How can I be outgoing without the use of alcohol?
April 12, 2009 7:36 AM   Subscribe

How can I be outgoing without the use of alcohol?

I had a very tight policy of avoiding a situation in which I would feel pressured to drink. This is because I don't like losing control and talking too much, and because my father is an alcoholic.

Aaand then I had to go to a passover seder due to my increasing religiosity, and grape juice wasn't readily available as the kids had scurried it to different rooms to drink it there. I really was anxious the first night--I knew I would get drunk quickly, as the last time I really drank was five years ago. And yeah, I got wasted (giggling hysterically for three hours) on very little alcohol. I hated the idea of losing control before getting drunk, but it wasn't that bad.

For the second seder, I ate beforehand and brought I friend. I got comfortably drunk on 5-ish glasses of wine, and I met more people in the 5 hours of the second seder than I had met during all of the 30-50 hours of Shabbat dinners that I had attended previously--and the Shabbat dinners had the exact same people attending as the seders.

How can I keep up that gregarious version of myself when not drunk? I still want to really control my drinking--no drinking alone, no drinking everyday, no drinking during every social situation in any given week, no drinking to self-medicate, etc.--because of the family history of alcoholism, but I like meeting people. Plz hope me.
posted by flibbertigibbet to Human Relations (11 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like it's all or nothing with you.

Five glasses of wine? That's an entire bottle - no wonder you were the life of the party.

You need to learn to moderate your drinking, and that comes from experience.

Alcohol is a wonderful substance for loosening lips and relaxing nerves. But it sounds like you've attached all this baggage to it - not just the stuff about your family history - but also all these arbitrary "rules" about not drinking alone, or everyday, or whatever. I think when you do that you're setting yourself up to fail.

I think you should relax some of these rules. You're not going to wind up in the gutter drinking mouthwash if you let yourself have a few drinks in EVERY social occasion. Hell, I won't go to a social occasion UNLESS there is booze...

Ask yourself this: How do most other well rounded, responsible, pillar-of-the-freaking-community types do it? Answer: they drink as much as they want, when they want, and they generally know how to shut it off when needed. And yeah, sometimes people have one too many (no such thing in my book, btw) but that's the fun of it.

No one likes a lush, but everyone has been a lush at least a few times. Sounds like you're there already, the trick now is to learn how to pull back a little and learn to gauge your intake.
posted by wfrgms at 7:53 AM on April 12, 2009

Best answer: Fake it until you make it.

The more you pretend to be outgoing, the more naturally it will come.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:45 AM on April 12, 2009 [4 favorites]

Best answer: wfrgms is right, five glasses is a lot, especially for someone who never drinks. I mean, if you follow the Haggadah exactly, you'll only be drinking four glasses, and that's meant to get you pretty splashed. If you're going to drink, you need to learn to titrate the correct amount of alcohol. That's not going to happen if you're treating booze like a loaded gun.

There's a reason why booze is considered a social lubricant. It does make this stuff easier. But you don't have to get wrecked to get to that point. I'm a lightweight too, but it only takes me two drinks or so to overcome my natural shyness.

The way to overcome shyness without alcohol is to talk to people and put yourself out there despite feeling like a deformed wreck while you're doing so. Eventually, through time and experience, it will get a little easier. But if you're like me, and inherently shy, it won't ever go away completely.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:45 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: wfrgms: to be fair, the first night I had 1.5 glasses and was way, waaay too drunk. The second night (the night of 5 cups of wine) I was one of the most sober people there, in that I could walk in a straight line, was mostly not slurring, and could stand without leaning on things. Many people found the final set of prayers of the evening difficult as they couldn't stand properly. So yeah, I was lush, but not outrageously so for the situation.

And it seems like, while those are great guidelines for drinking that you've presented, that I still don't quite know how to be social without booze. I'm just way too shy to meet people without alcohol.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:47 AM on April 12, 2009

Response by poster: Thank PhoBWanKenobi!
posted by flibbertigibbet at 8:48 AM on April 12, 2009

I've never drank more than a few sips of alcohol, so either this will be very helpful to you, or maybe useless. Worth a shot, though:

When I have been in situations even where other people are drinking, I am usually still the one everyone comes to talk to. I am an introvert on top of all this, so it's kind of weird. As best I can tell, it's because I'm very happy and I laugh and joke around a lot. I am careful not to make cruel or condescending jokes, though; that's the sort of thing that makes people not want to be around other people. I have noticed that I like this sort of behavior in other people as well. If someone feels that you're genuinely happy to talk to them, they will want to talk to you. You can do that without alcohol. When I think of my other friends who are like this, I think the best way to describe it is "perpetually delighted." Not in a phony way, though.

One thing I don't do, which sort of goes against the grain of most of the advice people give for meeting new people: I generally don't walk up to anyone and introduce myself. Since I'm an introvert, it's just not something I'm inclined to do. Meeting new people can be fun, but I don't care at all if I don't talk to anyone, either. It's a "take it or leave it" sort of thing for me. For whatever reason, if I'm talking to someone else and laughing and joking around, other people will walk up to us and join in on their own, though. Once people start talking to me I find it very easy to talk to them. If you're inclined to introduce yourself go ahead, I just mean this to be taken more as reassurance if you're not that type. There's more than one way to be successful, and if you don't go to other people, the only alternative is that they come to you. (I think the latter sounds more intimidating to a lot of people, but for me, the former is.)

I think it's possibly the "take it or leave it" attitude that makes it easy for me to talk to other people. I've noticed that when other people want to make new friends very much, sometimes they act awkwardly or second-guess everything they say, and this is off-putting and counterproductive. When someone doesn't seem too invested in how others perceive them, their personality seems to shine through more and they're easier to talk and relate to.

