Perhaps you started drinking alcohol at your senior prom and never looked back. You were nervous, there was quite a bit going on at the time and your anxiety was running very high. You were offered a drink to liven things up and one drink turned into another; soon you were doing the moon walk better than Michael Jackson. These parties weren’t so bad after all as long as you had a drink or two to quell your nerves.
20 or so years later, you still have a couple drinks before you attend a social function or you head to the bar as soon as you get through the doors. You need the alcohol to be the life of the party or at least make it through the evenings conversation, meeting new people etc. After all, how else can you be yourself? Obviously social gatherings are one of the stressors contributing to your alcohol problem. You’ve become dependent on the way alcohol makes you feel, calming your nerves, making you talkative when you are really a shy person by nature. What’s worse is that you’re now drinking more often in similarly stressful situations.
That’s one drinking pattern many alcoholics can identify with when they realize they may have a drinking problem. Ideally the problem drinker realizes they need help and seeks assistance for their obvious problem before it becomes worse. The initial recovery period is no bed of roses but you’ve achieved sobriety and are grateful for the new life you are leading alcohol free! You can start living a normal life again, going out for dinner, attending birthday parties or weddings, even company parties.
Whoa! Your recovery just started getting way more interesting didn’t it?
Socializing for the first time as a recovering alcoholic can be worrisome to say the least. You might be wondering, “Will I be able to resist the urge to drink? What will people think when they see that I’m not drinking? Will I have any fun?” One recovering alcoholic David B. recalls a family wedding as his first social gathering where alcohol was served. “I remember it was quite a flashy affair with many people, more than one would normally see at a wedding. There was an open bar, waiters and waitresses keeping everyone ‘topped up’, a real barn burner! The kind of party I would have loved when I was drinking”.
David continued “I grabbed a diet coke and hung on to my wife for all I was worth. It felt like everyone was looking at me. The hardest part was seeing several family members for the first time since they attended my intervention. What were they thinking? I got up a head of steam, walked over to my most respected uncle and thanked him for helping me, we laughed about my diet coke, and I told him it felt like I was out of prison and that I would be grateful for my sobriety for the rest of my life.”
After that initial conversation everything became easier for David until dinner…
“We were all seated at our tables and everyone was drinking plenty of wine. In fact there were always a couple of open bottles floating around the table. I wasn’t a wine drinker but the smell of it permeated the air and it was tough. Not to mention that whenever a bottle was set down it seemed to end up straight in front of me! I excused myself from the table and told my wife I was going outside for some air.
“I exited fast and ended up outside sitting near the caterer’s truck. I started speaking to one of the kitchen staff and it turned out she was also a recovering alcoholic who could sense my anxiety. It was nice to speak with someone who could relate to what I was going through and before long a search party came looking for me. The rest of the evening was uneventful”.
Your mind plays tricks on you at these times. The truth is, other people rarely concern themselves with whose drinking and who is not. They really couldn’t care less if you are imbibing in alcohol or drinking milk. Only you are thinking about it and this exacerbates the problem. If you start feeling overwhelmed take a walk and get some air. Sip your own drink somewhere else for a bit and take it easy.
Think about the wonderfully normal life you can now enjoy and remember that being true to you right now is all that matters. There is no need to impress anyone, make excuses for not drinking or to feel out of place. If anything you are probably one of the only sober people in the room so enjoy that!
Wendy T. says that she has become an observer of drunken behavior. “When I go to parties or social functions for work I get a real kick from watching people drink and make fools of themselves. I know its shallow of me, but it helps me to remember when I made a fool of myself occasionally when drinking.”
When you are recovering from alcohol there will be times when you feel uncomfortable about your past, especially in early recovery. As time passes you will find your own coping mechanisms and eventually you will reach a stage where you really don’t care what others think. Although recovery is a lifelong pledge, when you reach that point where confidence in your new self over rides any insecurities you feel, you are as close to graduating from recovery as you can get.
To set up an appointment with Michael Pearlman, M.D., Call 1 (866) 285-3400 toll-free or (617) 620-2230,