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 🙂

***

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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20 thoughts on “Struggling with stigma

  1. I found social events like that super awful for the first two years after I quit, so I think it’s fine to leave if you’re feeling uncomfortable. Yes, you might feel dumb and left out – but why stay if you’re not having fun? I felt for awhile like I needed to stay to “prove” something to everyone – that I was still able to have fun with all the drinkers, and that I was still hip. Now I don’t care – I stay at those things for as long as I’m having a good time, and then I’m outta there.

    I’ll say that they got a lot easier for me – I can now go to parties like that and stay for an hour or two, and have a nice time (as long as it’s not too loud to chat). I stopped thinking that people were noticing what I was drinking, and I stopped feeling self conscious for ordering a diet coke – and I stopped caring all that much about all the wine and booze flowing around me. And I always leave before people get too drunk.

    I think for you, having compassion for your own state of mind is key – giving yourself what you need (leaving after half an hour) and allowing yourself to take care of your needs, without shame, will make the whole thing a lot easier.

    And as for making sober friends – I do think making friends sober is more work than making friends when I was drinking. But a lot of those “drinking friends” weren’t really friends, because we could only hang out and “connect” when we were drinking, and now when I see them it’s very awkward. We have very little to talk about. So yes, sober friendships might be more work upfront, but I think you get more out of it in the end. Good luck with the move! I’m excited to see how it goes for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comment Busy Lady! I guess it’s a matter of pushing through all the hard work and hard times to get to a point where that hard work starts paying off. It’s just very daunting looking at it that way and that’s probably why my mind jumps straight to my trusty old crutch booze. It’s tricky to take one day at a time when you’ve got to think ten steps ahead to plan out such a big move though!

      I’m glad to hear that you’re more comfortable with feeling like you don’t have to ‘prove’ to others that you can still socialise like you used to. I’m definitely still stuck in that mindset and I hate that my drinking problem has such a widespread affect on all areas of my life. Thanks for the luck, I’ll need it! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree with Busy Lady – I don’t bother with these social events very often, unless I absolutely have to go. I still find them a bit overwhelming. Turns out that I am an introvert – I always had my “wine bubble” to turn me into an extrovert. I agree that sober friends take a bit more work, but they are so worth it.
    I think you have a wonderful opportunity to avoid awkwardness about sobriety. In a new city, you are no longer an ex-drinker, you are a non drinker. You do have to ‘push through” the sober socializing, until it feels less awkward – but one thing I noticed – the only person who really cares what you have in your glass…is you! I was born in London, and love and miss the City xx

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hey Jackie, yeah you’re right. I won’t have another opportunity like this to start fresh, so I do feel like I owe it to myself to make the most of it… well half my brain feels that way. The other half reckons I need booze “just for a while, till I settle in” Sigh… the joys of addiction ay!?

      I enjoyed your swimsuit story, btw! Your husband sounds like a keeper 🙂 xx

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  3. Starting my sober journey today. After a big Saturday night and debilitating anxiety for the past 2 days, I am ready to finally say enough is enough. No more. Thanks for your lovely blog, I am looking forward to making my way through it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Welcome to the world of sober blogging – it’s an interesting place! 🙂 Good luck starting out, the first few weeks are the toughest and I promise it is generally uphill from here even if it feels like two steps forward, one step back xx

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  4. I’ve yet to find a sober blogger who returned to moderate drinking.

    I skip serious drinking events, but places where a few drinks are offered are fine. I actually find many people don’t drink, or nurse one glass. I know I would always have been on the heavier drinking side…and assumed everyone else was too. It’s not always the case when you look around.

    I’m an introvert, but I like to chat. I find if I ask other questions about themselves they are always interested in sharing.

    You will find you comfortable sober skin. From there, you can enjoy yourself anywhere.

    Anne

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Anne, yeah I’ve read that moderation is a myth countless times and yet I still struggle to accept that reality. I’m not really sure what to do to dispel the myth. Part of me wants to attempt moderation simply to prove to myself that it doesn’t work, but I guess that is the incredibly cunning and twisted addicty side of my brain talking…. big fat sigh.

      Oh btw – I’ve been meaning to ask you… You’ve suggested once that I use something for anxiety. Was it magnesium? And something else? I can’t find the original comment.

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      1. Probably. I am always pushing magnesium!
        I use magnesium every night before bed. 300 mg mag citrate, although there are other types.
        It relaxes and helps with anxiety.

