Hi there everybody! I hope summer is off to a great and healthy start! I wanted to check in about one thing that pops up fairly often in this field. A lot of people talk about their social life and how drinking/using has impacted their relationships, and are now nervous to truly be themselves in public. For anyone who has ever been to a meeting – no, not a staff meeting, the other kind of meeting – knows full well the slogan, “To thine own self be true.” Let’s chat about what that means, and I will shed some light on what it means to me.
“To thine own self be true” is a loaded quote when you really dissect it. To me, it means many things. I am going to share with you what it has meant to me over the last five and a half years of my recovery. I took that first year to really learn about myself. I don’t mean just hobbies; I mean to really soul search about what I am comfortable with and uncomfortable with. When it comes to being uncomfortable, there are a few different situations I can stomach without having a full-blown meltdown. That being said, I had to come to terms with some things. I had really close friends who do enjoy adult beverages, even though they do not identify as alcoholics. My issue was: are they still my friends? Is it too late to make new friends? Am I a bad friend?
The fact is the weekend warrior, going to bar days were over for me, and I am totally fine with that. But I took a long, hard look at those relationships, and guess what? I know where those friends are going to be every Friday and Saturday. I was meant to explore more in life. Although they are still my friends, it was tough to come to grips with the fact that I had outgrown some of those relationships. There is no ill will, no hatred – it’s all love still. But I just don’t need to hang out in bars like that anymore.
That takes us to my next point. A new chance in life means new situations, new settings, new people. Now, I have people from my past who love me dearly, and I keep my circle small. It’s a lot easier to carry four quarters than it is to carry 100 pennies. I don’t need a ton of friends, but I do have a few who will always be family to me. The more I put myself out there in some settings – like a meeting, work, playing sports – the more I gained confidence in the fact that I have a lot to offer. When I really took hold of my sobriety early on, I realized I got that “twinkle” back in my eye, so to speak. I realized people wanted to be around me again. Sure, there are going to be some people who just don’t click with you, and that’s completely fine. But the more confidence you have in yourself, the better off you will be. The way I learned was just being genuine. If you aren’t a big talker, there are plenty of people out there who will find special and unique qualities about you. But just like sobriety, it comes from within, first and foremost. You need to find those qualities before anyone else can.
Social situations can be fun, exhilarating, and hilarious. They can also be weird, awkward, and sometimes downright strange and uncomfortable. My best advice is corny, but there’s a reason it has been around since the Stone Age. Just be yourself. That’s all. Be yourself. If a situation feels like it’s getting to be too much, have an exit strategy. If you feel like you will need more support, there’s numbers in your phone that you can call, I promise. I wish I could wave a magic wand and take those insecurities away, but there is no magic wand. You are a fascinating person with amazing life experience.
We all crave connection, but when we don’t find it immediately, sometimes we want to throw in the towel. I have been there. But I also know that everyone out there wants to have a genuine friend. You possess that power to be genuine. Hell, we have to be honest right? Some people just won’t vibe. But I can say the more I stepped outside my comfort zone, the better the story. Be willing to share, be willing to be different, and most importantly, BE WILLING TO BE YOURSELF! Being that it is July, I’ll conclude with a quote from our first president, George Washington. He once said, “Perseverance and spirit have done wonders in all ages.” Your attitude and enthusiasm will make all the difference in your efforts to feel comfortable being yourself.