The initial ambivalence about becoming sober brings up many insecurities. Many of us use drinking as a social lubricant. Even “Normies” use alcohol as a stimulant in social situations. It’s not uncommon to feel as though you are losing an identity when you become sober, because essentially, you are.
The first year I went to social events as a sober person, I discovered myself much more subdued than my usual attention seeking persona. What I did not do in these situations, was judge myself for this. More than anything, I observed myself like I would normally observe other people, except it was less obvious and more internal. What emotional responses am I having? What insecurities are arising? Who am I feeling like I should impress at this party? Am I comfortable right now? These are the questions I asked myself, and I continue to do this. It’s a practice of self-awareness that keeps me present. If I merely observe my inner dialog, rather than react to it, I discover myself entirely in my body. I am able to be thoughtful in my interactions with other people, and I’m much more natural as a human being. The alcoholic is insecure as a human being, which is why becoming sober feels a lot like being the only one naked at a party. It can certainly feel this way, but don’t buy into it. You are much more acceptable being yourself, than you are when you are drunk. People knew you were drunk, they just didn’t say anything to you. If they did, then you were most likely hammered, and embarrassing yourself.
The thing should understand, is that everyone else at a party is thinking mostly about themselves. Their focus is not on you. It’s human nature to be self-absorbed. The other thing I observe is that people don’t really drink as much as I believed they did. Every party or social gathering I’ve been to thus far, has proven to be a very non-alcoholic event. I’ve even met several people who don’t drink at all. I believed other people drank as much as I did. Well, I was wrong. Most people drink very responsibly, and most people don’t really care if you aren’t drinking alcohol. If they are bothered by it, then you are probably with the wrong people. At parties now, I have just as much fun not drinking, as I did when I was drinking. This is because it is exciting to me that I am finally comfortable in my own skin, without the assistance of a drug to help me feel like I am fitting in. My experiences are much different now because they are organic. My perception is clearer and I am much more available to enjoy each moment, as opposed to worrying if my glass is empty.
Lastly, if I am not feeling a party, I have the confidence and self-respect to leave. In my recovery, I have learned to honor myself, so it doesn’t really matter to me who gets offended if I am taking care of my own needs at any given time. As long as I am not being selfish and hurting someone, it is okay to take care of myself. Integrity begins with respecting yourself, and honoring your lifestyle in recovery.
It’s okay to take moments away from the crowd if it becomes overwhelming. It’s perfectly natural to feel awkward and nervous. Allowing these feelings to be there with you, rather than running from them or avoiding them altogether, will allow them to breathe and dissipate. Having a sober friend or loved one with you in these situations is extremely helpful as well. Don’t judge yourself for your insecurities. Have some compassion for yourself, and allow yourself to feel everything you are feeling, without trying to change it. This is what it means to recover; acceptance of yourself under any given circumstance.
In time, you will discover a very alive and joyful person under all those insecurities. Others will see it too, and they will accept you exactly as you are.