Day 96: Lesson 11 from quitting booze and sugar. Sobriety reduces social anxiety.

This one is a head scratcher.

If you’d have told me on New Years Eve that I’d be writing this today, I’d have laughed. One of the things I was most afraid of was socialising without alcohol. I didn’t want to be the boring one on the outside of the group.

In fairness, on the few occasions when I’ve socialised, I have felt a bit ‘outside’ – but I was still learning how to ‘do’ social situations without alcohol. I’ve also learned that some situations just aren’t fun for me – that’s one of the reasons I used to drink so much when I was in those situations!

How sobriety reduces social anxiety:

1. It teaches you about what you enjoy and what you don’t

I don’t like loud places and huge parties where I don’t know anyone. In those situations, I am anxious until I’m ‘merry’. Then I end up drinking too much and spending days examining my behaviour and berating myself.

In my previous attempts to give up drinking, I thought “I’m not enjoying this because I’m not drinking.” This time, I realised I had it wrong. It would have been more accurate just to say, “I’m not enjoying this because parties aren’t my thing.”

I like conversations. Deep, interesting, meaningful conversations that scratch my brain. I love those types of conversations! Not everybody does though. In much the same way as I needed alcohol to get through a loud party, I’m sure there are people who need alcohol to get through a dinner party sat next to me!

But that’s the thing – we never NEED alcohol. We only need to work out who we are and where we feel a sense of ease and belonging. In those places, anxiety is lessened.

2. You don’t spend days replaying your misdemeanours

Ugh. That feeling when you wake up in the early hours of the morning, head banging and mouth parched and that first wave of shame hits.

I’m in my forties now so those moments have been mercifully rare in the last decade or so but in my twenties and early thirties, they were a weekend staple.

The problem is they make you even more nervous about going out the next time and you drink to feel less nervous – which makes the pattern repeat itself.

In the last 95 days, I’ve had a few moments where I’ve replayed my social awkwardness in my head but instead of feeling anxious, it leads me to ask two questions:

  1. Was I awkward because I’m still learning how to ‘be’ in those situations without alcohol?
  2. Was I awkward because I was doing something I don’t actually enjoy?

If the answer is yes to the first question then I know it’s just a matter of practice – when it came to boozy lunches and dinner parties, I usually answered yes to question 1. I love those types of social situations and I felt awkward because I wasn’t used to doing them sober.

Answering yes to question two leads to a different solution. In that case, it’s better to say no to those sorts of events in future – or plan really well so you have a way to enjoy them or feel calm and safe while you’re there. In my case, I won’t say no to every party or gig but I know it will work better if I have a friend with me who also likes breaking away from the group and spending a bit of time standing outside chatting before we go back in for more noise and chaos.

3. You make more meaningful connections

It’s funny. When people find out I’m not drinking, they share their stories. Not a single person has said, “I love that I drink! I want to keep doing it!” We end up talking about their lives, their interests, their early adulthood, their fears, all kinds of things.

There is no way we’d have had these conversations if we were both drinking. Alcohol makes people talk more. Sobriety makes people listen more.

I used to think if I wasn’t drinking I’d be the most boring person in the room. Now I think I might be the most comfortable person in the room.

 

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Deb says:

    I absolutely LOVE this article. You show such amazing growth and insight, and I applaud you for sharing your journey with the public.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Big Happy Life says:

      Thank you so much, Deb! I’m absolutely delighted you liked the article. I sometimes worry about oversharing so your comment was wonderful to receive!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Deb says:

        Keep blogging! I find your story inspiring, and I’m pretty sure a lot of others do, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Big Happy Life says:

        Thank you!! I’ve just signed up for a course and hope to improve! Thank you for your comment. Once again, you’ve made it feel like a pleasure to keep writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. brainembryos says:

    Awesome reflection! Your honesty about your journey is a really valuable thing to share, especially in relation to alcohol and social anxiety. I can relate so much to the non-enjoyment of those situations and preferring the meaningful. I used to jokingly call myself a ‘grandma’ because I was the only person of my peers in my teens and twenties who openly confessed to disliking the noise and the lack of connection. As more people around me are starting to accept that about themselves, I’ve wondered more and more whether I wasn’t actually so different. Perhaps I wasn’t prematurely aged, just prematurely accepting? I’ve also wondered, like you’ve noticed, whether I just knew this earlier because I didn’t drink much, so I didn’t get the masking effect of alcohol and had decided to cope with my social anxiety without any external aids.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Big Happy Life says:

      Thank you so much! Your observation is a fascinating one. It’s so great that you knew early about what worked for you and didn’t work for you. It would be really interesting to find out whether knowing that early is a protective factor against excessive alcohol consumption. You’ve really got me thinking about how I’ll help my children consider social situations in their teens. We’re so quick to talk to them about protecting themselves from the dangers of those situations but I wonder how many people encourage their teens to consider how much genuine enjoyment they’re getting and let that be the compass. Thanks so much for your comment!

      Like

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