(Originally posted February 2018)
My entire life I thought I was a straight-up social virtuoso. Fear of missing out plagued me any time I couldn’t attend a party, outing, get-together or weekend away. Any event that might involve alcohol I HAD to be part of.
Being someone who’s gone to school, plays sports, has had many jobs, including in the restaurant and bar industry, and who LOVED to drink, I know a shitload of people. Meeting people has always been easy for me and it still is, but keeping up with acquaintances and the social scene in general seems to have been mostly due to drinking.
Like it or not, alcohol is something that a majority of society has in common. It doesn’t matter if two people share the same hobbies, values or passions, it’s pretty easy to have a drink and small talk with almost anyone. I bet you can think of at least a few people you’ve shared an alcoholic beverage with who are SO random and you have zero things in common with, or maybe don’t even know anything about whatsoever. I can. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s funny and awesome and I am not judging it whatsoever. It’s just that when I eliminated alcohol, I eliminated that shared interest. The one thing I had in common with many people, places and situations changed and I had to re-evaluate how I enjoyed spending my time.
Introversion is not the same thing as being shy or having anxiety about social situations. I am still a friendly and outgoing person. I think I’m approachable. I love to talk about things (even feelings) with my close friends, family, husband and run buddies. Sometimes I’m a comedian. Public speaking and karaoke don’t scare me at ALL, and neither do group projects. I am not shy. Sometimes I go to running events that have thirty thousand participants and hang out with people I’ve never met before.
Introversion is a trait that can be described as more of a focus on internal thoughts and feelings than on external stimulation. This hits the nail on the head for where I’m at these days as a sober person. Being around lots of people in a loud or busy environment drains me and makes me feel agitated. I usually sneak away. Nowadays, I’d rather organize my compression socks by colour than go to most parties. Not pointing a finger at drinking parties, I’m talking about any moderately hectic social interaction that lasts more than two hours and doesn’t revolve around something personally fascinating. I’m not anti-social or a hermit, but unless it’s my super close friends getting together, or an activity I am passionate about, I’d just kinda rather do something alone or with my husband, who happens to be my best friend. Alcohol used to be my favourite reason to go out and do anything with a group, but not anymore.
Energized and recharged by solitude, that’s where I’m at. I never thought I’d say it until a couple years ago, but I LOVE being alone! Hiking, running, travelling, reading. When I was a big drinker, I didn’t know how to be alone. Maybe it was the hangover anxiety, or the fact that I didn’t know (or really like) myself at ALL and needed to be around others for distraction. It makes sense, since for a very long time I didn’t really have any specific hobbies besides partying, so when party time was over and I had to be by myself, I hated it. Now, when I go home after work on a Friday night, I am usually overjoyed to not go anywhere else hahaha. On my birthday I ran 33km by myself and then had an exercise party with twelve people and no liquor. If someone told me this in 2010 I’d be like WTF??
In my case, this transition to self-awareness and in turn, introversion, happened because I quit alcohol. Blaming booze isn’t something I’m into; personal responsibility is real and alcohol didn’t MAKE me do, or not do, anything. But I really did let it hold me back. Taking it away gave me the opportunity, finally, to get to know myself and learn what I’m actually like. Then it took some more time to get used to it, and to not judge myself for wanting to stay home on a Saturday night and read Descent into Madness: The Diary of a Killer in my bed, not even wondering what anyone else is up to. Can you guess what I did last night? LOL.
What I’ve gladly discovered is that as a sober person, I’m still outgoing, fun, brave and adventurous with a serious sense of humour. I’m still social too, but in different ways. On the other hand, though, I’ve also learned that I like having a handful of very close friends, versus that plus twenty groups of acquaintances. I’ve realized that I’m independent and self-aware. My preference is doing whatever the fuck I want, often alone, instead of trying to keep up with everyone else at all times. And as of recently, I’m totally okay with it.