Overcoming Social Anxiety in Recovery
Most drug addicts and alcoholics say they grew up feeling like they didn’t “fit in” before they even picked up a drink or a drug. They felt less than, or just uncomfortable and out of place. Using drugs and alcohol filled that hole in the soul and made them feel like they were part of something at last.
This is an illusion. Drugs and alcohol actually heighten fear and anxiety. In some cases, drug abuse and alcoholism can make a person feel nervous or anxious most of the time.
The progression of the disease leads many addicts to a world of isolation. An intense fear of people and social settings is developed. Drug addicts generally come into recovery with extremely low self-esteem driven by a hundred forms of fear.
Social Phobias: Walk Through the Fear
Overcoming fear of social situations is possible. Talk to other recovering addicts and alcoholics who understand what you’re going through. Develop a support network of friends who you feel you can be yourself around without being judged. Surround yourself with people who have what you want.
Go to “recovery friendly” places, like coffeehouses, meetings, and other sober social spots. Check on the bulletin board at your local meetings and clubhouses for upcoming social events and activities. Sign up for a sober sports team, or volunteer at your home group to do service work.
Get a phone list at the meeting and dial the numbers. Set up coffee dates or ask for a ride to the next meeting. 12 step programs are about giving back, so healthy people in recovery have no problem reaching out their hand to the new person who is struggling.
Most 12 step meetings offer commitments specifically designed for newcomers, like making coffee or greeting people at the entrance of the meeting. These are good examples of service work that will help you give back, but also put you in a position to meet others.
Tips for overcoming fear of social situations:
Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant so drinking too much of it causes nervousness and anxiety. Drink caffeine free tea or juice instead.
Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can create anxiety. Being well rested can help keep you calm in social settings.
Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Negative self-talk influences the way you see yourself and the way you think others see you. Positive affirmations create positive energy and reduce stress in social settings.
Get out of yourself and help others. The best way to build self-esteem and self-confidence is by helping others. You will begin to feel good about yourself and whatever fear you’re experiencing won’t seem as significant.
Getting comfortable in your own skin does not happen overnight. Recovery is a process. Sometimes you have to go through awkward and uncomfortable situations to grow. The idea is that you remain willing to walk through these fears and difficult times.