Out of clubland, having fun
February 8, 2020 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Ex-party animals of MeFi: how did you change your life and reinvent yourself when it was time to stop the party lifestyle?

I'm a 30 year old party girl. I love cheap beer and punk shows and dive bars and making bad decisions and underground raves-- but the time has come to clean up my lifestyle. I'm lucky that the cracks aren't showing too bad on the outside but I'm just feeling tired and worn out and physically bad, and I have a grown-up career and a serious relationship and I want to live past 50.

This isn't an "addiction" question, it's a "growing the fuck up" question. I want to stop partying on weekends but am struggling with feeling...boring? Square? Like I don't know who I am without this stuff? Which is stupid because I'm a person with many interests that I don't have time to pursue, because I'm too hungover and sleep through Sundays, but this lifestyle has been part of my life and identity for the past 15 years or so.

Plus, turns out I don't like going out to shows or parties sober. I'm actually an introvert and if I'm not fucked up I'd rather be watching Netflix in my housecoat. See-- square! Boring!

So I'm looking for stories and experiences from former party people, and how you reinvented yourself, changed your life, filled that wild & crazy void when you grew up.
posted by noxperpetua to Grab Bag (35 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Do you view other people who do like sitting in their house coat and watching Netflix on their couch as quote-unquote square or boring?
posted by Kitchen Witch at 9:11 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]

Is it possible you mainly want to do nothing except watch Netflix in your housecoat because you're feeling tired and worn out and physically bad? The most motivated I've ever been to do stuff was right after I had norovirus and spent three solid days staring at a screen, eating chips, and sleeping because I felt too awful to do anything else. Alcohol is terrible for sleep quality so you may be ending up sleep deprived. (Also, it's February, which if you're in the Northern Hemisphere may be a factor.) What if you were to just take a few months "off" from going out, catch up on shows and sleep, and then re-evaluate whether you feel like doing anything more interesting?

Also, it might be worth digging down further into what happens when you're going out to these shows and parties sober. What emotions start coming up that you've been ignoring or suppressing -- fears of being judged, annoyance with people being inconsiderate, worries about work, intrusive thoughts, etc.? My guess is that whatever you're experiencing there, it probably also pops up in other areas of your life -- so figuring out a way to work with those emotions will probably pay dividends. A therapist might be helpful here, of course.

The other thing I'll say is that I think it might be a mistake to think about going out in an all-or-nothing way. One of the nice things about going out with (certain) people in their mid-to-late 30s is that you're all fucking tired. So you go out less frequently, you leave earlier, you work in some rounds of seltzers, you do more daytime events, etc., but it doesn't feel like a big sacrifice because you're with a bunch of people who are on the same page.

People who are attracted to intense experiences do also sometimes start sublimating it into things like exercise (Crossfit, long-distance running, yoga), meditation retreats, outdoor climbing, etc. But I don't think you necessarily need to start there.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:22 PM on February 8 [13 favorites]

It is self-limiting, when you turn 40 music will sound uninteresting and too loud, people will be obnoxious and boring, hangovers will last until Tuesday, beer will make you confused and cottonmouthed
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:37 PM on February 8 [10 favorites]

You’re going to have to find... hobbies? Other things that interest you? I quit drinking 8 years ago and have a very weird situation in that I go to a lot of parties and shows for work, so I still do these things you talk about but because I have to. I just had to find other things. I play d&d, I love to see movies, I cook, I run and lift weights, I have tea dates with friends. So many things that are not standing around drinking.

en forme de poire has some good insights about your drinking. Maybe relax for a while and take it easy and I can assure you that a rave and a punk show are still fun sober, but maybe not every weekend.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:39 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

I got old and my friends all left town :)
posted by ipsative at 10:00 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

I don't know if you can force yourself to outgrow this stage. It's something that happens gradually over time.

You might want to really dig in on the dissonance in your post. You say

I love cheap beer and punk shows and dive bars and making bad decisions and underground raves

But in the same breath you say

I don't like going out to shows or parties sober. I'm actually an introvert and if I'm not fucked up I'd rather be watching Netflix .

So it sounds like who you really are is clashing with who you think of yourself as. It sounds like you are someone who likes to be sober and watch netflix, but you still think of yourself as someone who likes to party.

As you've probably noticed, at a certain point getting high and drunk and going partying becomes a boring and predictable source of stress instead of fun.

It sounds like for you, as for many, the negative effects of booze and drugs start to make them unappealing. So you try going out sober and it isn't a good time.

You might start to realise that's because people who are wasted aren't having fun, they're just too wasted to realise what miserable, obnoxious fucks they are being.

This is kind of a turning point. They say you change when the pain of staying the same outweighs the fear of the unknown. At this juncture, some people choose to become die-hard partiers. They put their head back down (into their booze) and keep going as they were.

Others find that the scene stops seeming cool and starts seeming childish, and maybe off- putting and dyfunctional, and so they start doing more appealing things instead.

I don't particularly want to go to a rave for the same reason that I don't want to go play with 3rd graders at recess. I'm just over it. Sounds like you are getting over it too.

That's not to say there is never nostalgia or the occasional desire to act wild, but it's fleeting.

