Amongst other things, if you have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, when you get sober, you reclaim your self-confidence.
I remember the first time I went to the local pub with my boyfriend about six weeks after I’d stopped drinking. It was a big deal. I had to prepare for it. I was nervous as I approached the bar and self-conscious as I ordered my peppermint tea. I nodded and smiled shyly at the men who were comfortable and loud in the bar space, my uninhibited and attention-seeking wine persona in hiding. I endured rather than enjoyed the first half of the evening. I focused on the food I was eating and the conversation with my boyfriend and allowed wandering thoughts about drinking to come and go.
The second half of the evening was more relaxed. Nothing bad had happened, I had continued to breathe, the connection between my boyfriend and I was enhanced by me being 100% there and focused, and I experienced the ultimate pleasure of being able to drive home afterwards (for the first time in decades!)
So many people tell me that the biggest surprise about being sober is how much they enjoy socialising. People imagine that when they stop drinking, their social life will crumble — that that is simply the price they have to pay for not drinking.
And, this is maybe true at first. Social events can be a completely different kettle of fish when you’re first learning how to do them sober. It takes some practice before being socialising sober becomes second nature. On that first trip to the pub, I’d had to put in some energy and commitment. I’d had to focus on getting through it rather than looking forward to it and enjoying it.
But there comes a point when people realise their self-confidence is coming back and they’re enjoying socialising in a way that they couldn’t have possibly imagined when they first thought about getting sober. It gets to that point in your sober life where you’re just being you — the real, authentic version of you — no matter where you are or who you’re with. Without worrying about it or thinking about it at all. Whether you’re at home, having a coffee with a friend, at a work meeting with colleagues or in a beer garden surrounded by people drinking, you’re able to simply be yourself, naturally, easily and confidently.
Alcohol actually destroys self-confidence. It might temporarily feel like it’s giving you a leg up, but it’s doing more damage to your self-confidence the longer you hold hands with it.
This was true for me: I couldn’t imagine enjoying socialising without a drink in my hand, down my throat and flowing through my veins. I thought I’d be a social wreck and would just have to avoid parties and big social events. I have been just as surprised as other people to find that the opposite is true. I really look forward to social events and find myself laughing, relaxing and unwinding with ease. I even find myself behaving as if I’m a bit drunk sometimes — not intentionally, just because I’m caught up in the moment and in the atmosphere and have really let go.
A couple of days ago, my partner and I were sitting in a beer garden on a Summer’s evening with some people we’d just met and got on really well with. Everyone was drinking, loosening up and getting merry. I was drinking lime and soda (the pub didn’t have a great choice of non-alcoholic drinks — they hadn’t even heard of non-alcoholic lagers!) and soon we were all giggling and laughing so much that we couldn’t stop. I was having a great time and one of our new- found friends commented (through her laughter tears) that I hadn’t even been drinking so what would I be like if I was on the booze. I replied that she really didn’t want to know and we laughed even more.
Although I wouldn’t describe myself as the joker of the pack — I’m not the life and soul normally — just being able to be me and be confident with it is enough to relax and have a laugh.
When your self-respect has a chance to recover (which it can only do when you stop drinking), it helps your self-confidence to grow and this is what enables you to loosen up and party along with everyone else.