Struggling with stigma

Lots has changed since my last Debbie Downer post about feeling like I was enduring my dull, directionless life. The biggest change is that we’ve decided for sure that we’ll make the move to London in December (just in time for Christmas). Having something to work towards, plan for and get excited about has really lifted my mood and I feel like my life (that was passing at a glacial pace) is finally speeding up.

In saying that, all the same fears that I had a few weeks ago are still there – that I’ll struggle to make friends if they all think I’m a weirdo that doesn’t drink, and that socialising will be so much harder, but I can also see the benefits of having a fresh start in a new country and building a sober life from scratch there.

I still really struggle with the social stigma of not drinking. The evenings spent in a day to day routine (work, dinner, TV, bed) breeze by so easily. I rarely have cravings and I find it hard to imagine that I once used to polish off a bottle of wine each night – the thought of doing that now seems ridiculous. How did I run my life? How did I find the time and energy!? So in terms of day to day life, I can give that a big fat tick – progress achieved. But in terms of social life, I still hate it.

I went to a big boozy work party on Friday night and stayed for half an hour. People say that that’s okay, that skipping these social events is just all about finding out who you really are and what you really enjoy, but that doesn’t change the fact that I felt so left out. I felt like a frumpy loser leaving early to go home and get into my PJs and watch TV like it was any other night of the week. My anxiety was through the roof hours before. I feel so dull without alcohol at social events and anticipating how dull and boring I will be all night gets me worked up and feeling emotional. I felt like crying as I ordered a soda and lime at the bar. Just felt like a massive loser with nothing interesting to say to anyone because all I could focus on was how uncomfortable I was.

So when I think of sober socialising in a new country where I know no one, the thought fills me with dread. I’ve read that new sober friends are generally of a higher calibre than people you bond with over boozy sessions, and that’s all well and good, but the reason they’re better friends is because you have to put so much more effort in. Call me crazy, but I’ll generally try and find the path of least resistance when it comes to doing anything in life. I am dead lazy, which is frustrating, but also just a part of my personality that I have to deal with. I may go in with great intentions of joining clubs and developing hobbies, but realistically I’ve never been a social butterfly and those intentions have never panned out in life in New Zealand, so I don’t see why they would in England. I’ve always found boozy events – work drinks/flat parties/dinners etc to be the places where I meet people and make new friends, so I don’t know how I’ll cope with those if I’m always leaving after half an hour of extreme discomfort!

I have a counselling appointment in a few days. I’m not really holding out much hope that she’ll be able to make me feel completely positive about sober life, but hopefully she can offer some advice about dealing with anxiety and socialising. I’ll talk to her about the realities of moderating and whether it’s possible to drink socially without diving straight back in to addictive behaviours. I’m sure we all know what the answer to that question is, but I’ll ask anyway 🙂

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Here’s some relevant material I’ve been consuming lately:

  • Home Podcast’s talk on the ‘Why me?‘ question that plagues us.
  • This post on building new sober life connections and making friends (from Hip Sobriety)
  • This article on sober socialising.
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