I don't worry about seeming "boring" or "square" Or whatever because my priorities and outlook on life have changed.

It doesn't matter to me if what I like is dull to the crowd I used to hang around with. I'm not a teenager, I don't need to impress anyone; and I couldn't impress anyone with that lifestyle anyways. Old party animals who don't know when to quit aren't sexy.

It's hard to walk away from an identity you've been holding onto for so long and honestly, it might also mean walking away from a lot of your friends as well. That's really hard.

People who are die-hard partiers in their 30s and 40s are probably not going to take well to switching to chats over coffee while knitting, or going to the gym together. They may very well sabotage your efforts to reinvent yourself or dismiss your friendship.

For that reason, I really recommend getting involved with an alcohol recovery community even if you don't identify as an alcoholic. A lot of addiction recovery work is actually about this very thing: being adrift without your old identity.

What do you do when you aren't being who you were? Who are you without the lifestyle? How do you be that person? How do you cope when everyone you thought was your friend was just someone who liked to drink with you?

R/stopdrinking is a good one without the AA baggage. Your question comes up in different forms all the time. You'll see it in every addiction recovery group. Even quitting smoking- people don't know who they are if they aren't a smoker, or what to do if they don't smoke, or how to cope with the void left by cigarettes. It's totally normal. It's almost like culture shock, only there isn't a single established culture to get accustomed to. Just you.

And lets be honest here... A lot of people change their lifestyle for a more urgent reason than you. They start working all the time and don't go out, because they need more money. Or they have a kid, and start spending their spare time at home. Or there's illness in the family, so they focus on caring for a loved one. Or they have one bad trip or scary drunken blackout too many, and they feel an urgent need to stop.

Walking away without an urgent, compelling reason, but just because it's about that time and seems sensible- that can be a lot harder because you don't have a big emotional investment in something that's pulling you away.

So you're going to have to put some effort into deliberately making the new patterns you want more compelling than your old habits. It can be work, but it's totally doable.

Listen, you're an adult. A real adult, not a 19 year old technical "adult". You get to make your own choices about your life.

That means you're allowed to stay in and watch netflix, or skip the club/hangover and pursue those other interests you mentioned instead. You don't have to, but you are free to.

And yes, it will feel weird because no, it is not the same, and yes, it's okay to grieve that or be scared or lonely or off-balance or feel like a sell out or a square or whatever feelings. And to still do it anyways.


I sought out examples of women my age and older who had qualities I admired and appreciated, and took them as role models, experimenting with emulating some of their choices and trying to understand their perspectives.

Many of them were from various media before I was "formed" enough to start successfully making new-me friends in real life. Who I selected as a role model and what I admired changed over the years as I changed, and will continue to do so. That's ok.

I cultivated interests and individual friendships around those interests. I began exploring my spirituality. I focused on career/financial goals. I got really interested in skin care. I started working out. I gardened. I got a pet. I took some classes. I realised I'm a bit of an adrenaline junkie and found some healthier and safer ways to channel that. I went to therapy. I went to recovery meetings. I read self-help books. I watched motivational videos. I essentially tried a bunch of shit to see what would stick. And slowly, over time, the person who I am became different from the person who I used to be.

It's a journey, not a destination. You are a person, not a problem; you don't have to wake up tomorrow and be solved. Progress isn't linear. Etc.,etc. I have a whole boatload of platitudes I could throw at you.

If you don't like what you are doing, it's okay to do something else just to see what it's like. Just keep trying stuff. You'll get there. Give it time.
posted by windykites at 11:25 PM on February 8 [51 favorites]

The turning point for me was deciding to have a child, assisted by a few rounds of psychedelics in the time where I was preparing for that decision. I am certain that reproduction isn’t a necessary part of disembarking from the party bus. But it definitely gave me a readymade “purpose” in life, which was something I always felt was missing - a motivating factor when it came to substance abuse for sure. Being a stay at home parent is actually the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done, and I am so much more forgiving of myself. Like despite anything related to maintaining my appearance being put on the back burner, and my social life being miniaturized, I have never had better self esteem. Am I bored half to death sometimes? Do I find myself daydreaming about all the unattended festivals and concerts and parties? Yes and yes. There have been a handful of times that I’ve gone out and been a childless reckless person (for a night, but essentially just part of one) in the last ~2.5 years, and I overdid it about half of them. Those experiences really reminded me about the things I don’t miss! Turns out being underslept and overtouched by a small child actually isn’t half bad in comparison to being underslept and overtouched by strangers, plus feeling like something peeled off the bottom of a boot due to a hangover, plus memories of obnoxious behaviour, plus spending money I don’t spend anymore on achieving that level of drunk. Perspective!

As I said - I am very sure there are other ways to get from point A to point B when it comes to leading a more sober & more square shaped life. Intentionally going into a psychedelic space, while holding the thought of creating a life where I wasn’t going to be doing that again for many years, was counter intuitive I suppose but for myself - it was beneficial. I wouldn’t suggest that as a necessary component either! However if your idea of a good time has already included mind altering substances it might be worth a try using them to process the closure of a certain period in your life.

