This is What Social Life is Like When You’re Sober
Something I hear over and over again in AA meetings is the fear that getting sober means the party is over. We equated alcohol with fun for so long. And without drinking, it seemed like the rest of our lives would be spent somberly attending meetings and drinking coffee in brightly lit diners.
Even that terrified me when I first quit drinking. My social anxiety was at an all-time high, and I felt exposed and vulnerable around other people. In my first year, I might nervously venture out to “fellowship” after an AA meeting, endure a bit of socializing, then quickly retreat to the security of my living room, TV and cat. But over these past three years, I have slowly re-learned how to navigate my social life without liquid courage. Turns out, I’m not bored at all. And today I have way more friends than just my cat.
When I was just one month sober, I decided to go see one of my favorite bands play. I’ve always loved rock shows, but the idea of being sober at one was still really strange. Still, I loved this band. So I decided to face my fear, bringing along a non-sober but supportive friend.
When I was showing my ID, I asked if I needed to have a bracelet if I wasn’t drinking. “No,” said the security guard, “but if you don’t wear one I’ll have to put some X’s on your hands.” That was fine with me! Having the option to drink taken away actually helped. I had a blast, pounding back Diet Cokes.
Not drinking means I save money, don’t lose my spot in the crowd… and remember the entire show. Before, this often wasn’t the case.
Today, whenever I go to a show, I always ask if I need to wear a bracelet if I’m not drinking. Usually I don’t. I’ve been sober for years, but having that extra line of defense still gives me a little extra security. Not drinking means I save money, don’t lose my spot in the crowd because I’m constantly running to the bathroom or the bar…and remember the entire show. Before, this often wasn’t the case.
These days, I go to more shows than I did when I was drinking—at least three a month. I also go out dancing pretty often too. Yes, dancing. Dancing at a club surrounded by people was scary for me before I got sober, even six beers in. So naturally my first time dancing without liquid courage was terrifying. But I soon realized no one actually gave a crap about what I was doing. They were all much more interested in their own lives, drinks and dating prospects. Realizing no one was watching and judging me was amazing—I felt so free.
But that sense of calm and acceptance I used to feel when I had a PBR and a shot waiting was nowhere to be found. I was bored; the magic was gone.
These days, I don’t really ever go to a bar unless I have a reason to be there. Without drinking, I find bars boring and depressing. In sobriety, I did once visit my favorite dive bar on the Lower East Side, where I used to hang out so often I called it “my living room.” I ordered a soda from the bartender, who remarked that he hadn’t seen me in a while. But that sense of calm and acceptance I used to feel when I had a PBR and a shot waiting was nowhere to be found. I was bored; the magic was gone. I hugged the bartender goodbye and left.
And, as it turns out, I do spend a lot of time drinking coffee in brightly-lit diners and restaurants. This is probably my favorite social activity, because I’m there with my friends, enjoying their company. And ultimately, isn’t that the whole point of socializing in the first place?
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Heather Vance is a pseudonym to protect the writer’s anonymity
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