        I also take gababutylic acid (GABA) when I am acutely anxious. It is available at the grocery store.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Rosie, I hope you enjoy your new life in the UK. Why don’t you try some AA meetings there? I’ve met so many sober friends from AA meetings. There are hundreds of meetings in London per week.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Noddy, yep, that’s definitely crossed my mind. I think SMART recovery meetings appeal more to me that AA. From what others have said AA doesn’t sound like the right fit for me, but yes, in general I think there will be a lot more support options of all varieties in such a massive city! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m finding some success in socialising which doesn’t involve booze. Ice skating, pole dancing classes, breakfast dates, movies. So far my friends have been up for all the things I’ve suggested and have said it’s nice to do things which don’t involve drinking. Although it turns out that most of them don’t actually drink very much anyway, unless I am encouraging them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah I know the feeling, I’m surprised by how little some of my friends care about drinking when I’m not suggesting we go for a wine.

      Breakfast dates sound right up my alley! I don’t know if you’d catch me swinging myself around a pole though haha (although it might help me shift a few of the brunch kilos!)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. As a drug and alcohol counselor I feel I should chime in on the “moderation” idea. You want to am your counselors if it’s possible, the answer is complicated. Most counselors in the United States won’t tell you this but some people with and addictive behavior are able to moderate that behavior. Examples are food and sex addiction where abstinence isn’t a realistic goal. Some people with alcohol problems also return to moderate use, but you ask if it was possible. I don’t know if it is possible for you. I don’t know if it’s possible for me. I haven’t had a drink or any other type of intoxicant for 8 1/2 years but I couldn’t tell you if I could drink moderately.

      If drinking moderately is important to you I suggest you read Recover! by Stanton Peele. He isn’t a moderation management author and recognizes many people do need to remain abstinent but he also recognizes some people recover without complete abstinence. As for how many people manage this again it’s hard to say. I’ve heard up to %45, but the data on this is suspect, and I’ve heard less than %3 but the data on this was completely made up. It’s probably safe to say that less than half achieve moderation, possibly a lot less. But again, it’s just a guess.

      In the end it’s up to you. If you think you can do it and it’s important to you I’m not one who will shame you for trying. If it doesn’t work you can always go back to abstinence. If it does work you can write a book. Just be very careful. See what your partner thinks (one of the reasons I will never make the attempt is because the idea scares the Hell out of my wife) come up with a plan for if things go poorly, whatever you do, don’t do it in secret. If you have to hide this experiment, it will almost certainly go bad.

      Before deciding I would recommend you do a thorough Cost Benefit Analysis listing the cost and benefits of continuing abstinence and the cost and benefits of attempting moderation. I think you will find that you will be sacrificing long term benefits for short term ones. Also, remember there will be more options for support groups in London so you may not feel so alone. SMART Recovery meetings are filled with people who didn’t feel comfortable in AA meetings.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. As much as I wonder about whether I’ll ever be able to moderate in future, I know that it’s not something I want to dabble in right now – I’ll need my head on straight to organise the big move!

        But if I’m still struggling to accept being sober all of the time down the track a bit I might investigate moderation as an alternative. I think you’re probably right when you say I’d probably be sacrificing long term benefits for short term ones though! Thanks for the practical take on things Ken 🙂

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  7. I totally get this struggle you describe. I’m a football coach. The group is rowdy when we celebrate. It’s so hard for them the ‘get’ that I don’t drink. I guess I’m just at a place where I could give a shit about what people think when I tell them that I’m not drinking. I’ve grown to a place of comfortability with being sober. But this is after 8 and a half years with a drink. Stay with it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I’m definitely not in a place where I’m comfortable with sober socialising yet. It’s silly because I know that I’m the only one who really cares what’s in my glass, but it’s still a struggle! Hopefully things get better in time.

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  8. Hi Rosie,
    You got some great comments, here!
    It took me this long, (23 months) to feel good socializing while sober.
    I am so much happier, because I am not being obnoxious or moody, or dominating the conversations.
    It takes time. I hated socializing when I was first sober.
    I don’t have that many nights out, and I love meeting people for walks, coffee, etc.
    I love how honest you are about yourself!
    Much Love,
    Wendy

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  9. I think everyone hates socializing while sober to a degree, hence why so many people drink in social situations! I read “Drinking” a memoir by Caroline Knapp (definitely check it out if you haven’t read it), and she talks a lot about the idea (that I think comes from the Big Book originally), that you don’t ever have to participate in a social situation unless it enriches your life AND the lives of those around you. If you are not gaining anything from the experience, while also adding substance to the experience of those around you, skip it. I think this makes decided when to say “no” much easier, though I am still working hard at breaking old habits of feeling socially obligated all the time. Great post! I’m glad I found your blog! 🙂

    Like

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