Essentially, until I made the decision to Become a Parent and embark on everything that entailed (I wasn’t goddamn ready and no one ever is I guess) I saw no end in sight to the debauchery. A slowing down perhaps, and as I matured the idea of a future where things were different, but connecting those dots definitely turns out to be a matter of renovating an entire identity, which you already know. The key to that must be up to you. For what it is worth, channeling your finances differently will give you the startling sensation of just how much money you were “wasting” and also, finally giving in to the full time coddling of your inner introvert is a luxurious thing.

You can totally still dress like you and maintain the best of your friendships and listen to the same music and - with careful maintenance your void WILL change shape and become fillable with mundane things! You just need a bigger reason to want that, and it seems like simply honouring the changing seasons of your life is a bigger enough reason to me. I think you may find that you were actually “grown up” the whole time and changing the way you spend your time won’t fundamentally change who you are. Confronting the version of yourself that you become without the familiar sets & settings (or constantly unfamiliar? I don’t know what you get up to) and completely deviating from what you automatically reach towards in your free time is......terrifying and liberating and the You that slithers into the light might feel repulsive and naked and barely human. It’s ok, I promise. I’m sure you’ve experienced some similar sensations already. Since you have posted this, I’m also sure you’re ready to lean into it. But seriously, a new human might not be what you need, but a daring new haircut or a tattoo or a piercing or a pet or a big new piece of furniture or art or a shiny vehicle...or something, that you see every day, that is deeply symbolic of a shift in your life: that’s an absolute must. You have my permission and encouragement. It might even leap into your mind immediately. Get the thing and start the new chapter.

Oh - the stories get even better with a bit more time & distance, which is a nice bonus. Personally I am already looking forward to the coming decades of being boring. I can already tell it gets better with practice. Missing things is ok, I have started to like missing things better than I liked doing them in the first place I think. Or it could be the weird mother hormones convincing me? Anyways, god am I ever looking forward to seeing my child(ren)’s face(s) when they’re old enough to be shocked with the semi-misremembered tales of my glory days.
posted by nukacherry at 11:38 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]

YMMV but what works for me when I want to change a behavior that’s become a habit, is to do a 30 day challenge. I have complete freedom to go back to doing or not doing whatever thing after the 30 days but for that isolated time I have to commit. Knowing it’s going to end gives me an out, but 30 days gives me enough time to build a new habit and to see the benefits of the change, so I often end up continuing to do or not do whatever thing after the 30 days by choice. But by then it’s motivated by the actual ends of the thing, not just the vague idea that I’d like to do that thing.
posted by notheotherone at 11:38 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

I used to be at a club several times a week. I didn't specifically transition out of it so much as I gradually altered the frequency. Club sometimes, couch sometimes, just do what you feel like doing. Constant partying was fun, but watching movies under a fuzzy blanket in my comfy-ass living room is also delicious. I guess the trick is to realize that some of the stuff that you looked down on as "boring" as a younger person is actually pretty fun, you just didn't have the presence of mind at the time to appreciate it.
if it helps, my trajectory:
clubbing teen
bartender in a goth bar
pre-bar party host every weekend/dj's girlfriend
helping plan concerts
bar most weekends/hosting friends every weekend
parties every few months, clubbing occasionally
... for a long time
now, I'm almost 50, I still go out dancing every few months, planning a big party.

you'll still be your exciting self if you don't go out every night, you'll be opening yourself up to new and interesting ways to have fun.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:31 AM on February 9 [8 favorites]

Seconding many of the above...it sounds like you are on your way to it being self limiting, and chances are your party girl days are just going to naturally slip away as life throws things at you. For me, I got pregnant (not on purpose) which made me unequivocally realize that I actually had the capacity to adult, and after some time I finally stopped worrying that people "just" thought of me as a co-worker/neighbor/roommate/acquaintance/friend with some positive qualities as opposed to an exciting/unique/risk-taking person that they know. You probably don't really need to reinvent yourself or fill any void -- the void will disappear if you just keep tuning into and trying to be true to your own needs and try not to worry about what you think others think.
posted by gubenuj at 12:43 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I frequented punk shows for years and years, and too am an introvert in my 30s. I think I eventually grew tired of consuming all the things I was consuming and found it more "punk" and exciting to channel all that energy into other creative outlets. I started reading more about local politics and getting involved where I was passionate, I learned how to play the guitar, experimented with fine arts projects... just really delving into things that I always found exciting but never really tried myself. There are a lot of non-square activities you can do at home as an introvert!

You said you have many interests outside of partying, maybe really try to throw yourself into a few of those and see where that takes you. Once you get rolling, you might start getting excited about having the whole weekend to work on them and won't want to jeopardize that time with going out.
posted by thebots at 2:34 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Being square is great. Why are you afraid of being boring? (A therapy or journalling question) Reclaim boring!

