Sunday, August 21, 2011

Diet Coke, hold the Rum: Socializing Sober

I used to enjoy alcohol beverages for social occasions because it helped me to relax and let loose. For most people, alcohol helps to temporarily numb any social anxiety and awkwardness. Feeling socially awkward is not the same thing as "low self-esteem." I have always had a healthy dose of confidence, but have always felt socially peculiar especially around people I am just getting to know. It is natural in my opinion and actually more common for the majority of people to feel self conscious, even if they care to not admit so.

People are all striving towards some form of acceptance no matter who they are- they want to be understood and loved and know that they are not alone. The most over used ideology, phrase, cliche, and repeated mantra most people say is "I don't care what people think." Because if you are simply human, you will naturally care what other people think to a small degree. Some have mastered the art of not caring what people think, but not everyone is born with natural tendencies to not be concerned about others viewpoint of them.

Because, drinking, socializing, and wanting acceptance comes from over thinking what people think.  And for the most part, if there are those that begin drinking to relax and loosen up, talk to that cute girl at the bar that they would normally be scared to ask out. Talk to peers or friends in a way that is not, well, themselves. Why? Because many people at the end of the day are sometimes sick of being themselves. Living in a world full of social rules and decorum. They want to escape, loosen up, dance crazy, shout at the top of their lungs, and swing their hair all around. They want to let go in a way that they normally can't. They want to escape the reality of who they are and the reality of life.

Other times, drinking is not as complex. From the beginning of time, it has been a way to socialize and bond. It has been the largest bonding agent in America for centuries now. It is so ingrained in our society, that many still are not able to know how to bond without the use of alcohol. Whether it is one drink, a bottle of wine, or a keg. Alcohol allows us to be less inhibited. It is similar to the excitement everyone feels for dressing up on Halloween. You get to be someone else for a day. You get to be as silly, as scary, as wild looking, as freaky as you want and no one will judge you. Everyone will except you.

Alcohol allows us to drop our guards and our personal boundaries, by allowing us to be uninhibited enough to erase the bit of consciousness left in us that rationalizes and over analyzes. Being someone who is confident and yet suffers with social anxiety, I have always hated the strangeness of new encounters or ones that made me dig deep to learn to re-adjust to new environments. However, being in the Army has allowed me and my husband to adjust more easily to almost any situation. Yes, I get stressed out, but the day we both decided to commit our lives to not drinking again was a day that we completely cut alcohol out of our lives. We decided we did not want to drink anymore. It was too costly in more ways than one. It was risky and dangerous and always lead people to do crazy things. The higher amounts of negative consequences due to drinking outweighed the positive reasons to have it in our lives. Plus, it was a stimulant one that was not natural and toxic to our memory, liver, and overall health.

It has been about a year now since we stopped drinking alcohol. I used to smoke cigarettes and cigars too believe it or not. I had quit on and off for years. But finally, I gave it up completely a year ago when I gave up drinking. I wanted to not be addicted to anything, not have anything dominate my life to such a degree that it controlled me. Someone with an addiction is someone with an illness that controls their life. Having a father who is an alcoholic, a grandmother who is, and a grandfather who died from it- I decided to cut alcohol out of my life. I was always an occasional drinker, but could have become an alcoholic if I continued to indulge in it- especially with my family history on my father's side.

My husband and I at Wiseguys, Lake Placid, NY with friends
So, those of us who have stopped drinking. You have to re-learn how to socialize without the use of alcohol. You have to re-learn how to organically find the strength to flow with any natural social anxiety and move through the feelings- not trying to find the solution at the bottom of a cocktail glass. My husband and I have many friends and family that drink from social drinkers to those that are alcoholics. On a Saturday night, many friends want to hang out at bars. Today we enjoyed ourselves at "Wiseguys" in Lake Placid, NY- a super fun little ski town bar. We met up with our friends. We drank our soda and water and we had a good time, sober. It still feels strange for me, to not be tempted to pick up a glass of wine and say what is the big deal. But, it is a pact that we made and something we've decided we would cut out for the rest of our lives. While that may be drastic to some people, other people may find that it is honorable learning the amount of discipline it takes to control your life and not let it control you.

Water in hand and one goofy smile across my face; this is me having a
blast sober and yet organically drunk off life.
Social networking often relies on parties, bar nights, alcohol, dancing, karaoke and some good old drunken singing/shouting. Social networking often requires this sort of bonding. But, you can eat bar food, play pool and darts and sing at the top of your lungs and not be drunk. My epiphany came today in one humorous realization.

That, if you are not a drinker and you must socialize, bond, network with peers, co-workers, and people you need to be schmoozing with or around family and close friends. If it is alcohol related schmoozing (which most American bonding requires) then you treat it like Halloween. You can not go wrong at all. You can scream and yell and dance around and do the old fashion line-dance all by yourself. You can do it all and no one will care because, they'll all assume that you are drunk. They will also be too drunk to care anyway. Or, you can be as reserved as you want. You can smile as little as you want. You can be as serious as you want. You can be as yourself as you want and no one will care. Why? Well, because again- they will all be too drunk to notice. Either way, when having to network and schmooze and not a drinker, that is okay. Behave however you want because the drunkards around you will not remember a thing in the morning. So, order that diet coke- hold the rum, and embrace socializing sober.

"Some one who can live organically is someone with a lot of confidence, self esteem and motivation to make their own choices and have their own voice. They stand up for their beliefs and do not let others dictate their lives. They need not escape from reality, but live in it." Sonyo Lee Ferstl