Unfortunately, I don't have any good advice for how not to care about this sort of thing; it's just been how I've always felt, since I was in pre-school. I remember being aware that people seemed to move in groups of friends that were all very different, so if some people didn't like me I just assumed others would and that's just how the world was. I still feel that way. I was also an only child so from a young age I had to figure out how to keep myself entertained, and I realized I could have just as much fun alone. Whenever someone didn't want to be my friend, it seemed insignificant because there was plenty of other stuff I wanted to do. When I'm in a social situation, there's nothing riding on it so I probably come across as pretty carefree. I guess that attracts people.
posted by Nattie at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: As the kid of an alcoholic I have this same issue. I like having a drink or two from time to time. Sometimes it's easy to do just that, and sometimes I wond up having five and, while I'm not out of control I'm aghast at myself because I don't want to end up a terrible alcoholic.

So there are three parts to this

1. not letting alcohol become the only path to you being able to be social - you might find that exercise, pot, whatever, might help you loosen up in a similar way. For me if I exercise a lot, I'm a little too out of it to get uptight socially. Some people find that lorazepam works to get them around their stage fright.
2. finding limits that you are okay with -- my personal deal is that if I have "too much" to drink at an event then there's no more drinking for seven days. If I find myself bargaining with myself over that, that highlights a problem. Some people like the Glass Ceiling approach [otherwise known as "two drink maximum"] I prefer to have some complicated math approach but the big deal is that once you find an approach, stick with it and enlist your friends to help you as well. This can help you feel in control.
3. forgiveness. You are not your parent, and you have awareness and the ability to make smart choices. While I think it's a good idea to be mindful of alcohol and potential problems, this does not mean being afraid of it. It's what you make of it and you seem to mostly be making okay choices. Good for you.
posted by jessamyn at 9:14 AM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I don't drink. I have, but not any more.

I am shy to an extent, but I learned that shyness is something that can be beaten and it really boils down to tapping that inner strength. Anything alcohol helps you do, you can do on your own. It just requires you to gird yourself and take that first step. It'll be scary at times, but the more you do it, the more you put yourself out there, the easier it'll become next time. In brief, be bold!

Being prepared doesn't hurt, either! Think about what it might be that you say or don't say when you feel you've been a successful socializer, then use that material in future interactions (just don't repeat the same things to same people). People generally like to talk about themselves, so ask questions of them and be interested (or appear to be interested) in what they say. Get them to talk about the things they really find interesting.

In the second seder, you brought a friend, someone you're already comfortable with, and you should repeat that. He/She probably helped you felt at ease, and were also able to aid in conversation.

It's all right to control your drinking. There's a heavy social expectation that everyone should or need to drink, and it's rather dismal when it's generally only dismissed when someone is the designated driver. If you can enjoy life, have a great time without the help of alcohol, you'll be a step ahead of a lot of people. It's not easy, but you'll be all the more proud and confident in yourself when you achieve it.

FYI, while it's a drastic thing. I took a job as a tour guide at a major tourist location as a means to boost my confidence to speaking with strangers and in public situations. At worse, you can try and find something similar (and it can be as simple as perhaps volunteering to read to people in the hospital or visit with them, etc).
posted by Atreides at 10:12 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't drink anymore. I have also been shy and still am sometimes. Here are my keys to getting into that good social state that you seemed to enjoy at the second seder.

1) Ask people about themselves. Then again. Then again, and again, and again as necessary. Most people take your initial curiosity as a convention and give you conventional answers. Somewhere in the next few times you show curiosity their resistance shatters and they'll just pour themselves out for you. They'll walk away thinking you're kind, smart and funny. They'll also feel gratified that someone cares about what they are and what they feel.
2) Don't try to win. People become competitive in social situations. They want to have the funniest banter or have the most remarkable anecdote or leave the biggest impression. No one actually enjoys these people, or being these people. Part of what happens with alcohol is a loosening of the competition. So: Go in knowing that other people are funnier and more knowledgeable than you are, and make clear you know this. They, in turn, won't try to dominate you (not in most cases). They'll find you relaxing and pleasant company. And guess what? You'll feel the same way about yourself.
3) Relax. Unfold your arms, smile, look people in the eye, enjoy the pauses and conversational gaps. Let people know you're comfortable with yourself and with them. Do this for long enough and people will want to move into your space so they can be around you.

I treat social engagement as a kind of musical thing. Relax, listen, play, enjoy the music.
posted by argybarg at 10:36 AM on April 12, 2009 [10 favorites]

I've never had a drink in my life, but I'm frequently around people who do. At some point in my life, I realized that I was dialing back my inhibitions in proportion to how drunk the rest of the group got. Last year I was on a cruise with several other people who had been drinking pretty heavily and I was saying all kinds of crazy stuff that I normally wouldn't say, and one of them said, "He's not even drunk!" That's when I realized what I'd been doing my whole adult life, and now I do it on purpose.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 2:24 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Prep yourself.

Seriously, if you're walking into a new situation with new people, find out from a friend who's going to be there - if there's someone there you know, have them introduce you. Have them tell you about other guests.

Like Atreides and argybargy said, people like to talk about themselves and their connections to the host. Wander around, look for a conversation you can sidle into and drop in a comment. Once the conversation reaches a pause, take the plunge and introduce yourself.

Have a short intro for yourself, "Hey, I'm flibbertigibbet, old friend/roomie/whatever of HOST."

Sounds silly but rehearsing a few simple stock questions can give you the courage to come out with them... and then to followup when someone makes an interesting comment that you can connect to. "Oh, you went to Alaska? What was it like? Where'd you go?"

Start small. You'll find that by easing yourself into asking people questions, you'll feel a lot more comfortable holding your own as time goes on.
posted by canine epigram at 10:39 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

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