Friday Q&A about alcohol: social anxiety; general anxiety; dry November; & alcohol's upsides
Conscious consumption for the WIN 🍷
Question #1 (about alcohol & social anxiety) is free for everyone. Questions #2-4 (on alcohol & general anxiety; what happens after dry November; & the benefits of alcohol consumption) are for paid subscribers only.
Click here to submit your questions (about anything) for future Q&A posts!
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely my own. They do not reflect those of my employer, nor are they a substitute for advice from your personal physician.
QUESTION #1: ALCOHOL & SOCIAL ANXIETY
I loved your post about no alcohol in November! However, I often feel uneasy in social settings & drinking helps me feel less socially anxious. It is hard to avoid it if I want to have friends but I don’t like how I feel the next day. What tips to you have for your patients like me? -Katie
You are in good company when you say you use alcohol to quiet social anxiety. The disinhibition from alcohol can temporarily get us “out of our head,” but it’s not risk-free. Alcohol affects every organ system and, depending on the person, it can put us at higher risk for things like heart disease, cancer, depression, and anxiety. Because alcohol is legal and socially acceptable, I think this is easy to forget!
My first piece of advice is to fact-check your internal narratives. For example, are you certain that your social life hinges on alcohol? What evidence do you have that friendships would change—or vanish—without alcohol? Have you tried socializing without it?
Here are some tips that I recommend to my patients when they want to socialize without alcohol:
Tell your friends in advance that you aren’t drinking that night. It’s much easier to stick to your goals when you make your plan public.
Try not to confuse well-intended questions like, What? You’re not drinking?? with wholesale disapproval!
Find a good substitute for alcohol, and bring it with you. Having a fun alternative puts any ill-prepared host immediately at ease.
Fake it if you need to! Sometimes it’s easier to pour yourself a mocktail (and not reveal your non-alcoholic choice) if you find it awkward not to drink the real thing.
Remember that many of your friends are jealous of your fortitude! I cannot tell you how many patients tell me they’d rather not drink—but they do it anyway because it’s the path of least resistance in social settings.
Remind yourself the next morning that you did it! Keep practicing. You are rewriting your own narrative one day at a time.
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QUESTION #2: ALCOHOL & GENERAL ANXIETY
If alcohol is supposed to worsen anxiety, why do I feel less anxious after a few drinks? I have anxiety and alcoholism in my family and I wonder what’s the connection? - P.A.