This is the 18th day since I became a non-drinker of alcoholic drinks. I’m not even missing it or thinking much about it since I came back from my holidays. Life routine has taken over and I’m just cycling through my days, chipping away at the looming monster of my “to do list”. (Maybe I should refer to it more as a “wish list” because it seems unlikely I’ll ever get through everything on it before the various deadlines come and go.)

This coming weekend, however, I’m heading down to a family gathering (my mother’s side of the family – whose motto seems to be “Where’s the Party?”) to celebrate my Godmother’s 60th birthday. I’m looking forward to it, but feeling a bit trepidatious as well. It’s not just the “pressure to drink” thing; I’ve already made the decision to drive down myself and back on the same evening, so that helps with that. But I always feel a little bit exposed and vulnerable at these large family things.

I’m pretty good at getting by in society and “faking being human” but it’s not my natural state. And no matter what I do, the weird seems to seep out in something I will say or do across the whole of an evening. And acting human for a whole evening is really exhausting. You’d think it would be easier with family – and with immediate family, it is! But this is extended family – sure they’re weird in their own ways, but those don’t seem to be the same ways I am. As far as I know none of my siblings are coming – one sister might be, and that would definitely take some of the pressure off me.

Ultimately, it will be lovely, and there are aunts and uncles of whom I am hugely fond who are travelling from abroad and it will be so amazing to see them. And I’m pretty sure people on that side of the family do share my particular flavour of weird, it’s just they tend to act human too! But, you know, all of that immediate awkwardness would be so easy to by-pass by having a drink in my hand and letting tipsiness (which would shortly segue into drunkeness, let’s be honest) cut through the red tape of feeling “other” and out of place.

The other thing is that I’m fat. And it’s an issue for me. It’s another way that I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I’m likely to feel that I’m not looking particularly attractive in whatever I’ve chosen to dress in, and even if I left the house feeling okay, I’m pretty sure I’ll be feeling less-than by the time I turn up and feel internally compared with others there.

It’s foolish, right? I often say to students that however self-conscious they’re feeling themselves, nobody is actually judging them. They’re all too busy turning their gaze inwards and judging themselves. Logically, I don’t think my extended family are judging me. But Judgemental Crow gets super powerful in situations like this. It’s going to be fairly anxiety inducing.

So, like I said, the urge to drink will have a strong habitual trigger. I’m not going to drink, because I know inside that I don’t actually want to. The thing about drinking alcohol to get over nerves and feeling awkward and weird and self /other-judged is that the next day is horrible. Inhibitions are probably there for a reason and probably should be eased out of, like making your way into the cold sea. (I know, lots of people advocate just jumping in – but that’s how you end up out of your depth! And too cold to boot!) Those inhibitions and nerves don’t actually go away, they just get temporarily suppressed for the evening, and the guilt and self-disgust and self-judgement would come back on my 1,000 fold the next day.

It doesn’t solve anything, drinking, it just puts problems on the long finger. If I’m an awkward feeling person in company (and I am), then I’ve got choices to make. Either don’t go to stuff, or go and slowly ease into things and learn how to be myself in public. Not a crazy mask of “being myself! so individual and independent!” which is the person that alcohol can sometimes bring out, swinging the pendulum way too far.

Myself is actually a fairly quiet person. And how bad if I’m a person who likes to listen a bit more than talking. Social gatherings could probably do with way more people like that anyway.

[Post Script: I had a lot of thoughts about paying attention and habitual snacking too today, but I’ve run out of time. Tomorrow, maybe!]

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