Social Drinking & Social Anxiety

She’s a brilliant young woman in her mid twenties. Anyone would find her charming, good looking, and personable. She has the attention of every man and the envy of every woman. On the surface she appears composed, relaxed, free spirited. On the inside, she’s anxious, deeply insecure, completely self conscious and on the verge of running out of the room.

She drinks to come out of her shell. She experiences temporary respite from her social anxiety, leaving her with false confidence and appearing self assured. The seduction of alcohol is complete as she receives relief from the stress of daily life and the weight of her baggage. She has a means and an excuse to be uninhibited. What else can make one feel so good so fast?

I ask her what drinking provides and what it takes away?  She goes straight to the heart of the matter, “When I drink I can feel okay about people liking me. When I’m sober I hate attention. I’d rather be invisible.” The skeletons in her closet don’t come out at night when she drinks. They rattle during the day when she doesn’t.

What she wants is also what she fears. She wants positive attention but she goes to extremes. During the day she’s shy and dressed modestly. At night her confidence goes up as her neckline plunges. In the morning she can’t shower enough to feel clean.

When the Party’s Over

He’s in his mid thirties and he’s sharing a story about his “boys” and “Jager Bombs.”  He makes it sound like a group of gentlemen sitting by a fireplace sipping cognac. He’s disappointed by the look on my face and asks what my problem is? I suggest that perhaps there is a time in a person’s life for drinking to the point where vomiting is inevitable, but I figure that time ends before one turns 25.Eventually we reach an age at which playing “beer die” is just childish.

Growing up is tough and unfortunately; it’s completely optional. The easiest way to cover up emotional immaturity is with alcohol. High school never ends. When you’re unsure of yourself, you just do what everyone else is doing.

He drinks to dumb himself down. The truth is he outgrew his friends years ago. He admits that they’re intolerable when he’s sober and they’re drinking. Truth to tell they’re townie boys who are destined for lonely, middle aged alcoholism.

Mother’s Little Helper

Mom likes her wine. It helps her to unwind cuz God knows she’s stressed out all day every day. She works in and out of the home and she worries about everyone and everything. She’s bored with her husband, her job, and what she calls being “just tired” I think of as being deeply unhappy in the life she settled for.

She goes out for cocktails with her girlfriends once a week. She drinks in the evenings at home. She waits until the kids are in bed. She laughs easier and she won’t admit it to many, but monogamous sex is way better after a bottle of red. For all of the supposed health benefits of red wine, she hasn’t connected that her high blood pressure and use of alcohol go hand in hand. She’s a professional and an active mom; her doctor will never think to ask about her drinking.

If you can do it drunk, you can do it sober.

Anxiety makes us hide our true selves. When we conceal our insecurities we cannot change them. Thus we can never feel secure nor appreciated for who we truly are. We learn to hide behind personas. This allows us to be the life of the party despite not having a life outside of the party. This way of being seems to be accepted as normative in our culture and is our downfall. Alcohol is socially celebrated and unabashedly being yourself is discouraged.

Interestingly, the most outgoing, sociable, funny people I know are recovering alcoholics. They have this amazing attitude in which they seem to laugh at life. Many of them refer to themselves as grateful alcoholics, meaning that they are especially blessed for if not for their disease; they’d never have changed their lives so wonderfully and dramatically.

I’m not an alcoholic but I have chosen for a lot of years not to drink. The reasons for this are many but here’s the most important one; I feel completely free to feel, think, speak, and do exactly as I please and without inhibition. Therefore, alcohol is superfluous to me. Whether you choose to drink or not, wouldn’t you care to pursue what my friends in AA do? They soberly and earnestly seek to be Happy, Joyous, & Free.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in assisting people in recovery (whether from drugs, alcohol, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.