For many years I used alcohol to “become someone I wanted to be.” Ever since I was a child I always felt out of place. I had A LOT of difficulty feeling “normal,” connecting to others, never seeming to be able to fit in with any group for a long period of time. What usually would happen is I would stay quiet in the group feeling it better to be accepted and unnoticed than say something and risk them not wanting to be around me. I felt like if people got close enough and got to know the “real me” they wouldn’t like the person they saw and would leave soon after.
When I started drinking, something happened – I was able to access this “normal” version of me. Someone who could was confident, funny, and adventurous. I would go out with others do things I would never do sober. I felt like as long as I kept drinking I could keep this better version of me around people and they would like and accept me.
The problem of course is I needed to be drunk EVERY TIME I was around people. I was terrified that if I hung out with them sober they would not want to be around me ever again. As we know this is not a sustainable way to live, we need to be able to embrace our inner selves and bring those qualities we were looking for out.
What Qualities Did Alcohol Magnify?
To be able to get past this feeling we need to figure out who that “person we want to be” has that we don’t. Why is this drunk version of us someone we want to be? What qualities do they have?
Some of the many for me were:
The person I tried to become through drinking was a confident person. Sober I would be in a group of people who would be talking and want to bring up a point but didn’t want to interrupt so would wait quietly for a break in the conversation to chime in. If you’ve been here before you know what happens next – the topic changes and you don’t get to say anything at all, usually dismissing it as “not important anyways.”
While sober I was so self-conscious I would spend almost any interaction with others over-analyzing what had happened minutes before. When I drank I could be in the moment and crack stupid jokes about what was going on that would get laughs from everyone.
When I wasn’t drunk I was always too scared to go out and do things or just wouldn’t know how. I knew I hated the idea of being this boring nobody who sat inside watching T.V. not doing anything or having cool stories to tell.
When I drank these problems seemingly disappeared. As I looked back through, the more I thought about it I wondered if I really did become confident, funny, and adventurous – was I transformed while I drank or was it just a thin veil?
The thing was, even while drinking I still had trouble talking to people. Group outings were preferred as I could chime in when needed or take the spotlight when I wanted to but for the most part the conversation could flow and I could just listen and drink with myself. The only time I seemed to be talking non-stop was when I was on the verge of or blacked out entirely (and we all know the quality of those conversations.)
I would be afraid to spend time one-on-one with people because the pressure would be on for too long to keep up my facade and my true self would come to the surface, the conversation would fizzle out and it would become awkward. When I did do it – from start to finish there was hard drinking. I needed to get to that blackout point as soon as possible and when the other person got drunk they started doing the talking for both of us.
The Deeper Meaning
We know what qualities we wanted to get by drinking but what’s the deeper meaning behind not wanting to get “found out?”
Feeling Not Good Enough
What we are really saying when we fear the “real us” getting out is: the “real us” is not good enough. We believe that deep inside the person we are is flawed, bad, or insignificant and not worthy of connecting with people or being loved by others. Alcohol steps in and (falsely) fills out those missing parts so it seems as if we are whole.
In our minds we have linked booze to being the key to being loved or accepted so much so that when we portray the values and qualities that we want to get from alcohol we feel as though it’s an inauthentic version of us.
Losing Our Friends or Loved Ones
Worried that if we stop drinking or putting on the mask of this other us – our friends will not want to hang out with us anymore or our significant others will lose interest in us. If you are like me you may have had trouble fitting in with any group of people until you met people who also drank themselves in oblivion. If so, your mind will have made a strong connection to drinking and connection with others.
When you and your boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband/whatever – first met, if it was through drinking and you guys drank a lot during the early stages of the relationship you are going to have a lot of emotional intensity subconsciously linked to drinking.
In the back of our minds we worry that the only common ground we have with these people is our shared love of drinking.
Fear of Rejection
To sum these points all up, what is really comes down to is a fear of being rejected. Being afraid of getting mocked, laughed at, or made a fool of is something that causes pain for everyone. Some people’s fear of pain is worse than others – so much so they are willing to create other problems for themselves as long as it doesn’t risk putting themselves out there and being hurt. There are people out there that are going to keep sabotaging themselves for the rest of their lives because at least they can blame their problems and lost relationships on the sabotage instead of on themselves as people.
