Feeling sober & serious? How to enjoy socialising without booze

When I first stopped drinking I honestly thought I’d never feel that welcomed tinge of euphoria that alcohol is so brilliant at creating.

I never thought I’d feel the slight excitement that comes from feeling more confident, funnier, more verbose, opinionated and slightly more reckless.

I never thought I’d experience the warmth of sitting amongst friends and family again feeling absolutely at ease. Happy and slightly tipsy listening to my mates shooting the breeze and adding my own light-hearted contributions aimed to make them smile and better still laugh out loud.

I loved all of those times.

I was always drawn to alcohol

I loved drinking. Alcohol had played a part in my life to a greater and lesser extent long before it was legal for me to drink. I must have been about 5 years old when I would squeeze behind the back of the sofa and reach around to surreptitiously sip from my Nan’s glass of Milk Stout standing beside her handbag on the living room carpet. Warm, malty and dark it was horrible and like nothing else I had ever tasted. I knew it was something forbidden but I also knew it was somehow compelling and mysterious. My dad rarely ever drank but would always go to the off-licence before tea-time to buy my nan a couple of bottles of stout for her weekly sleep-over.

Drinking made everything easier

Later in my life, of course, drinking was a massive social lubricant for every conceivable event. Celebrating or commiserating wasn’t undertaken without alcohol. Getting off with someone or breaking up from them was more often hazy not because it was all a long time ago but also made vaguer from cheap cider or copious amounts of acidic white wine.

Getting past doormen and allowed into pubs and nightclubs aged just 15 was a right of passage that came with a certain kudos. Holding it together having drunk a skinful was the same.

300 days sober and counting

And now here I am some 300 days sober and seriously believing and intending that I’ll never drink again.

I wrote in my blog post about my first 100 days of sobriety and the high energy state and focus on not drinking evaporated many moons ago. Not drinking is very my natural state now. Days and weeks go by and I never even think about drinking alcohol.

Alcohol was ever-present in my life

When I first decided not to drink I only set a goal of a week and thought that might be a challenge too far. And, though for the past several years I had only been properly drunk a handful of times alcohol was ever-present in my life. It was my norm to mark the end of the working day with a large glass of wine as I prepped dinner and another large glass when we ate. Alcohol was at practically every social occasion with friends and family. I’m trying to recall any event in my adult life that would not have included a drink of some sort including a glass of champagne to open presents on Christmas morning!

Looking back now what feels surprising is how normalised this behaviour around alcohol is. In my friendship group and with adult members of our extended family this was how we hosted gatherings and this is how we kicked-back and relaxed.

Stopping drinking was uncomfortable. It felt unfamiliar to be in social situations without a glass in my hand. I was aware I felt too alert, too on duty, too much like me. I missed that softening and blurring of the day time me into someone more laid back and easy-going. I missed that change of state but not enough to make me want to start drinking again.

Being sober felt so serious

For weeks when I first stopped drinking I never believed I’d feel carefree and silly again. I thought I was doomed to forever feel sober and serious.

About 6 or 7 months into my sobriety I went to stay with my brother and his wife in Ireland for a weeks holiday. I’d been to the Republic of Ireland many times before and my visits always irreverently revolved around chatting deep philosophical nonsense with my lovely family while imbibing large amounts of drink in any of the quirky pubs out there casting their welcoming light into the soft-rain-drenched nights.

I never thought I would survive the trip sober. Worse I thought being sober would rob me of the joy I felt spending precious time with people I loved. Would I be able to feel the distance of years and kilometres fall away between us if I was sober? Would I be able to jibe and joke with my brother and take his jibes and jokes if I hadn’t had a drink or two?

I seriously doubted I could ever feel like anyone other than his serious, sober sister.

Enjoying socialising without booze

Imagine my relief sitting in John Paul’s bar in Dungarvan, County Waterford to find that my ability to talk gibberish was not dependent on having a drink after all? I had the best of times that week in Ireland and as if by a miracle it has continued since then too.

I found that feeling of silliness and lightness that I had always attributed to the drink was always there in me. I found I could relax and feel different from my daytime self even though I was sober and it felt like such a joyous revelation.

I’m enjoying my sobriety. I do believe it is the greatest gift I’ve ever given myself. I thought I’d always feel an awkward otherness as my friends downed their drinks and I stayed sober but it is not the case at all. It took a few months for my mojo to come back but it has.

If you are feeling oddly sober and deeply serious around your drinking friends let me reassure you that you too can get your social mojo back even when you’re sober. You have it already. You just need to lean in and trust that it’s there.

If you are struggling with how much you are drinking and think you need some support to make positive changes then reach out and book an obligation free discovery call with me. The link is on this page. Sobriety isn’t for everyone. What you might need is assistance to recalibrate your relationship with booze and to see what that feels like for you.

Also on this topic 16 things I’ve learnt from 100 days of not drinking. Click here to read more

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