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Yesterday I couldn’t. Today I could.

This year, I gave my mom tickets to see one of her favorite bands with me for Christmas. I did it without thinking much about the logistics – I saw that they were coming and I knew it would be a perfect gift. What I didn’t know is that we’d basically be in a mosh pit, and that there would be a lot of alcohol around.

A few years ago, my story with emetophobia and fear of getting drunk was published on The OCD Stories. I talked about how I had trouble walking through the grocery aisle where alcohol was sold, and how I feared getting drunk by absorbing rubbing alcohol from shots at the doctor’s office. When I wrote that, going to a party with alcohol all around me would have been unthinkable.

At first, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. The venue was dark, and there were lots of people, many of whom were drinking. Towards the beginning of the opening act, I asked my mom to switch places with me so I didn’t have to stand next to a girl who seemed drunk. Eventually, though, I relaxed into it and enjoyed the opener.

By the time the band we’d all come for took the stage, the venue was jam-packed. Not only were there more people, but people were starting to get drunker. It wasn’t one drunk girl anymore; it was a crowd of drunk people surrounding us. Next to me was a girl dancing while holding four empty beer cans stacked one on top of the other. Alcohol was starting to spill from cups held by unsteady hands, leaving sticky patches on the floor. About halfway through the concert, I decided I was finished.

When we left, I was exhausted from the gravity of the exposure I’d just done. But, I was happy because I’d still enjoyed the music and the time with my mom despite the triggers around me. The experience got me thinking about the times when I’ve been stymied by the amount of ‘can’ts’ in my life, and how many of those ‘can’ts’ have turned into ‘cans’ with hard work and focus.

As a person with OCD, sometimes the things I can’t do feel like insurmountable obstacles. I think all people feel that way sometimes, whether they have OCD or not. But, as this half-concert proved to me, progress is possible and obstacles can be overcome. Plus, there is no feeling quite like the pride of realizing you’ve just done something you never thought you’d be able to do.

Yesterday I couldn’t. Today I could. I have hope for tomorrow.