It seems that every time I get in touch with friends these days, I’m greeted with an “I haven’t seen you in ages. What is your life now?” It leaves an impression. It’s dawned on me just how much I’ve been withdrawing from so many of my friend groups. If everyone hasn’t seen me, who have I been spending time with? I’m a social guy, it’s somewhat alarming to come to the realisation that I’ve built my own fortress of solitude. Like the theme song of Scrubs, I’m no Superman. I’m also no scrub. What happened?
I’m not drinking at the moment and there’s an easy straight line to draw between the two. Anyone who knows me understands that I have no issue with people drinking. Even while I’m not drinking I have no issue with friends around me imbibing either. Why would I? It does mean that I end up leaving parties a few hours earlier than I would otherwise. The tricky thing is realising the extent of the correlation between fun and alcohol that my mind has constructed. If there’s a promising event coming up that leans heavily upon drinking, it’s hard for my brain to see an outcome where I don’t feel like I’m missing out on 80% of the point. Like watching a film in a foreign language without subtitles So no, I don’t care if my friends are drinking and having a great time, but clearing the obstacle of sobriety out at a public event is commonly too much of a hurdle. Whether or not it’d be necessary to drink, I tell myself it is. So I stay home.
It’s a common cycle that I find myself in every time I cut booze for a while. At some point in the cycle I end up making social contact again (where my friends regard how long it’s been since we last saw each other) and I realise how dumb withdrawing is. Today for instance. It’s Canada Day and it started out with park hangouts. Sneaky drinks in the park got quickly rained out and we headed back to a friend’s place. At first I felt pretty low energy. Sobriety wasn’t the issue. At the start they hadn’t drunk much. It was that my social mechanisms felt rusty. As people settled into a fun day drunk vibe, it oiled my gears and I remembered why I loved hanging out with those folks. It helped too that the group was small. It was manageable. I didn’t have to strain to shout over others or compete with intense energy. It was really pleasant and fun as fuck.
I more recently heard the term misophonia. It’s essentially when particular noises or types of sound work as psychological tics. I have a hard time not listening to everything around me almost all of the time. Little noises pull at my focus and some noises grate on me in a tangible physical manner. Open mouth chewing, for instance. Lip smacking. Cutlery scratching on plates. They’re not just annoying, but mentally intrusive. How is this not off topic? Because noise is a big factor in my sober withdrawal from social spaces. When I’m at a party, I struggle to not listen to multiple conversations at once. When I drink, it numbs this aural hyper-vigilance. It surprisingly becomes easier to focus (as counter-productive as that sounds). Sober, as the hours tick on and everyone rises to a drunken din, I need to tap out at a certain threshold. Drunken, I have a great time being a part of it, no longer susceptible to my audiological encumbrance.
So what’s the answer? Hang out with a few friends at a time? Do short but sweet check ins? Or create social engagements that specifically don’t tie into drinking? Go to museums or something? Or do I source whatever the opposite of a hearing aid is? Wear permanent earplugs? Or cave and develop a coke habit?