To answer your question: I realized that the real cool kids were the ones writing books and making art and trying to change bad laws, not trying to find ketamine in the club's bathroom. Going to a very "cool" club sober which had blown my mind under other circumstances, laughing with my fantastic partner about how completely boring, sad, and also just uncomfortable the experience was, and going back home to cook a great full breakfast together was probably the pivot.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for a beer bender but-- as above!-- I am pregnant and don't miss the blurry life as much as I thought I would.
posted by athirstforsalt at 2:53 AM on February 9 [7 favorites]

I also wanted to zone in on the alcohol component, because you'll probably find a lot of interesting growth available by examining how that's working in your life. When you say:

I'm a person with many interests that I don't have time to pursue, because I'm too hungover and sleep through Sundays

This is a pretty big flag that alcohol is interfering with the person you'd really like to be. The truth is that as we get older, alcohol takes more and more of a toll. The body doesn't bounce back as quickly; it's no longer a matter of a big glass of water and a protein-rich breakfast. It takes a lot longer to recover. Also, the cumulative effects slow the flywheel down further. Alcohol truly is a depressant, and it slows down the system and weighs down the mood, sapping energy and interest. And it gives your body a lot of useless calories to deal with. All in all, when drinking is habitual in midlife, it causes problems.

For the past few years (I'm 50) I've been reorienting myself around behaviors like drinking. I started with a "dry January" thing in 2018 that ended up going for 3 months. Last year I quit for most of the year, and made a handful of exceptions for vacations. That has ended up becoming my current habit: I'm just basically teetotal unless I make an intentional exception. I can't believe how much better I feel. Not drinking isn't just an absence - it's an infusion of energy, a free-ing up of time, budget, and health. You just feel much better as a baseline than you do when your body is perennially on a roller-coaster of drinking, metabolizing the alcohol, recovering from a hangover, trying to rebuild strength, then throwing another round of drinking at it. That was no fun but I had to stop to realize what it was doing.

Some tools: I am not an AA person - the model really does not fit my experience of drinking. Instead I have really gotten a lot of value from sober-living/voluntary-sobriety communities. Hello Sunday Morning is an org that promotes a sober lifestyle - they have a blog, do all the social feeds, and offer an app called Daybreak which is a message board for people in various places of addressing the role of drinking in their lives. I also really appreciated This Naked Mind, which is part memoir and part breakdown of the effects of alcohol and how easy and rewarding it can be to just...stop. It was definitely an eye-opener. I made this comment a while ago with some other articles and stuff. So anyway, you're not alone in wanting to make a lifestyle change and being honest about what's not working for you any more, and you can find a lot of helpful resources and support for the alcohol piece of the puzzle.

I might suggest tackling that as job 1. As others note, you don't reform your life overnight, it's a process. Make a move, observe, learn, make another move. If you're able to drop drinking, you'll find you suddenly have a lot more time and energy that is going to seek an outlet. That might open up some of the creativity you've set aside while you got locked into your current "This is what I do" rut. You can follow that and get drawn into new hobbies and interests, and actually have the time and energy to invest in them.

Also, just embrace squareness. Who cares? Who is doing the judging that you think makes people who have rich inner lives, good relationships, wisdom about how to take care of themselves even if that's rest and movies, and productive pastimes "square?" You might want to interrogate that and figure out who you're trying to impress by being cool. Or fitting someone else's idea of cool.

That's not to say you are wrong to enjoy live music and the scenes you have. Every now and then I definitely get a craving to enjoy the freedom of a festival weekend or an all-out night of dancing. Whenever I try it out, though, I realize that what I'm enjoying is my memory of feeling that way or being that person. My actual physical body and spirit do not enjoy these things as much any more in the moment, at least not for as long. There are just other rewards I value more these days. I think accepting that is part of aging, and aging in my mind can and should be a healthy process of spiritual and emotional growth - not a defeat.
posted by Miko at 6:40 AM on February 9 [8 favorites]

When I was in media I got to interview a ton of people, often at midlife, from celebs to women struggling with homelessness, about their lives and struggles and passions. I never found that the “party people” were more interesting. In fact, often their stories were much more fragmented, either because they couldn’t remember things or because they had experienced all those hours as consumers of music/drugs/etc....their passions were just as fierce (and valid, nothing wrong with being a rabid fan) but what they’d brought with them seems more fleeting than, say, AIDS quilts.

I’m not sure when you formulated your idea of “square,” but maybe it’s time for a rethink.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:52 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

Two things that changed me. One, I got married and changed my friends. Two, I had kids. You want a life changer, have kids.
posted by AugustWest at 7:04 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

Good news: It's hip to be square.
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:21 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

The punkest thing anyone could actually do is overthrow a toxic system... how about turning up the volume of your personal activism for a cause you believe in?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:28 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I grew to be okay with the fact that my preferences will change over time and don’t say anything big about my character (Am I cool? Square? Weird? Boring? etc). I stopped playing the social game of trying to rank myself against the people I know (let alone strangers on social media) based on what I did with my weekend. I stopped being scared to feel my emotions and face the Big Fears head on (Is this all there is?).

I just want to make sure to note that all this emotional work and maturing is not just a project you need to do, or—put a different way—it’s not all your “fault” that you have these perceptions about the kind of person who stays in on Saturday night. We live in a culture that wants us to feel lacking, especially when we don’t consume and spend. Most of the people you know are riddled with the same kinds of worries. When you take a chance to step out of the rushing stream of comparing yourself to others based on external factors, you get some pretty sad glimpses of how many people try so hard to fill that hole of ”I’m not as cool as XYZ” with things they don’t really even want or need—substance abuse, a bad partner, instagrammable activities, or even just overscheduling themselves so they can feel busy and wanted.

