Becoming a Social Butterfly in Recovery
So, you’re just a short time into your sobriety, its going well however you knew this was going to happen eventually. The dreaded social event. The Wedding, Christening or 80th Birthday party you can’t miss.
The panic of socialising with people when you don’t drink any more can be paralysing. It can even cause some to avoid interactions with people completely. Unfortunately, such avoidance can affect your relationships with good friends and family who value your time and company.
Fear of Sober Social Interaction
When you’re in recovery, the thought of an alcohol-fueled event with friends or family can cause anxiety. You see, maybe in the past you’ve been the source of fun and entertainment for your behaviour in the past. Whatever your history, fear is natural when you’re venturing out for the first time.
Can you feel you heart racing already??
Fear impacts all of us to some degree, no matter how outgoing or confident we seem on the outside. It is this same fear that is one of the main factors preventing individuals from seeking help in the first place. Fear and social anxiety may have even contributed to your drinking or drug use in the first place.
I used substances to alleviate my own anxiety for years, I wanted to feel; liked; included; fun even.
Also, no one wants to feel “different” or “odd”. There can also be the fear of feeling singled out, of being labeled or talked about or feeling left out. You may wonder if you’re still an interesting or fun person without a few drinks.
Not everyone will know you are in recovery, the people that do have probably shown support and applaud your sobriety. However, they may also feel uncomfortable talking about drinking or drinking around you. The situation can become awkward all around.
People tend to take their social cues from how YOU are acting, therefore, you should be the one to take the lead in these social situations. If you come across as stressed and uncomfortable your companions will be, too. This takes some planning on the part of the individual.
Have some prepared responses to questions, use humour if that’s your thing, however the; “I’m just out of rehab” line may quickly lead to a distinctive awkward silence.
However, you might still get hit with the;
“Not even a beer?”
The reality is that with so many people committed to healthier lifestyles or not drinking for a variety of reasons – medication, designated driver, fitness – it’s likely that no one will think twice if you order a coke minus the vodka.
It will only become a big deal if you choose to make it one.
If the question of why you’re not drinking does come up, keep it simple “I don’t drink” or “I’m not drinking tonight” is enough of an explanation for most people. If anyone presses the issue, excuse yourself and make a beeline to the bathroom (keep it graceful though). Then regroup and get back into the fray.
Dealing With Temptation
In recovery, you work pretty damn hard on identifying your triggers and making new and healthy life-choices. If you’re feeling pressure to drink just to fit in, or getting it “tight” there are a number of measures you can take to avoid a future relapse.
- Alert your support person or sponsor prior to the event (planning). Let them know the situation. Ask them if they can be on-call that evening in case you need some encouragement.
- A big thing for me was knowing what to do with my hands. It’s helpful to mingle while holding a soft drink or objects like phone and cameras aren’t out of place in social settings, either, and they’ll keep you feeling engaged.
- After the even, take the time to reflect. Identify any new triggers or unexpected emotions. Make a point of congratulate yourself for staying strong and confident. Trust me, each outing will become that little bit easier.
Remember, Recovery is for Life!
You will inevitably face a number of occasions in your life that revolves around social drinking at some level. I find that the best approach is a matter-of-fact attitude.
Eventually, through your work in recovery you WILL find that you don’t need drugs or alcohol to be social. Take time to learn to enjoy the company of others.
And to be fair, like many people navigating their way in recovery;
You HAVE survived tougher things than a sober wedding.