I naturally feel a heightened sense of being an outsider at this time of year. After a dear client brought the topic up, though for different reasons, she feels it too. I wonder if this is a thing, maybe an alcohol-related thing. Are we who end up questioning and/or giving up our alcohol use more prone to feeling like we are never on the inside? Do we look for excuses, for proof that we are in fact separate and unalike? Did we in part maybe even start drinking because we had that tendency all along, or is it popping up only now that we don't participate in this thing that seems to be everywhere and a part of everything from networking events to playdates? Like the rest of this messiness around us and alcohol, it is probably highly varied and deeply personal.
So what may be contributing to this story that seems pushed to the surface this fall season? There are the invitations to back to school events, moms' nights out and other receptions where the hosts use alcohol as the draw. I will go, even though this may be the case. I just won't drink. If anyone asks about it, I answer honestly and give as much information as will satisfy (kind of like how you answer a child who is asking about how babies are made). Of course if they start sharing and inquiring about themselves and asking for more, I will on the spot give a free coaching session because I love nothing more than to validate other people's own desire to stop drinking!!! As a mom who spends a lot of time in her bubble, I also sometimes look forward to engaging with other adults. As an introverted virgo with surmountable social nerves, I look forward to it with anxiety and have an exit plan in place to be acted upon usually within one hour of arrival. It's not you, its me, promise. I also want to know the other parents in my community to make connections because the more friendly faces we all recognize, the better (especially for me, read above). I also don't want my kids to be left of carpools or birthday parties and I genuinely want to build community so that we can all be there for each other if needed. Also, I'm open to making new friends for life, but I don't expect it.
Aligning with others can feel more difficult when right from the start when there is a dividing line between drinker and non-drinker. And people notice; drinkers want like-minded company and non-drinkers are mostly too scared of the judgement to stand up and find each other. I get it - who wants to be the one to tell a new social group that they are the sober one at the party when at least one person in the audience will make assumptions that you must have "had a big problem" in order for you to give up what they think is the best thing ever. Either way, it is your private business and you should not be compelled to disclose it, even if it is for fear of being misunderstood and not trusted. Wait - it just hit me - people who drink are more trusted than those who don't! Ok so there's that cultural phenomenon.
It is also worth exploring if this has anything to do with alcohol at all. Am I using that as an excuse? Was I not feeling just different and on the fringe even before I drank and while I drank. Yes and yes. Could this be why I get awkward and uncomfortable? And further, could this sensation have pushed me to drink to relax it down? I think so. Maybe others share it. I know even when I've been included and on the inside, there was this nagging that once I left, the real conversations would begin or there was more than meets the eye. Maybe I just want there to be more. Maybe that too is what we have in common; we are seekers and searching out intensity and reaching for existential affirmation and the light conversation about pillows or best gymnastics in the area isn't going to cut it all the time. I have to remember to trust that I am right where I am supposed to be; on the outside of some things is not wrong. Now that I've made a more complete picture, I can only step into it now, as an adult who chooses not to drink. I do not to escape the stranger social moments, instead I push through it and stay in the room, until my hour or so is up of course.