I haven’t made very many new friends since I stopped drinking. I’m not sure whether this has something to do with the fact that I am getting older or the fact that since I began to abstain I am simply not as gregarious. Shyness is part of my personality to I tried hard to overcome as an early teen, begging my parents to let me change schools to a smaller, girls-only, Catholic school in the area. I’d spent the good part of two years living in daily fear of the monstrous things that the boys might whisper to me in the corridors. The girls were equally as intimidating with their “big hair” and make-up. My father had been transferred from a small town the previous year to the country’s commercial capital, and I had been torn from the security of my early teenage comfort zone. Having attended an all-girls’ school for many years, I was completely out of my depth in a co-ed system, and withdrew horribly.
I’d wake up in the morning, crying, begging my mother not to send me to school. After about 18 months my parents finally relented and I traded in my aqua-blue uniform for a maroon and yellow combination, complete with a very unflattering hat, and steeled my resolve to become more outgoing. But being a little introvert in a new social or professional surrounding has always been my default mode. Being confident and self-assured at work after an initial settling in period has never been problematic for me, but people tend to be sober and rational at work, and I can rely on my professional wits to stay ahead of the game. It’s different in a social situation and this is where I’ve tended to make most of my friends over the years. I prefer to separate my work and play time, and not spend too much time socialising with colleagues. It’s got nothing to do with the calibre of the people I have worked with over the years, rather that I’d rather not live my job and have very definite rules about not “talking shop” after hours.
The only thing is that since I got sober I have been living as an expat where the people you work with tend to be the people you socialise with. Since I pride myself on my professionalism people tend to find me a little personally aloof. So I am seldom asked on social outings and I tend to spend a lot of time alone. This is not the case when I am on home ground with people that have known me for substantial periods of time and have been beside me through my recovery to this point. There have been a couple of exceptional people that have come into my life over the last five years, but due to the transitory nature of my job they tend to not be permanent fixtures. We stay in touch through the wonders of technology but with some of them there is little chance of being reunited and spending any time together merely because of our chosen locations. So sober I may be, but there are times when I feel very alone and isolated in my sobriety.
At the moment I am a long way from home, living in a country that is socially and culturally isolated from where I want to be. I hanker for my nearest and dearest, and I struggle to make those friendship breakthroughs that in my past have often happened over a couple of drinks and a fun night on the town. I meet new people on an almost daily basis, but I find myself too shy or too weary to make an effort that will eventually translate into a bond. It’s not that I don’t want new people in my life, it’s just incredibly difficult for me to say goodbye to people , knowing that there is a high probability that we won’t see each other again. It’s almost like I have become a little jaded and I know that separating oneself it not healthy behaviour for an addict. The brain’s hamster wheel spins out of control some days and even though on those days I choose not to drink, it’s not a mentally healthy place to be. I have to push myself to do any sort of social interacting with people who are more acquaintances than friends.
It was so much easier to get to know people over a couple of bottles of wine, discovering that you had oodles in common as the wine flows and the hours tick away. And some of those people I still count among the most important people in my life. They’re right here in my life and I feel blessed that they have known the before and after me. So if you’re finding it a little more challenging to make friends and getting to know people just takes that much longer, don’t despair… The people I have become friends with over the last few years and even the last few months have become very precious to me. It’s been a slower, steadier process rather than I’d experienced in the past, but the results have been as rich as any I’ve experienced in the past.
‘Til next time