Remember too that of course alcohol and other substances are going to change your perceptions, that’s the whole point of them! So the fact that you’re not enjoying an event as a result is not a sign that you’re a whole new person, more that your perception is just different and your senses are perceiving things in a different way. Just like how I would never want to try and read a complex book after coming home drunk from a party, my brain would have been like “wTf...help!” Now that I’m not drinking my brain wants different things.
posted by sallybrown at 8:16 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I struggled with a lot of the same stuff in my 30's (I'm 38 now) and I think the thing that helped the most for me was making really large goals for myself that needed a lot of work and attention. I went back to school and got a B.S., my long-term relationship ended and I had to figure out how to afford to pay my rent on my own and how to actually be alone all of the time again, there are other things I've always wanted to pursue in learning like how to SCUBA dive, etc. Just keeping busy will break you out of the habit and then by the time you have time, you're much more able to make a detached decision about how fun something actually sounds to you.

Even if you just make one large goal I think it could be helpful. You could start taking lessons for something you need to practice a lot or join some kind of volunteer group or run a 5k or take some type of community college class for fun. It might help to shift your idea that you're just boring and sitting around, because you're not! You're out here bettering yourself and making progress and gaining skills and talents!

I still go out sometimes, but it doesn't feel like a chore now and it no longer feels like an aspect of my identity and I actually enjoy myself more having it be something that is more spaced out and "special."
posted by primalux at 8:33 AM on February 9

Yeah I am 36/F and the thing that made me quit my punk/metal/fuck it all lifestyle three years ago was when my friends all moved away to further their careers and lives and I realized I wasn't focusing on my real goals. I was lucky enough to have a decent career, unlike my scene friends, but that also made me a bit of an outsider to them. That and the scene I was running with was becoming more and more toxic so that's just how it played out. I got bored with it, basically. I still find sitting around watching Netflix to be boring but I am focusing more on my hobbies/art/hiking/traveling/etc. and I'm a lot happier. I do miss shows tho, and the underground scene, and I DABBLE in going out and howling at the moon, but really my mentality had to change first.
posted by Young Kullervo at 8:52 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]

How we define cool can change. I totally co-sign athirstforsalt.

I spent my 20s and the first few years of my 30s in social circles with a lot of drinking. I was the person who was out and about all the time, going to shows, putting on shows, hosting house parties, going to house parties. There was a self-narrative that "I drink whiskey therefore I am a grown-up." When I lived in Korea, the connection between social life and alcohol got even stronger.

Unlike some of the earlier commenters, my self-reinvention was not due to becoming a parent. Some of it was simply that my physical body couldn't recover as quickly. In my 20s I could go out til all hours, and still be a functional human being the next day after a few extra coffees.

When I was doing less because I was more exhausted, like you mention, I started to rethink what was fun. It also helped that the activism and creative interests I had were not by definition party pursuits, even if there was a lot of partying within activist and artistic circles. I started going out more on week nights, to organizing meetings, film screenings, staged readings of works in progress, and other things that were meaningful to me and still fun but not at all associated with "woooooo let's get hammered." On weekends, I went to events on Saturday mornings, symposia on prison abolition and met up with friends for the cliche but actually totally enjoyable brunch (Indian restaurant buffet, not mimosas). And I started staying in on weekend nights, catching up on reading.

I still want to interact with the world, be curious, meet new people, but not in a way that corrodes my liver and pickles my neurons. I am me still, but a me who is more secure in her self identity. I'm someone who is able to do stuff in moderation. I'm not an all or nothing person. I still like whiskey, but I don't need it as a self-label for my coolness. I enjoy bars for the first drink and a half, and then I want to be able to talk to my friends without shouting or lip-reading.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:23 AM on February 9 [3 favorites]

[Content warning: brief discussion of sexual assault]

28-year-old reformed party girl here.

When I was an adolescent, I was painfully uncool. I didn't have many friends. I spent most of my time at the local library, farting around on the Internet or watching weird old movies. I felt so ugly and uncomfortable with myself. Then puberty kicked in. I became less gawky and from the ages of 18 - 24, I overcorrected and partied hard to make up for what I felt was my wasted youth. So I didn't actually enjoy parties or shows sober but the only way I felt comfortable in myself was to not be sober. Cute boys introduced me to drugs. I drank a lot. I slept around. It felt fun. It felt like my real glamorous good life was beginning. When I was sexually assaulted in college, I leaned into alcohol a lot more and turned myself into the Life of the Party(TM) because I didn't want to be the Sad Girl. I was super fun to be around but most of the friends I hung around were pretty useless for any serious emotional support. When I wasn't partying, I was home alone watching Deadliest Catch on Netflix or crying and smoking by myself on the roof in the middle of the night. I tried really hard to look like I was having fun but I was also pretty fucking unhappy. I had a come-to-Jesus moment when I was 24 and 1) I seriously contemplated smoking heroin and 2) I nearly overdosed on vodka and diazepam.

