I avoid things like that if I can help it. I also have social anxiety, so no if I have choice. If I have to go, then alcohol is often the only thing that makes it bearable, that or someone I’m good friends with who also happens to be attending. I’m usually the one hiding in the corner hoping no one will speak to me.


  9. I was a heavy drinker in my late 20s to mid 30s but I’d have days or weeks off. Alcohol is good at softening the anxiety and, for a while, euphoric and fun. These days, and I’m not taking many pain pills now for the chronic pain (because they’re not giving me the right ones!), and I’m almost a hermit because of long-term illness (severe chronic pain from an injury that has disabled me and migraines, I don’t much care for the effects of alcohol, strictly just one glass if at all. When younger I wasn’t sure who I was, didn’t even feel like a solid person, so I drank to fit in and feel better.

    Wishing you the best xo


  10. I’ve never liked crowds, and drinking crowds I like even less. Part of my problem stems from I’m partially deaf these days, and I find myself reading lips in those situations. Alcohol tends to just amp up the amount of loud in the room and that doesn’t help. And since a lot of bars and saloons have been my battlefields as a police officer, I don’t enjoy being in them. I find myself watching people to much and waiting for something to happen.

    Oddly at events where there is no alcohol present, I’m lot more relaxed.

    Alcoholism runs in my family, and I’ve seen what it does. It can take the nicest guy in the world and turn him into a complete and total ass. Don’t believe me? My Dad went through a period where he was drunk most every day. He and Mom were getting into it a lot, so one day his anger got the better of him. He got the gun, and was pointing it at Mom. Want to have a lot of fun at age thirteen. Stick your index finger up the barrel of a 45. When I did that, my dad looked at me and said, “This gun goes off, it’ll blow up in my face.” My response, “It goes off it isn’t going to a lot of good for my finger.” I disarmed him while he was thinking that one through. He threatened to beat the hell out of me, and I told him if stops you from drinking, let’s go for it.

    The engagement ended there, and he never touched another drop. But the damage was done. As yeas went by, I was to discover that the respect I’d held for him in had been severely damaged. So booze, in my thinking, killed my father long before he ever actually died. Things were just never the same.

    So, if I do attend some function like that, I stay with diet soda. I really could care less what people think. At the end of the day, it’s my life, my liver, and by God it’s not subject to their opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Yes… socially awkward. Especially big groups. I usually sit in a corner and watch everyone. I’m almost always glad I went. I drink socially but carefully—I hate getting sick. Hope you managed without panic!!


  12. Do not forget the letter to you from Paul the Apostle: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 I too feel inadequate and alone at time so God in His infinite mercy inspired a shackled, guilty, and radical individual to pen these words eons ago just so I would find peace and comfort today. They are as equally intended for your purpose as for mine. my prayers will be with you tonight at your event while mine is Celebrate Recovery with others who have chosen to leave their mental prisons for freedom. sincere encouragement

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve not had a drink since this year started (personal decision), but honestly if others drink around me I’m not at all awkward, but I notice now people won’t get a drink around me, lol! Either they don’t want to tempt me, feel like I’ll judge them, or just don’t want to feel uncomfortable being the only one drinking. Lol! I just sip my water with lemon and talk the night away. I don’t mind being the designated driver, however I’m not everyone’s babysitter. Being adults require you too be responsible for your alcohol consumption. 🙂 so I’d say I’ve not been to a bar since the year started, lol! So we’ll see what happens.


  14. 🤦🏻‍♀️you have no idea how relevant this is to so many Stephen..self included.
    I’ve tried many routes to quiet those insecure demons- including alcohol.
    Please don’t stop telling your story. There are so many us fighting the battle with you.


  15. Hate social events and avoid like plague. Got off work early yesterday and told no one. I went to a park and walked for two hours to avoid family birthday party. I enjoyed myself much more even though I took a wrong path and ended up a mile out of the park! 🙂


  16. For me, my crutch has been pornography. I have used it to numb fear, anger and frustration, loneliness, low self-worth, pain.

    I really resonated with “Alcohol used to shield me” and “Alcohol released me from all such inhibitions and allowed me to say what I wanted to whoever I wanted.” You can substitute my struggle in there and that’s been my mental struggle for 20 years.

    Still chasing freedom and sobriety, but God is patiently and doggedly pursuing my heart as I pursue his.


  17. The great thing about giving up the drinking is that you will discover who likes you for who you really are and not the person who is performing to be liked. Congratulations.


  18. My father is dying from COPD and liver disease. He is 76, and I’m surprised he’s made it this long. He started drinking in the Army when he was 18. It’s been a part of his life since. Oh how I wish he’d never developed such a fierce addiction. He’s a beautiful man when he’s sober, mean and potentially violent when drinking. It’s night and day. I’m so happy that you saw how alcohol could ruin your life and relationships. God Bless you, and thank you for sharing so candidly.


  19. What is the point of getting all sloppy and drunk? I like to have a beer now and then or a glass of moonshine. But, I never feel I have to have it. I can go weeks or months without a drop and feel perfectly fine. I am lucky to have learned at a young age that I could be easily sucked into any one of several addictive behaviors and I have avoided most of them. I did smoke and discovered how hard it can be to walk away from it. I took that as a warning. It is good that you have found your path away from the addiction. Congratulations many never make to where you are. It is difficult to walk away from it. It took me several tries to give up smoking. Having a family is the most important thing there is in this life. Love of a family can overcome a lot in difficult times. Congrats again and keep up the good work.


  20. Though I’m not socially awkward normally, these kind of events made me feel awkward. I worried about saying the wrong things, not fitting in with any of the mini groups, etc. Work functions were always a chore, something to get through not enjoy. Fortunately, alcohol was never really an issue once I got out of college (many lessons learned) but I very much empathize with those who have a struggle. These settings are stressers, like we don’t have enough of them.

    Once again, thank you for sharing both sides of your experience.


      1. Oh, that’s exciting! No rush, again 🙂 take it at your own pace. I actually added the map I made (don’t judge it too harshly haha) to the chapters I sent you in the doc. I’m planning to try to get everyone a set of chapters, somewhat like what you did, I think that was wise! I’m thinking of providing 5 chapters to readers. I’m working on Ch. 13 currently. So, I’m hoping to get back in writing soon!


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