I don't want my courage to come from a bottle
January 12, 2009 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Since the beginning of the year, I've begun binge drinking in social situations to loosen up. What can I do that will help me get over my anxieties and not have to depend on a bottle to make me talkative and fun?

I'm a 29 year old in the Midwest. Before Dec. 31, 2008, I hadn't drank to excess in about 7 years.

On New Year's Eve, I went to a party in LA and did 10 shots of tequila and vodka. I had a great time and made a few new friends. This past weekend, the same thing happened. I went to a bar after a wedding with some other attendees, got trashed and had a great time.

I'm in therapy right now trying to deal with anxiety issues and mild social phobia. Normally, I'm deathly afraid that I'll be uninteresting. When I do try to be gregarious while sober, I seem to say offensive things. When I've been drunk, it's been the opposite. People love me and we all have a great time.

I'm afraid that I'm going down a bad path, and would like to stop before things get out of control.

Can people tell me how they manage to have a good time and not be so worried about what people think while also not drinking?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Christopher Hitchens frequently says something along the lines of, "... I find that a smoke and a drink help to make other people ... less boring..."

Now whether you feel the need to drink to make yourself more interesting, that's probably slightly different, but I feel the implications are the same.

Here's the thing though: I don't think you have a problem, or at least much of one. In each of your examples above (New Years Eve, a wedding) getting trashed is almost de jure.

I mean, why else do people come together in bars and at parties to ritualistically drink intoxicating beverages if it isn't precisely to loosen up, socialize, and have fun?

would like to stop before things get out of control

I find it really hard to stop problems before they even exist in cases such as this. We're not talking about having the oil changed in your car so the engine doesn't explode, we're talking about a behavior, one which doesn't seem entirely inappropriate given the contexts or one that has seemingly caused you too much duress.
posted by wfrgms at 2:01 PM on January 12, 2009


Anti anxiety medication.
I sometimes specifically take a mild benzodiazepine if I know I have something daunting coming up (and I had them prescribed by my GP for that very reason - cuz my alternative would be drinking - a few years back).
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:07 PM on January 12, 2009


Try to stop at 3 shots next time, if you can. If you can't, try to abstain. Yeah, it sucks, but so does self-medicating for social anxiety.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:12 PM on January 12, 2009


Omega-3 acids, magnesium, niacinamide, kava, b-vitamins, the benzodiazapines, SSRIs, barbituates, and marijuana are all known for their anxiolytic properties, including social anxiety. Personally I find that dosing up on magnesium and a multi-vitamin keep me reasonably engaged and "in the moment" socially, although I don't think they'll turn you into the life of the party. You will however stop giving as huge a shit about whether you are interesting, which in fact makes you interesting. At least temporarily.


I find it really hard to stop problems before they even exist in cases such as this. We're not talking about having the oil changed in your car so the engine doesn't explode, we're talking about a behavior, one which doesn't seem entirely inappropriate given the contexts or one that has seemingly caused you too much duress.

Wow, worse advice ever.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, and benzos are a good suggestion as a SUBSTITUTE for alcohol, but if you can't avoid drinking please, please avoid benzos and drinking. They don't go together.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:13 PM on January 12, 2009


I don't really understand why you would choose not to drink in bars and parties when everybody else is drinking. The reason everybody else is drinking is to relax their inhibitions slightly and be more gregarious. Do you feel that all those other people are "going down a bad path"? I would suggest trying to drink in moderation; have an quantity you're comfortable with so you can relax without getting trashed. Drink a couple of beers or mixed drinks rather than 10 shots, and you've found a happy middle ground. That's not going down a bad path, it's what most normal people do.
posted by nowonmai at 2:14 PM on January 12, 2009


Oh and more to the main point of your question--I learned to have a good time by making sure I was going out with people with whom I am comfortable. I also tried to go to activities where there is more to do than just socialize and drink--like going on a walk in the park or a movie or something like that.

