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  • Writer's pictureLandon Payne

Sober Life, Pt. 2: The Social Experiment

Updated: Apr 9

Naturally, I'm not shy. I'd say I'm more cautious if anything. I like to read a room and decide from there whether to ease myself into the function or start planning an escape. There is no in-between. In active addiction, I'd be ready to tell you my life story after a few drinks. Inebriated oversharing is a major reason I'm glad I put the bottle down.

My mom would practically beg me to forego drinking when we'd gather for family events because she knew I'd be obnoxious. The thick fog alcohol casts on you when you're drunk doesn't reveal how much of a belligerent ass you are until it parts. I'd wake up hungover the next day mortified from my behavior the night before. My list of embarrassing drunk moments is pretty lengthy, so I'll spare you the sordid details (for now🌚).

For years, I tried to moderate. I would tell people that I was a "social drinker" when I knew good and damn well I was always social. Moderation was totally unsustainable for me. When it came to alcohol, I had no self-control. Being told that I had a problem only resulted in me getting angry and being defensive. The very notion of me being an alcoholic was disrespect at its nastiest. This cycle of madness continued until I took a step back and confronted my obvious dependency on alcohol.

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Most of us may run into this 'am I or aren't I" crossroads when it comes to determining whether our drinking is problematic or not . The line between being a "social drinker" and an "alcoholic" can be pretty thin. Whether you're hiding in plain sight as a high-functioning alcoholic or you've been throwing the drinks back for a while, the deception will eventually come to light. Though there are similarities, there are also stark differences to be aware of when taking your drinking levels into account.

Social Drinking, is defined as simply "regularly drinking alcohol in social settings". If alcohol isn't disrupting your life or creating serious physical, mental or personal problems, you may not subscribe to being a problem drinker or an alcoholic. Happy hours, parties, or gatherings with family and friends can fall into the "social" category. How much you drink and your reasons for drinking in these situations make the difference here.

In Part One of Sober Life, I recalled how drinking contributed to how I interacted with my peers. Being a homebody, social settings would make my nerves incredibly bad. The thought of attending a social gathering while sober did NOT appeal to me. I needed to drink to feel comfortable. Over time, I ended up drinking just to be able to talk to people on regular basis. Obviously, this was a sign that I had a drinking problem.

Although drinking to curb my anxiety was one of my red flags, there were so many others I hadn't taken into account. Most of the signs of alcohol dependency are pretty obvious.

  • Not knowing when to stop

  • Multiple instances of binge drinking

  • Including many heavy drinkers in your social circle (!!!!)

  • Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

  • Engaging in risky behavior when drinking

  • Issues with friends and family members

  • Problems at work or school

  • Feeling shame over alcohol intake

  • Using alcohol as an escape or to self-medicate

  • Denial of a problem with drinking when confronted by loved ones

  • Spending money, time, or other resources on alcohol if it causes a problem

  • Needing to increase the number of drinks to achieve the same effect

  • Spending a lot of time with a hangover or feeling poorly after drinking

These are definitely the signs of having an alcohol addiction, but you don't have to show all of these signs to have a drinking problem. There's an exercise I learned from Annie Grace, author of This Naked Mind. It's a very simple exercise that helped me tremendously when I first stopped drinking.

The effects of one drink take up to 30 minutes to kick in. Have a drink and set a timer for 30 minutes. If you feel the need to have another drink after that 30 minutes, you may want to rethink your relationship with alcohol. This exercise pretty much confirmed what I already knew, but it was still helpful nonetheless. Willpower is another distinct difference between a social drinker and a problem drinker. If you're going to drink, please do it responsibly. Having an understanding of the levels of self-discipline necessary to drink socially without issue is vital in doing so.

Keep in mind alcohol destroys willpower and constructive behavior on a regular basis. If you feel that willpower waning, it's time to stop and seek help.

Another option you may want to consider is alcohol-free alternatives. I have yet to try this because I'm wary of antagonizing my triggers, but I've heard a lot of good things about non-alcoholic wines and beers. My amazing cousin, Jay, who's on his own sobriety journey, introduced me to Goslings Ginger Beer and I fell in love! I highly recommend it. It's really light and sweet and the ginger gives it an edge!

Mocktails are a great way to prevent isolation during recovery. Some say it's a slippery slope back to active addiction because some of them closely resemble their alcoholic counterparts in taste, but I disagree. They're delicious, healthy (most of the time), and they make for great conversation pieces! In my opinion, it all boils down to the individual. If you feel like a mocktail will lead you down the road to relapse, then leave them be. If non-alcoholic beers, wines, and mocktails sound like something you'd like to try, click here for some great recipes and brands!

An ice cold ginger beer can't be beat! you can find them at your local grocery stores! You may also get a kick out of faking people out. My family thought I was drinking a real beer and it was hilarious!

Currently, it's been difficult for me to be social because I'm in the process of learning who I am without alcohol. It's like learning to walk all over again. I'm still identifying my triggers and how to deal with them when the need arises. Social isolation is not something I'd suggest as it's a personal option (I really enjoy the solitude, tbh). However, I do recommend doing the work to recognize your triggers and do whatever it takes to avoid them. If avoiding them proves difficult, having a gameplan to alleviate or escape the temptation is key.

Being in recovery doesn't mean you have to subscribe to a lifetime of confinement. You can still have fun and enjoy life without alcohol. Paying close attention to your urges, how you're feeling, and what you're thinking will help you determine what's best for you in recovery.

I hope this helps! Thank you for reading and remember to drink responsibly or don't drink at all! 😁

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