In a time where we have become more “connected” to one another via social media and the internet, it is common to feel more disconnected from one another during face-to-face conversations. Unless you’re the type of person who loves to make small talk with anyone and everyone, you know how difficult certain social situations can be. Something as simple as attending a class at a new gym or going to a networking event can seem like a nightmare. The fear of being surrounded by people you don’t know can be overwhelming and prevent you from living your life to the fullest. And while some people use alcohol to “take the edge off” or loosen up in social situations, you know that even just one drink could derail all your progress. So, what can you do? How you can become more social without jeopardizing everything you’ve worked for?
Be True to Yourself
You weren’t blessed with the gift of gab, and that is okay. The goal is not to completely change who you are. In fact, self-acceptance is an important step in being able to better interact with others. Next time you find yourself having to make small talk, just stay true to yourself. If you’re at a party and feel nervous, say so. Trust me, you’re not the only one afraid to approach a group of strangers. When engaging in conversation, try to shift the focus onto something you’re comfortable talking about. Maybe you’re an avid reader or you’ve binge-watched every show on Netflix. Use your interests and passions to find common ground. Talking about something that you truly enjoy will make the interaction seem less daunting.
Remember Confidence is Key
As someone in recovery, you know that we are often our own worst enemies. Beating yourself up for not being more outgoing won’t make you any more of a social butterfly. It will simply increase your stress and anxiety and lower your self-confidence. Rather than focusing on what you’re not, focus on what you are. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself, if you must. Realizing everything you have going for you will help you feel more confident, not just in social situations but in every aspect of your life. Remember, you overcame your addiction — you are strong and resilient, and there is nothing you can’t handle, even small talk.
Take the First Step
If you’ve ever stood in the corner of a room alone, you know that sometimes waiting for someone to approach you can leave you feeling more uneasy than the actual interaction. Making the first move can be challenging, but it lets you take control of the situation. You get to decide who you talk to — perhaps find someone else who looks like they’re out of place. One-on-one conversations may feel less overwhelming. Or you can approach someone who appears to be the life of the party and you know will most likely carry the conversation, allowing you to be social without feeling pressured to keep the conversation flowing.
Take it Easy
Stepping outside of your comfort zone is crucial to personal growth, but you don’t want to put yourself in a situation that makes you so uncomfortable that it puts your sobriety at risk. So, take it slow. Bring a friend, preferably an extrovert, who can help you interact with others and help you feel more at ease. Don’t be afraid to take breaks when you feel overwhelmed. You can always step away to get some air or go to the bathroom to relax before returning to the conversation. And remember that your recovery comes first. If you are in a social situation that you believe could trigger you to use, leave. It’s not the kind of social event you want to be a part of anyway.