I also (still) work on being comfortable saying nothing. It's hard for me to do when I get nervous, I start spewing stuff that can sometimes be obnoxious, it gets better with practice and with effective treatment of my anxiety.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:24 PM on January 12, 2009


I don't really understand why you would choose not to drink in bars and parties when everybody else is drinking.

Uh, because he's worried that he's out of control and worried that he needs it.

I think sondrialiac has the right idea. See if you can drink in moderation. If you can't, that's something. If you can, you might get the loosening up properties without the excess.
posted by Pax at 2:27 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"You don't have a problem."
"Take anti-anxiety medication."

Wow, some shit advice going around here at both ends of the spectrum. Good on you, OP, for recognizing a potential problem. Have you brought up this specific concern with your therapist? He/she is the person to talk to about this, not a bunch of anonymous people on the internet. He/she can help you learn to recognize these situations and teach you practices for refocusing your energy while you're in them, as well as be an ongoing source of support if/when you slip up.

(Personal side note: you really shouldn't be taking medication like that solely on the advice of your GP, who probably just wrote a scrip to get you out the door; see a specialist)
posted by mkultra at 2:33 PM on January 12, 2009


Can people tell me how they manage to have a good time and not be so worried about what people think while also not drinking?

If you're not worried about what people think, then the good time often follows from that.

But the truth is also that people sometimes don't have good times at parties. Hard drinking parties can be really boring if you're not a hard drinker.

Try some events that are more interesting to you, with people who you like and who like you, where alcohol isn't the focus, and you may find you have more fun.

Good luck.
posted by zippy at 4:28 PM on January 12, 2009


Nthing what norabarnacl3 said, but marijuana has anxiety/paranoia promoting effects on some people so I would avoid it.
posted by bradly at 4:33 PM on January 12, 2009


Maybe ask one of your friends who stays (more) sober during parties if you really are the life of the party, or just the party jack ass. I'm not saying you're a jerk, I'm saying you could be confusing people laughing with and laughing at you and how drunk you are.

I'm pretty sure social anxiety can be treated with medication, but it sounds like you were able to mingle without any substance helping (or hindering) you for a while. Therapy alone could help you become comfortable again.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:54 PM on January 12, 2009


I'm sorry I cannot answer your question specifically. However I know quite a few people who have been addicted to drugs and alcohol, now happily recovering. Nearly all of them share a common experience in that the use of substances was a way to have more fun socially and romantically. Then ten years of their life quickly blurred right by until one day they woke up in an emergency room with something stuck in their face, or underneath an automobile, or came to in handcuffs and their girlfriend has a black eye from something, horrible stuff like this. Please do whatever you can to learn how to have fun in a non, self-destructive manner.

I'm not saying you'll end up like this if you continue your evil ways. What's going on here is a pattern is developing. It's good that you can see it, but be sure to keep a very close eye on it.
posted by uhom at 5:10 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"When I've been drunk... people love me and we all have a great time."

Are you sure?

I find when I'm drunk that I am no less offensive but I am better able/more willing to disregard others' opinions.
posted by cranberrymonger at 5:29 PM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like having a drink or two to loosen up and get chattier than my usual quiet self. But I've realized that, after the first or second drink, mostly I just need something to keep my hands busy. You could try alternating between alcohol and soda (let yourself have one drink/shot, then make yourself have a soda or seltzer with lime) to slow yourself down.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:44 PM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you're particularly worried about not drinking while in a "getting trashed" sort of environment, and think the people there won't be cool with you just saying you don't want to, maybe could say you're "taking antibiotics, so I shouldn't". You can still be awesome and interesting (especially to drunk people) whether you're drunk with them or not. Though really, if they're the sort of people who wouldn't be cool with that, it's probably not worth bothering with them.

But if you decide you are going to have a drink, maybe try sticking to a mixed drink or beer you don't particularly like?

I tend to carry on to excess if I get to the point that I'm already pretty drunk, especially if I'm drinking shots (obviously). But I'm not a big fan of very fizzy mixed drinks, or lager, so if I'm only drinking them it makes me less likely to have loads.