After waking up in a pool of my own vomit with broken glass all over my bedroom floor, I went sober at 24. I did this at a time when the people in my social circle in a city in Northern England were really really into drinking. That was all we ever did. Not gonna bullshit you. It sucked in the beginning. British culture is all about binge-drinking. People think it's weird when you start going to therapy and stop getting absolutely annihilated every weekend. Friends stopped inviting me to things because I wasn't fun anymore. I felt like I was regressing from Cool Sexy Party Girl Quadrant Seasons to Gawky Braceface 15-year-old Quadrant Seasons. It was a pretty hard year of going to Pilates by myself, reading books by myself and spending quiet nights in with my partner. (To be fair, though, the city was not a good culture fit for me and there were probably other contributing factors to me not having a lot of friends there.)

After that initial year, I moved to a different city after getting married. The only friend I had was my partner. I literally started going to therapy because I had nothing else to do. I was that bored and sad and lonely. Well, it turns out, all that shit I didn't want to deal with so I buried it in partying? It felt good to talk about it. I talked about how uncomfortable I was with myself. I talked about feeling like this weird rudderless loser. I talked about my sad childhood bullshit. Clearing up some of the space that took up in my head gave me a bit of room to be able to try new things without being utterly terrified that people wouldn't like me.

I walked past a weightlifting studio and signed up just because. Trumpet lessons, roller skating, book clubs, volunteer work, art classes, whatever random thing popped up in my life via social media or a leaflet stapled to a community notice board. It felt like the opposite of that Sylvia Plath quote about starving to death because she couldn't choose her figs. It felt like abundance. It felt like all these branches were opening up and I could choose every fig I wanted so I did.

I stopped going to parties that felt like an obligation and starting making friends with people who made me feel loved and accepted as I am. There are probably people who think I'm boring and square but I tend to not hang out with them. My life is filled with much more joy than before. Sometimes I do feel nostalgic for my days of being 22, wild and reckless but when I reflect upon it, I think what I'm yearning for is that feeling that everything is still possible, and actually, you know what, life isn't over just because I've grown up a bit. There is still so much time and so much possibility now that I'm not spending all my time hungover and covered in my own sick.
posted by quadrant seasons at 9:32 AM on February 9 [13 favorites]

I just wanted to say that it's OK to feel a little sad about letting go of that part of your life. I've mostly given up my rowdy 20s and 30s lifestyle, now that I'm in my 40s, and generally speaking, I feel better all around. Friends are more stable, finances are less stressful, happiness is a steady, bedrock thing, rather than something that comes in frantic bursts followed by abyssal lows. However, I still feel a wistful tenderness toward the person I was and a little envy for my younger friends, who are still taking a turn on that wheel.

Part of being a grown up, for me, is sitting with those feelings and understanding that everything in this life is transitory, that self-concept isn't fixed, nor should it be, and that there are positive trade-offs to be had for everything you feel like you're giving up. But you're allowed to mourn those wild times and even occasionally re-visit them (in much more sensible shoes, if you're at all like me).
posted by merriment at 9:44 AM on February 9 [6 favorites]

pajamas are awesome. i would sacrifice to dark gods a busload of innocents every day with my bare hands for 8h of sleep. naps every day are to be cherished. if someone wanted me to go to a bar with them i would kill their whole family.

it's so easy to let it all go the first time you get a good night's sleep.

party time source: i started going out in nyc when i was 14 and did not stop until i was 30 and had done that on 3 continents. i'm fucking tired.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:54 AM on February 9 [7 favorites]

I'm introverted plus autistic, and also tend not to enjoy a lot of events sober. Not because they're objectively lame without alcohol, but because the alcohol blunts the overstimulation of interacting with humans such that I can enjoy it.

I sometimes still use alcohol to happily attend events that are important to friends, but also found some ways to socialize that didn't require it. I mean, most of the time I'm super happy at home with Netflix, but I've found that seeing people in smaller groups, and/or in specific locations, and/or with particular activities planned, makes for a much better experience for me.

If you can identify things you DO enjoy out in the world without alcohol, that might help you figure out how to redirect your life when you don't want to be home on your own.
posted by metasarah at 11:14 AM on February 9

You might start to realise that's because people who are wasted aren't having fun, they're just too wasted to realise what miserable, obnoxious fucks they are being.

You might not, though. there's really, really no need to try to think yourself into believing those grapes were sour anyway. the whole point of growing older is learning that other sweet fruits grow on other vines you never cultivated before, not to convince yourself that what you can't have or don't want anymore was worthless all along.

if you need to distract yourself from the lure of doing what you're trying to stop doing, cultivate hobbies that actually require sobriety and solitude and focus -- moderate if not total -- to be done well or fully enjoyed. playing music that requires fine motor control vs. just listening to it, reading complicated things, cooking with sharp knives, whatever your own particular interests are. if you don't have any energy for that kind of thing, resting for a few months is fine and a good idea. take ten weekends to loll around watching shows and getting your rest. be boring for a little while, until you're able to see that it doesn't hurt and isn't permanent, and nobody's grading your hobbies on how cool they are. being boring isn't like being retired -- you can stop any time, so you don't have to hold it off as long as possible.

plus, you can't be boring when you're alone doing what you like, because there's no one there to bore. partying is fun to do and don't let anyone tell you to rewrite your memories on that point, but it's boring as hell to talk about. don't mix up being boring and being depressed.
posted by queenofbithynia at 12:19 PM on February 9 [20 favorites]

I dropped it all cold-turkey because my wife can't drink for medical reasons and she likes Disney on Ice, not rock shows. For a solid 5 years our going out activities were half-boring but after that it all kind of faded and I know I could never go back again, nor would I even want to. Such is life.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:41 PM on February 9

I did this. Honestly, this is not something to feel "stupid" about missing and your feeling adrift and like your identity is changing---and even grieving that a little--- is not something you should criticize yourself over!

