The Eye-Opening World of Being Sober at Bars
For the past few years, I’ve participated in dry January which is essentially just refraining from drinking alcohol for the entire month. Though often criticized for this decision, I do have my own reasons. Those being, I see this time as an opportunity to start the year off fresh with a clean slate and also prepare for the year ahead without the many distractions that typically go hand in hand with the consumption of alcohol — on top of that, I’m also able to save a ton of money, shed a couple pounds, and also get a better night’s sleep throughout the week (those are the more noticeable perks).
The irony, however, is that even though I’m not drinking, I’m not necessarily taking myself out of social situations where other people are drinking around me. And as disappointed as some of my friends might be about my decision to annually partake in dry January, I try not to disappoint them even more by completely excluding myself from going out with them when they want to drink. And so, I go out with my friends, completely sober for the month, and have been able to take away many learnings from those moments.
For example, the other night, I was out in Manhattan until around three in the morning celebrating a friend’s birthday. We started out the night at a bar, then went to dinner, and then of course finished the night at a different bar — me being the only person who wasn’t drinking the entire time. Throughout the night, I would often catch myself scanning the group, discretely observing everyone’s interactions with one another, and attempting to listen in on their conversations (as creepy as that might sound). When listening in on other people’s conversations, I’d think to myself, “Do we really need alcohol to be able to talk to each other in the same way?” It made me wonder why we even drink at all. It’s not like it’s really necessary. If anything, it’s quite unnecessary.
The interesting thing about being at a bar when you’re sober is that you look around the room and eventually realize that you don’t have much of a reason to be there except for the company that you’re with. However, many people (or should I say, most people) lean on alcohol as a crutch in social situations. I know that I myself have personally used alcohol as a crutch, especially when it comes to being somewhere unfamiliar or meeting new people. But, alcohol doesn’t have to be a part of the equation even though it often is. And that’s the eye-opening part about going out to bars and not relying on alcohol as a safety net…you see everything.
We treat it like a security blanket
We see alcohol as this warm, fuzzy, comforting thing that makes us a “better” or “more fun” version of ourselves. But, that’s exactly the problem. The security blanket that we perceive alcohol to be is really just our own insecurities manifested. If we don’t think that we’re fun enough or cool enough or outgoing enough, except for when we’re drinking alcohol, then that’s our own problem. We shouldn’t rely on alcohol to fix those insecurities for us because honestly, alcohol is not always going to be there for us in those types of situations.
We think it’s some sort of magic potion
We treat alcohol like it’s the elixir of life because it magically alters our behavior — but, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Yes, it might give us a bit more courage to be able to stand up and sing karaoke than if we were sober, but it also clouds our judgement, numbs our thoughts and emotions, and can ultimately do more damage than we initially anticipate. It’s not a magic potion, it’s just a thing that gets you drunk.
We view it as the perfect scapegoat
We use alcohol to blame our actions on something other than ourselves. We use it as an out. People have even written songs about it, literally saying, “gotta blame it on the Goose” (props, Lizzo). But, that’s a huge problem. We shouldn’t have to look for an excuse to blame for our own behavior. We should hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We should deal with the problems that we have when we’re sober, so that we don’t use alcohol as a scapegoat for acting out. After all, we are adults (some of us, at least).
Of course, not everyone drinks alcohol just to get drunk or forget about their problems. And drinking doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. It’s what you use alcohol for that makes it destructive. There’s a reason why I don’t just cut out alcohol completely and that’s because I genuinely do enjoy a beer or a glass of wine or two when I’m hanging out sometimes. But, at the same time, I don’t need it as a buffer. I don’t need to rely on it as a crutch to get me through social situations. Dry January reminds me of that.
And yes, I do understand that not everyone might have the same level of outgoingness as I do, which makes it much harder, but we still shouldn’t use alcohol as our default for being outgoing. Being outgoing is something that you can work on without the help of alcohol. We can change that ourselves. It’s just a matter of our willingness to change that makes all the difference.