Disclaimer: I'm pretty bad at this myself. Good on you for thinking about it.
posted by lucidium at 6:18 PM on January 12, 2009


If you think you're developing a problem, then you may want to flesh this out more with your therapist. They'll be able to help you redirect/address what's going on before you have a real problem. With anything that requires a real battle to overcome, catching it early makes it easier -- it can even prevent something really life-altering from happening some time in the more distant future.

When I do try to be gregarious while sober, I seem to say offensive things. When I've been drunk, it's been the opposite. People love me and we all have a great time.

I think a question you may want to ask yourself is if the things you say are still offensive, but they can laugh *because* you're drunk. Someone being drunk and saying offensive things can sometimes lubricate the sober people around to disregard it because that person "doesn't really know what they're saying". It can be a hazy line between what you've said and what I've said -- even hazier since it involves what seems to be quite a bit of alcohol.

Perhaps at the end of the day, you're not a large party person. Nothing's wrong with that; it's just not your scene. Don't try to force yourself into something you're not using substances because it can lead to problems down the line. No one says you have to do everything your friends do (and no one says that if it's all they do, you have to be their friend).
posted by Gular at 8:56 PM on January 12, 2009


It can be a hazy line between what you've said and what I've said -- even hazier since it involves what seems to be quite a bit of alcohol.**

Apparently my grammar fails! let's try that sentence again:

It can be a hazy line between what you've said and what you may be able to believe because the amount of alcohol it seems like you'd have can cloud an event after the fact.
posted by Gular at 8:59 PM on January 12, 2009


It's much easier and quicker to become shitfaced drunk way past where you want to be if you're doing shots. Don't do shots! Alcohol doesn't have to be consumed to the point where you're falling over and the whole reason why people enjoy getting a bit pissed is because they want to get that buzzy feeling which makes them want to talk and not really care about the things one usually cares about (if you're lacking in self-esteem, I mean. Am I boring? Am I ugly? Am I too fucked in the head to be out in public?) I don't think it's wrong or leading to bad things if you enjoy that feeling.

Basically, you just have to pace yourself with less alcoholic things (beer, cider) or get a mixed drink in a tall glass without a straw or something of that nature. Seriously, I'd avoid shots. Obviously, if you feel unhappy with drinking and worry that you can't have the same amount of fun without it then you should try and remember all those times you've hung out with people in a non-drinking environment and laughed yourself sick. I think even the most introverted amongst us have done that at least once. It's all about atmosphere.

It doesn't have to be an either/or thing. Drink a bit, enjoy yourself. Getting maggotty-arsed drunk isn't fun after a very short while, so don't do shots! (Or only do them occasionally).
posted by h00py at 11:17 PM on January 12, 2009


This may be the most obvious advice ever, but I've had good results from just saying to myself "This is a wedding. You usually feel super-awkward at weddings and so sometimes you drink too much. Tonight the victory is going to be that you did not do this. You're going to feel so healthy. Afterward, you can even [read that book you love] instead of just being tired and falling asleep." Then, all night, I'll limit myself to something fairly minimal. In the beginning, it's fun because I have a secret plan (to end up one of the most sober people there). As the night progresses, it's fun because I'll start to notice other people getting sloppier and I'll realize how much more healthy and energetic I feel than I'd feel if I were drinking.

I'm not sure how you'll deal with the mild social anxiety, but practice makes perfect, (particularly when combined with therapy), and you're not practicing if you're drunk. :) Good luck.
posted by salvia at 1:03 AM on January 13, 2009


I'd go for moderation and getting plenty of soft drinks in there between alcoholic drinks.

I have struggled with moderation and a lot of the time it is just keeping my hand busy. As crazy as that sounds!

I was in a club last Saturday stone cold sober (January is a dry month for me). I still felt the need to always have something - water, coke, lemonade - in my hand. It's hard to describe it.
posted by aTrumpetandaDream at 2:34 AM on January 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older What's my boyfriend up to?   |   Need your Help Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.