Alcohol and Inhibitions
I'm still learning to have fun while sober.
I’ve been sober for nearly seven years, but sometimes, I still feel like I’m learning how to have fun without alcohol.
Last night, I went to a language exchange at a local bar. In case you’ve never heard of these events, the basic idea is that people from different countries get together to practice speaking one another’s languages.
The main focus is on improving your language skills, but it’s also a nice way to make friends and just have fun. I’ve been going to a lot of them since moving abroad earlier this year, and I’ve been having a great time.
At last night’s language exchange, the bar had a karaoke machine set up. Some people were singing in their native language, others in languages that they were practicing.
One of the friends that I had made at a previous meet-up asked me to sing a song with him. It sounded like a fun idea, but I immediately turned him down.
Why? It’s hard to say.
I like singing, and I’m even pretty good at it, but I’ve never once done karaoke in a public place. The idea of singing in front of dozens of people, many of whom I had just met that night, was just too daunting.
My friend found someone else to sing with, and as they went up to the machine, I felt jealous. I wished to myself that I could overcome my inhibitions so easily. And then I had a funny thought:
“If I was still drinking, I would have been able to go sing.”
Alcohol and Inhibitions
It’s a fact that for most drinkers, alcohol lowers their inhibitions.
Often, that’s a terrible thing. I remember getting into huge arguments when I was drunk, making a spectacle of myself in public, and acting like an idiot in ways that I never would have sober.
However, sometimes, the lowered inhibitions felt like a benefit. Alcohol helped me overcome my shyness, push my comfort zone, and try new things.
When it comes to something like karaoke, for example, I think that getting drunk really could have helped me to overcome the intimidation that I felt from singing in front of strangers.
If I had suddenly decided to break my sobriety last night, I just might have gotten drunk enough not to care what anyone thought. I might have gone up to the mini-stage, picked up the mic, and sung my heart out. It might have been a great time.
When I go down this line of thinking, it’s frightfully easy to convince myself that I’m missing out on the benefits of alcohol.
But, in reality, these thoughts are a misleading trap. They’re a type of wishful thinking, rather than an accurate reflection of my life as a drunk.
My Life as a Drunk
As I said at the beginning of this essay, I’ve never once sung karaoke in public.
If alcohol could really help me overcome my inhibitions, why didn’t I ever do karaoke during my decade-plus drinking career?
The answer is obvious: Because my life as a drunk wasn’t the idealized version that I’m sometimes tempted to remember. My life as a drunk was boring, sad, and lonely.
During the vast majority of my drinking years, I spent night after night alone in my apartment. I wasn’t going out and having fun.
If I was still drinking today, would I have sung karaoke last night? No, because I wouldn’t have had the opportunity in the first place.
If I was still drinking, I never would have moved to a foreign country. I never would have gone out to a language exchange. I never would have made friends with people from around the world. I never would have been invited to sing with someone.
Those are all things that I’ve done because I got sober.
If I was still drinking, I would have spent last night back in the USA, alone on my couch, getting drunk and watching television.
Sobriety has completely opened up my world. It has helped me to overcome my apathy, my shyness, and the sheer inertia that kept me from following my dreams.
It’s true that there are still times when I feel awkward or intimidated, but that’s just a part of life—whether you’re drinking or not.
This isn’t a sappy story in which I ended up singing karaoke and having the time of my life. I went home without singing last night, and I probably won’t sing next week either.
However, rather than focusing on the one thing that I didn’t do, it’s far healthier to focus on the many ways that my life has grown richer.
Although sobriety hasn’t allowed me to overcome every inhibition, it has done a far better job of letting me open up than alcohol ever did. My alcoholism trapped me inside and robbed me of countless opportunities. My sobriety helped me to escape that and pursue a life in which I can truly be happy.
I still have work to do, but I’ve come a long way since I quit drinking. When I tell myself that alcohol would have helped me “open up,” I’m ignoring the reality—that if I was still drinking, I never would have left my couch in the first place.
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