How to Strengthen Your “Self”
What can we do to stop this fear of rejection? Here are some mindsets to adopt to help:
There Is No Reason Why We Aren’t Enough
Seriously – there is no reason we aren’t enough to be deserving of connection and love from others. This type of thinking is just that – a type of THINKING. These thoughts are just filtered through negative filters to give us a poor sense of self. There is no actual merit behind it – there may be actions we have done that we feel guilt from or behaviors we continue to do that need to stop but that doesn’t change the fact that we are just as deserving as anyone else. Most of the the time just the idea we’ve cultivated of not being worthy of a connection is the only thing holding us back from getting it.
Stop Living in the Past
Usually when people just refuse to let go of this idea it’s because of their past experiences. Everyone has had a time where they made themselves vulnerable, put themselves out there and was hurt by someone. WE CANNOT CREATE A BETTER FUTURE IF WE KEEP LIVING IN THE PAST! It is painful when we get hurt by someone but if we spend the rest of your life avoiding connection with others out of fear we will CERTAINLY live a life of pain – one of loneliness.
To get around all of this we need to be able to put ourselves out there. This is a big thing for most people and is a lot easier said than done, sometimes we will unknowingly sabotage ourselves. Since we have these past experiences and very little exposure to letting our guards down we will panic and start acting off. This can be nerves, or just being very rigid in our conversations, or not being in a good mood. Our brain does this intentionally (although maybe not consciously) so that if something does go wrong we can now say “well, if I wasn’t acting like an idiot that would have been different.”
Understand Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
I will be the first to admit that in the past I have done something like this more than once:
– Not being 100% confident with going out but making myself do it (so far so good)
– Being nervous about talking to people so seem distracted or uninterested while talking to people (self-sabotage)
– “WELL I PUT MYSELF OUT THERE AND IT DIDN’T WORK AT ALL, I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!” (self-fulfilling prophecy)
If we are constantly focusing on how this will not go well, guess how it’s going to go? That’s right, terribly. We need to keep a positive outlook and instead of focusing on everything that COULD go wrong – walk into each situation with the expectation that people want to get to know you and want to connect with you.
Not every person we meet will like us or will be able to connect with us – that’s OK! That’s just how it works, some types of people just don’t get along with others. We can’t take it personally, if we try to spend our time trying to be liked by everyone we will start putting up false characteristics and be back to feeling inauthentic. The old saying of “try to appeal to everyone – you end up appealing to no-one” is very true.
Understand the Truth
Why We Feel Deep Fear Behind Rejection
The fear of rejection is something that is so far away from logic but is built into us at a survival level. At the deepest most basic level we process rejection as death. We feel that if people get to know us they will reject us, if you present the real self to everyone you meet no one will want to be around you and you will be alone and you will die alone.
Does this have any basis in reality at all? NO – but it is something that we needed evolutionary. Humans are group animals – we travel in packs, which makes sense since humans are not nearly as strong or fast as other predators but we are much smarter. Despite how smart we were those were very brutal violent times and if we were cast away from the tribe we would be left to fend for ourselves against bigger, stronger, animals.
Of course, none of this is true or relevant anymore. If we get rejected by someone we can meet other people, if someone doesn’t like us we won’t die alone or get ripped to shreds by a saber-toothed tiger.
Losing Friends Or Loved Ones
This being said, if you are worried that you will lose friends or significant others when you stop drinking – the honest truth is that there is a chance that will happen. The distinction we have to make is the difference between friends and loved ones and people who use each other in co-dependent relationships. This could be (and I’m sure will be) a whole article in itself but you will realize that a lot of the people are thought you were so close with suddenly do not want to hang out anymore as soon as you stop drinking. Does this make them bad people? No, sometimes when someone quits drinking hanging out makes them start questioning their own drinking and is too painful to face. These type of relationships are very destructive and will only lead to dragging you back down. There are other people out there that will add value to our lives instead of taking it. The people who have a true connection with us will be there regardless of whether we drink or not.
We Have All The Qualities Already Inside Of Us
Previously we listed all the qualities we thought alcohol could give us – look at this list. These are all qualities we already have! Think of times when you’ve used these qualities. Realize that alcohol never “gave” us any of these things, they are already inside us! When we haven’t used some of these qualities for a while they may be rusty but remember that the more we use it the more our “muscle” for it will strengthen. The more we are in that state of mind the more comfortable we will be in it and it will start to come naturally again and eventually even stronger. For more articles on introspection and self exploration subscribe to the newsletter: