SCHMOOZING AND NETWORKING WITHOUT ALCOHOL

I’ve been working with an actor friend of mine over the past month or so. He had asked me to offer a directorial eye to his new solo rock show and I quickly said yes without giving it much thought. He has been endlessly helpful to me in the past and has given up his immense talent to projects of mine without asking for much in return so it was the very least I could do to try and help him shape his performance into something that does his talent justice.

Last night, all of his hard work finally culminated into a sold out show at a fancy local cabaret venue of note. As the director and his friend, I obviously was expected to attend and I absolutely wanted to. In the past, I would have become increasingly apprehensive about the event as the date approached. I would have played out the entire situation in my head with the most terrible potential outcome continuously looping in my mind’s eye, haunting me and making me unnecessarily anxious and terrified. PEOPLE ARE GOING TO TRY TO TALK TO ME! ME CAN’T TALK WHEN ME NO DRINKY! EVERYONE THINK I’M STUPID FAT MAN!! CAN’T GO TO PARTY! NO! I JUST STAY HOME AND EAT PIE, OKAY? LOVE YOU OK BYE!

But none of that apprehension occurred this time around. I felt completely comfortable in the lead up to the event and thought everything would be just fine. Little did I know that the anxiety and social terror I sometimes unduly anticipate would actually HAPPEN THIS TIME even though I showed up to the event entirely calm and collected.

We were meeting a group of four other friends, none of which I should have any reason to feel any pressure from to perform in a socially stellar way. In fact, I could just sit there and sip my soda and not say much and no one would really bother me about it. They are those type of friends. But still, as we sat around the table chatting and waiting for the show to begin, I felt extremely awkward and kept saying things and thinking, “DID THAT SOUND FUCKING STUPID?!” I think I did an okay job playing it off as if I were fine but internally there was quite a bit of shaky discomfort.

To my pleasant surprise, no one drank except for one of the four friends who ordered the SMALLEST eight dollar beer I have ever seen in my life. This beer was so fucking small that he looked like a goddamned giant drinking it. The mere sight of it stressed me out. HOW THE FUCK IS THAT GOING TO GET ANY SORT OF BUZZ GOING IN HIM?! HE NEEDS TO ORDER A SHOT OF WHISKEY RIGHT AWAY BEFORE THE SHOW STARTS!

“What kind of beer is that?” I asked.

“Blue Moon,” he said.

“Oh,” I replied, secretly ready to explode at his completely asinine and fatal error.

BLUE FUCKING MOON?! If you are going to order a beer that looks like it belongs inside of a Barbie Dream House, at least order the 90 Minute IPA or something with an alcohol content of 7% or higher. And then when he finally finished the beer, HE DIDN’T EVEN ORDER ANOTHER ONE. What a waste of time.

Everyone else had Diet Cokes or seltzers. One friend said she hasn’t had a drink in over a year and feels fantastic. This was new information to me. She apparently had developed an allergy to alcohol and it makes her sick. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was code for alcoholism as I’ve heard that excuse is a good one to use if you aren’t quite ready to out yourself. But it honestly isn’t any of my business. I’m just glad she’s doing what makes her feel good and healthy. Her boyfriend also didn’t drink. Perhaps in solidarity like my boyfriend was doing? Who knows. But it was refreshing that there wasn’t a preoccupation with alcohol at the table. Instead, we all focused on ordering and scarfing down copious amounts of fries and burgers and eggplant tortas.

The show began and I was relieved that I could settle into the dark for a bit and not have to talk for the 70 minutes he would be performing. WHY DO I STILL DO THIS? Why do I crave solitude? Why do I find myself completely yearning for human connection one moment and then entirely terrified of it the next? Why am I able to be articulate, funny, and charismatic on Saturday and then become a blithering buffoon on Sunday? While I am very happy that I am seeing a general and overall improvement in my social skills, it’s very disconcerting to never quite know if a situation will turn me into a rock star or an ape.

The show ended and we paid our tab. We began to move through the crowd of the venue to head outside to meet the man of the hour and wish him our congratulations when something awful started happening. PEOPLE STARTED STOPPING ME. Friends, acquaintances, strangers. It had never even occurred to me that as the director, those in attendance would want to compliment me on a good job done, etc. I began to sweat like a hippo in Hell and each handshake and awkward exchange seemed to shrivel me more and more until I finally had nothing left to give. I noticed that people would be talking to me and then 10 seconds would go by and I’d realize that I hadn’t listened to a fucking word they had said. I would respond with a nod or a smile and I have no idea if any of my reactions were appropriate responses to what they had just said. At one point, someone asked me how my job was going and I said, “Yes.” WTF? I managed to correct that weird error and then tell a funny story and they roared with laughter. THANK GOD. Then I just started telling that story to everyone I had to talk to.

