Social Anxiety + Alcohol Use
Surviving social anxiety
So if we’ve identified that social settings create anxiety for us, and we’ve decided we don’t want to use alcohol to remedy that anxiety in the moment, what do we do? Here are a few strategies to survive a social setting without alcohol:
Be prepared: BYONAB (bring your own non-alcoholic beverages) so you have something to sip and to keep your hands busy. Get as much information ahead of time as you can—who will be there, what you will be doing, if it’s going to be an alcohol-heavy event.
Bring a trusted friend or have an exit strategy: is there someone you can stick with who knows you’re not drinking, and who can help you through your nerves? Let them know when it’s time for you to leave a situation. Going solo? Set your exit strategy ahead of time—know under what circumstances it’s best for you to leave.
Play the tape forward: if you feel a craving, play the tape forward and envision how the evening will go. Will you drink more than you intend to? Will you do something you don’t want to do when you’re intoxicated? How will you feel in the morning? Next, envision yourself making it through the evening without alcohol, having a great time, and waking up hangover-free tomorrow.
Know that people aren’t paying as much attention to you as you might think: it’s easy to feel like we’re sticking out like a sore thumb, especially if we’re newly alcohol-free, but the truth is, folks aren’t paying as much attention to you as you think they are. Let this be a freeing fact!
Of course, there are degrees of social anxiety that can be debilitating and may benefit from therapeutic interventions. If you feel that social anxiety significantly impacts your life, consider speaking to a mental health professional. Therapy, group therapy, and medication can all be very helpful tools.
Anxiety and Depression Institute of America. (n.d.) Social Anxiety Disorder. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/social-anxiety-disorder
National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.) Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/social-anxiety-disorder-more-than-just-shyness/index.shtml#pub5