It's actually hard to socialize as an adult and hard to find meaning as an adult in this country. Our society is really designed for people to pour all their meaning into their jobs and their kids.

I would suggest volunteering somewhere fun, doing something that interests you, in a group. Raptor center, reading to kids, writing letters to prisoners, political campaigns. It's a good way to get the two things you're missing---meaning, and sober socialization.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:00 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]

I was you (male version) at 30, and now I'm me at 50, and it's pretty freaking great to not have any idea who's playing on Friday night, or to have to choose between two marginally interesting bands to see because staying home and watching TV, or just going to dinner and being mellow, seems like a failure of imagination.

The "wild and crazy void" of which you speak? It vanishes by the time you're probably about 35. That voice right now says "GO OUT AND TEAR IT UP", and then, gradually, over time, it says "Go Out And Tear It Up". Then, it's gonna whisper "go out and tear it up", and then, shortly after that, it says "hey, you know what? You maybe don't need to go out tonight", and all of those stages slide seamlessly into each other before you even know it's happening.

You'll find that the concept "grow the fuck up" is not governed by a switch you flip, and it's not a decision you make consciously; it just...happens. It happens when you listen to that voice that says stay home and watch a movie, it happens when you feel like you'd rather just not deal with the whole go-to-the-show-tonight thing, especially if it's a band you've seen before. You'll go from seeing several shows a week to a few, then a couple, then you'll stop counting shows you go to by the week, and start talking in terms of how "I went to three shows this month". And you won't care!

And it mostly happens when all of those things happen...and you don't care. It's just how life evolves, and you should embrace the evolution, because it's a lot of fun in ways that you don't think can be fun from a distance, but actually kinda are.

TL;DR: you don't need to "reinvent" yourself. Just listen to that voice in your head, and see where life takes you when your default mode of operation is not "recovering from the show last night". You'll find it can be pretty great.

(and you can still go to shows if you want! It just won't be your default mode.)
posted by pdb at 4:19 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I had a kid, now I have "mom sleep raves" on the couch (aka naps), thank you Pinky Malinky for the concept (my son's favorite show right now).

Also what helped me let go beyond the health benefits of respecting my circadian rhythms and not drinking or doing anything was realizing that I didn't have close relationships with the people I'd see while out, my best friends aren't partiers, it was ultimately just not aligned with my values or interests and was more something I did when I was single. I will go to a concert now if it's an amazing band or a friend wants me to go but 9 times out of 10 it's just not worth the trouble. I also have a job that demands a lot of me and I need to follow a steady routine most of the time to be able to perform well and not feel anxious. It's nice to feel calm and alert most of the time. I think it takes time to settle into a new routine and feel fulfilled by it, I remember two years ago I realized that I no longer think about "it's Friday night what's going on?", it's more "what am I doing tomorrow morning?".
posted by lafemma at 7:17 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]

I'm a reformed partier in my mid-30s who made lifestyle changes around the age you are, after a handful of nights out that felt more dark than fun and made me realize my party days might have run their course. Here's what worked for me:

- I took up an early-morning exercise hobby. I know, I know, but it feels great and is good for you, and depending on what you pick you can absolutely channel some of that hardcore energy into it (I run, so I sign up for and train for races, but you could easily do the same with weight lifting or other exercises.) Push your body in a different way than you have been.
- I still drink and enjoy drinking but in order to focus on quality over quantity, I've become a beer snob. I know others who have done the same with wine, cocktails, etc. If you can get fussy over process and quality it can help to shift the focus of drinking. When I do drink I'm also way more likely to have a few drinks on a weekend afternoon than I am during an evening, which allows me to get tipsy but sober up before bed and still sleep well. "Biohacking!"
- Your mileage may vary on this one, but I really pulled back on the amount of time I spent with friends who still partied hard. This worked out for me because a lot of my friends had kids around this time, but there were still a few I've grown distant from as a result. This is kind of inevitable, but it's OK to feel sad about it.
- I focused on thinking about the kind of 40 and 50-year old that I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be physically healthy and capable of travel and activity, which wasn't compatible with staying out late tossing them back multiple times a week.

I sometimes missed going out for the first few years, but now I really am very happy with my lifestyle. I generally feel physically so much better than I did 5 or 6 years ago that it's self-reinforcing. I'm glad I shut down all those bars in my 20s, but I'm equally glad I let go of that when it was time to move on to the next thing. Older people with a bunch of wild stories about their party days are awesome and fun to talk to. Our lives are long and we are complex; it might help to think less about losing some part of your identity and more as giving other aspects of your personality their time in the sun.
posted by superfluousm at 7:37 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]

I will add that changing from partier to more staid does not have to be thought of as permanent. I am in my 50s now and there are weekends where I go away with "the guys" and blow out. Even when I had kids (young) there was the occasional night out that the (ex) wife and I partied hard.