We finally gave hugs and accolades to the star of the show. Friends urged us to join them at a bar slightly more uptown and we declined. There were a few deflated and disappointed reactions from closer friends who couldn’t understand why on earth we wouldn’t want to join them for a drink. If I were in a different state of mind and wasn’t experiencing a social anxiety meltdown, I think I could have mustered the energy to stop by briefly to make an appearance. As the director, it would have been appropriate. But I knew my limits. Even this was beginning to become too much. And the truth is, it was already almost 10PM and the idea of getting home after midnight was not at all appealing. Part of the invite decline was sobriety based. The other part was because I’m getting old. It was SUNDAY NIGHT! It’s the Lord’s day! And my puppy needs me! I know I absolutely made the right choice.

I think if I were to have experienced the exact same evening of events sans the title of director, everything would have gone much more smoothly. It was the first time that I’ve gone someplace where there was any other expectation of me other than just being present. And I love what I do as a writer and creative. But maybe I need to put my feet in for a while and watch others swim before jumping back in.

7 comments

  1. My hands just sweated for you.I was told it’s a sensory overload on our brains part.Our brains is having to filter out a shit ton of stimuli and sometimes our filter is bombarded.Congrats on 92 days.

  2. I have found that since I’ve quit drinking I need way less social time. Hang out with PEOPLE?!?! Dear GOD. I have 3 Chihuahuas and I find their company more fulfilling and comforting that just about anyone else 😉

  3. I’ve been wondering which came first, the social anxiety or the alcohol abuse. I will turn around and leave if I see a parking lot that is full, but I can’t remember if I’ve always been that way. Is that one of the things that started me drinking socially? It must be very hard for you, being in a big city. People everywhere all the time.

  4. Its pretty much a practice makes perfect type thing….well not perfect but the practice thing is true…the more comfortable you become in your skin. That first yr is just a lot of thinkin bout drinkin. To encourage & support I want you to know it sooo goes away! Happy 3 months sober my friend & all us sober bloggers 🙂

  5. Hummm I’m wondering if you know of one of my friends out there that does the cabaret venues….Steve S. He is from cali, but moved out there to NY with his boyfriend some years ago, he is around your age. Anyhow, you did make the right decision! And you have to be comfortable with the all the attention because you are going to be famous one day:-). So of course you had to be sober to get on your journey to infinite stardom! Part of that journey includes these little doses of fame, so you get used to them in your sober skin….hugs it will get easier. I think though you did not want to drink just the presence of it at the table triggered your anxieties, all that calm went poof! It’s okay that we can’t drink, but in a way it makes us feel different from others in a social setting that do. Thus triggering negative feelings. The trade off for us is not being the drunk ass-face that everybody shakes their head at. You may have seemed a lil spacey, but that’s better than a drunken fool, so score! I have to focus on that non-ass faceness, it helps me in situations like that.

  6. I read this and felt for you. I’ve been in several social situations where I worried whether people would like me or that I would say the wrong thing.

    But then after the event, (and everything went ok), I realized, wait a second, who gives a shit if they like me or if I say the wrong thing – at least I’ll remember what I did and said. That’s far better than what used to happen when I’d drink my face off, probably say or do something dumb and then worry about it all the next day, avoiding contact with friends, afraid that I did something stupid or I offended someone.

    So, think of it this way – you did just fine. You were funny, despite your anxiety and I would bet you were ever so charming. So, don’t sweat it. It’s better than going to the show, already drunk, drinking more at the show – then remembering nothing of what you said to people as you left. You would have gone to the bar for more with friends and wake up on Monday feeling like shit, guilty and not sure what you did or said to people.

    Look at the bright side – you were present in the moment….no matter how unpleasant it may have felt to you – you triumphed, you did what you wanted and most importantly you stayed sober!!! You are amazing.

  7. “How’s your job?” “Yes.” Hahaha :). I feel ya. I too have random social anxiety. You should have seen one of my hangover days in the past! Usually a non-issue, but if I have to go in a longer-than-usual meeting with a lot of people, it can be a problem. I can get hot and flushed and start sweating. I got an RX for Xanax, which I know most addicts would say is a no-no but it’s a non-issue for me. I’ve had a 30-pill bottle for 2 years, still a lot left. Usually I’ll take half before a big meeting or a party although parties are pretty easy now 2 years sober in but, before our big all-employee meetings, 3+ hours, I almost always take half. I also have to sit in the very back row. I like I have the xanax in my purse as a security blanket. Tomorrow, I have a social outing during work hours – I’m going back and forth if I should take one. Many times, I’ll make myself just FACE THE WORLD and not take one, but I don’t want to worry about if I’ll get flushed/start sweating.

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