I am not a fan of labels, but you all know what I mean by social anxiety so I will use it.
What I have seen in all my years of doing this work and living it, is that some people can really struggle with socialising when they are giving up alcohol, partying or drug use.
Mostly this is just because they have been so used to socialising with.
I think what has happened is as a society we acceptably use alcohol and other substances, although mostly alcohol as a social lubricant and to do business.
It’s a given, it’s just what happens. We drink, we socialize.
I don’t think people really realise that that’s what they are doing. It isn’t a conscious thing. It’s just you drink when you are out and about, most people do. So, it isn’t until you start giving up alcohol that you really notice this stuff.
Are you someone that is changing their relationship with drinking? Maybe you are giving up alcohol for good or are taking a break. When you are alcohol free you need to go out and do different things, so you learn and test things. Find out how you feel in different situations without booze.
There are lots of tips I can give you when you are giving up alcohol and want to socialise, but ultimately you just have to get out there and learn how to interact without alcohol for yourself, because we are all different. Some people really don’t have a problem, whereas others really struggle.
When you are giving up alcohol, or in the early days of stopping drinking or taking a break, it may help for you to stay away from environments where you might struggle for a bit. This may depend on how important it is to stop booze and what your motivation is, and it can be difficult if you are used to being a party girl or someone who is out all the time. If you are someone that needs to stop for very important reasons, like physical health, mental health, family etc you know the type of thing, then I highly recommend this. Just to give yourself a chance to get over the first few weeks.
However, not everyone can do this. Also what you need to watch out for here is that you don’t isolate yourself. Human connection is so important, whether we like it or not. So, if you decide to stay away from social situations that involve booze, then you need to find other things you can do that involve other people and not booze. Any activity where you are all coming together to do something is good. Like an evening class, sports, dance class or book club. What this does is take the pressure off meeting new people and being around people. The focus isn’t on sitting and talking to people.
When you do start to socialize without alcohol, the sooner you do it the better. It’s like a muscle. The more you do it the easier it gets. You may feel odd, different. That’s ok, its ok to feel odd. It’s just a feeling it won’t kill you. Relax, sit with it. Find someone you can talk to and focus on listening to them.
Something else to watch out for is that you can feel boring. Particularly if you have been the life and soul of the party. Again, that’s ok, it’s just a different feeling. Sometimes I have been out and I don’t talk much, I am not good at small talk anyway. I don’t give myself a hard time about that and people have got used to me.
If you think about it there are lots of situations where you don’t drink and you are around people. Take work for instance. Most people don’t drink at work. When you are at work, you are with people and talking to people all without the help of alcohol.
Sometimes people tell me they are petrified about a big social event. Maybe a wedding or a party where you know most people will be drinking or at least you assume that. Let’s face it people don’t usually advertise they are not drinking. Try and think about it like a conference, training or a business networking event, you might find it easier. Have a purpose that you are there for.
When I first started going partner dancing I had a little rule that I followed. To ask everyone in the room for a dance. That way I actually danced which is what I was there for, but I also met everyone in the room even if I wasn’t that talkative. It kept me busy too.
Now I am not a massive fan of big social events, but if you set your mind in a certain way, like you would at a networking event, its different. You tackle it differently, you go out of your way to speak to people and get to know people.
Try and treat social events without alcohol like a challenge, a little research project.
There is so much I can say on this subject but I will leave it there for the moment.