Two things changed. Life situation. Kids as I wrote above, and aging maturity. It took all day Sunday to recover. Try nursing a hangover when you have a 2,3,4 year olds bouncing on you wanting to play at 7:00 am.

Maturity in that I slowly changed my priorities. Instead of dropping $150 at a bar, I wanted to save for retirement, for college for my kids. Different things become important.

What anyone else thinks also becomes less important as you prioritize your own life.

Instead of FOMO, I developed FOP (Fear of Participating).
posted by AugustWest at 8:53 AM on February 10

Mid 40s former frequent metal show goer, beer drinker, sorta hell raiser here. For me, I just started getting bored of going out, as I realized I was mostly going out just for the sake of being out. I also developed a chronic illness which wasn't being helped by frequent late nights of smoking/drinking/carousing. At the same time, I also wanted to explore other things that didn't involve being in a "scene" at all. I feel like most of my friends who were avid partiers came to similar realizations around the same time (there are still a few holdouts though).

I still take in an occasional show (just saw Heilung...wowzers!) but I'm a lot more selective about it, so I enjoy it a lot more.
posted by medeine at 1:34 PM on February 10

I did all of the drugs and stayed up for days on end and dropped out of university and worked retail for years... for me it was techno and parties doing those things.

I wanted to tear the world up, too, and I still do want to, and also now I do. I think one of the biggest things I learned about was the postmodern and post-structuralist idea of subverting the dominant paradigm. Around the time I sort of slowed down on the crazy I started to take some awesome literature classes, and then I got into education and realized that I could do that from the inside of the beast. I also changed my clothes. Slowly Jncos, Kikwear, Adidas, and overly large clothes were replaces with clothes I bought in mall stores.

I know you have a career and probably don't want to change, and I'm not recommending academia or education for everyone, but how about learning more about the system and systemic problems that keep the oppressed in such a state, and figuring out a way that you can fight it, too. Certainly drinking and doing drugs isn't doing anything on a societal level. If that sounds good, try Paulo Freire, Michel Foucault, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Matthew Desmond, and bell hooks.

And with all of that, I was very anti-alcohol until well into my 20s, and now I really enjoy beer. It might be replacing one addiction with another, but it's legal, I can do it at home, and I can do it in the afternoons with a few friends and talk about these ideas--which leads me to another point. There is some adage about stupid people talking about people, average people talking about events, and smart people talking about ideas. I take that to heart, too. I don't participate in social media, influencing, reality TV, etc. but I do try to have new ideas and talk to my friends about them. I don't know or talk about celebrities, pop culture, award shows, or those things commonly found on cable TV.

I do not feel like I've sold out. When I teach I get to talk about systemic racism, power structures, the power of multiple literacies, the benefits of communism, and so much more. I'm really fortunate that I found a place to do that, in a way that resonates with my worldview. In a way I feel really normcore--the radical is inside, for sure, but you would never know it from the outside. I hope you can find yours.

And on the topic of exercise and hobbies, definitely! Adults can work out, and strength feels good. Have you seen Henry Rollins (well, maybe him in the 90s)? I love running, and I still listen to converted mixtapes when I do sometimes. I don't know much about extreme sports, but you can get really into things like running, yoga, and knitting like people have mentioned above.
posted by Snowishberlin at 4:00 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]

Are you still enjoying these nights out, or are you just enjoying the IDEA of nights out?

For me, the nights going to bars/clubs/shows all started blending together and frankly, getting boring. It was always variations on the exact same night, over and over, for YEARS. The same music, the same drinks, the same drunk chatter, the same dance moves, the same neuroses, the same gross guys and high-strung girls hanging all over the bar trying to impress everybody. I just got sick of it. (To be fair, I was cocktail waitressing and bartending for a long time, too, so I logged A LOT of hours in those environments).

But if those nights are not boring to you, then why not keep going? There's nothing about them that's "wrong" -- if that's fun to you, then go have fun! If it's not fun, then do something more fun, whatever you happen to feel like. Your relationship with the bar or club doesn't have to be identity-defining.

If those nights are boring for you nowadays and you just don't know what to replace them with, what I did was go to different kinds of shows (opera, plays, etc) that are emotionally intense and that require a whole ~outfit~ and stuff but that aren't sloppy. I also did more socializing with my friends at home, where we could do more in-depth talking and we could also still dance and party if we wanted. That was helped by us getting places with fewer roommates and more space as we got older. I also happen to love nights in, because I love the luxury of vegging out to whatever I want to eat and whatever I want to watch and then going to bed whenever I want. But the only options aren't cheap beer at a punk club or complete vegging out!

I guess my point is just that there's no law saying that you must find this or that fun, there's no law saying that you must find this or that boring...you can just go with how you feel. Be good to yourself and know that who you are (punk or grown up or whoever else) isn't defined by your leisure activities anyhow. You can be a punk at home and a grownup at the bar...my advice is to think about who you are, really get to know and accept yourself AND just do whatever leisure activities you feel like today, right now, without attributing any great meaning to them, let alone using them as a source for your identity or sense of self.
posted by rue72 at 9:51 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]

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