• Hannah O'Donnell

(Fear of) Missing out

When you embark on an AF life you are absolutely missing out on the type of socialising that you were so familiar with. So there is no fear of missing out, you are! But you’ve made the decision, you are committed to it, so how do you move forward?

The first thing you will notice if you do socialise at the outset is an unpleasant feeling associated with the obvious thought that inevitably arises that that you simply can’t drink, whilst others around you can. I finally gave up drinking whilst on holiday (bizarre but true) and the last 4 days of eating in restaurants was excruciating. However that was pretty much balanced out by feeling great every morning without a a hangover and knowing I had another sober day under my belt.

Many of us who stop drinking aren’t at all familiar with handling uncomfortable feelings but handle them we must right from the outset. I’ve no idea why, but I just don’t appreciate the term’ sitting with your feelings’. I recognise that is exactly what is required, particular in the longer term to live well sober but at the outset I don’t think many of us have the cognitive capability to sit with them, so how do we handle them?

Deflecting your attention from the unpleasant feelings is probably the best you can hope for at the outset. For example, I made the food my focus of attention when I was eating out, rather than secondary to my drinking. I made sure to always have dessert- something I never had when drinking as the alcohol was supplying all my sugar. Having dessert I discovered was a great way to round off a meal. I also mentally calculated how much money I was saving by not drinking and planned what I would spend that money on. Whether I did or not was irrelevant. At larger social events I spent time guessing who seemed to be a normal drinker and who looked like they could do with going AF! It was a (petty)mind game I played to stop me feeling like I was missing out. I also watched people who had too much to drink and I focused on the fact that I too had behaved like that in the past and it wasn’t pretty. It was another way of deflecting my attention from the missing out feeling.

These are some of the ways that I deflected my attention from unpleasant feelings. Coaching can provide you with your own strategies for handling social situations in the first weeks and months of your AF life.

It really shouldn’t take too long for you to start to genuinely believe that you aren’t missing out at all, as the benefits of living well sober soon start to become apparent. That said, missing out thoughts are likely to continue to occasionally pop up at odd times in the first couple of years, by which time you are probably able to sit with the feelings. We naturally develop this superpower (one of many) over time when AF. Nevertheless it always worth reflecting at those times on what it is you feel like you are missing and why? Life situations inevitably throw up uncomfortable feelings in so many contexts, unpacking them and acting upon what you learn is a key element of living well sober.

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