A large part of my recovery will need to involve confronting the expectations others have of me, as well as the expectations I have for myself.
I’ve always preferred my own company to that of others. The mother of my childhood best friend called this quality of mine “independence.” Others haven’t been so generous, and I’ve been called everything from “snobby” to “awkward” to “weird” to “lame.” People have told me I need to get out there more, that sitting alone in my room is no way to live.
That may be so, but every time I tried to exit the safe confines of the physical boundaries of my room or to venture outside of my social comfort zone, I relied on alcohol to help me along. A six-pack before meeting up with my friends on a Friday night, or a few glasses of wine before I had a dinner with colleagues became essential coping mechanisms for me.
By the time I realized I needed to quit drinking, I was basically going out in order to drink rather than to socialize with friends. Every social occasion was an excuse to get wasted, and every happy hour after work was an excuse to go home and drink more.
When I quit drinking, I had never experienced an adult social life without the lubricant and obliterating power of alcohol to help me through. The social events that I could actually recall were few, and when I tried to imagine social events that didn’t revolve around alcohol, I came up blank.
Essentially, I found myself in the strange predicament of having to reimagine how I interacted with people well into my adulthood, at the age of 31. (Sure, it’s not old, but it’s also the age at which people of a different era would say I’m “no spring chicken.”)
Compounding the difficulty of this task is the fact that I don’t really want to do it. As an introvert gradually shedding my social anxiety and lack of social confidence with a pretty heavy dose of misanthropic tendencies, I have to admit that even now I prefer the comfort of my own home and the company of a good book to the most low key social situations.
I’m familiar with the struggles many newly sober people have with figuring out how to build a social life that doesn’t revolve around drinking, but a year into my sobriety, it feels like I’m fighting a different battle. I’ll cancel a movie date with a friend at the last minute. I won’t show up to an after work social event after saying I’ll go. I’ll sit in the corner as my boyfriend hosts a party in our home.
It’s beginning to feel as if a solitary lifestyle is just how I prefer to live my life…
Find out more about how Kristen Pyszczyk is practicing self-acceptance in the face of what other people expect of her in the original article Struggles of a Sober Introvert at The Fix.