After being a drunk for 16 years, I was shocked to find out that I struggled miserably in social situations in sobriety.
What had happened?
I felt like the Ice Man whenever I got around people – I felt like an alien that had just landed and needed to take a crash course in human behaviors or I was going to die.
Then, it slowly dawned on me that I had been running from any kind of stress for over 20 years, big or small.
If someone or something pissed me off between the ages of 20 to 36, I was heading to the bar or to the store to get some beer.
Of course, I don’t think we truly run from our problems – they just re-materialize later in different situations.
So, How Do You Develop Social Skills without the Drink?
The eight years of sobriety have been interesting to say the least.
I had a major panic attack around year 3 or 4 with my parents.
The panic attack really flipped me out because I was being a “good boy” and was completely sober, but that panic attack left some kind of PTSD in me – I was very fearful of having another one. If you’ve ever had a panic attack before you know what I mean.
Panic attacks can destroy a person’s life literally.
I knew a guy that never left his house for over 20 years because he had a panic attack one time while driving his car.
It’s not something you want to experience, and even though I was completely sober, I created “social anxiety” because of my fear of it happening again.
That led me on a real spiritual, self-development quest.
Along the way, I had to rebuild my entire coping mechanisms and gave my ego a horrible ride.
I didn’t want sobriety to absolutely suck, so I started researching a ton of material from teachers.
Looking back, I think everything helped – I just didn’t notice during the daily grind.
But, one day I really noticed that my social skills were better than ever, and after 8 years of sobriety with a couple two day relapses, I was a new man and sober. . .
So, What Worked to Gain Back Social Skills?
Simple answer: love yourself.
Yes, it’s as easy as that – many alcoholics have a lot of shame and guilt which perpetuates the drinking – a negative, self-defeating loop so to speak.
Even though I had been sober for a few years, I hadn’t done any work on learning how to accept myself completely and unconditionally.
I was what people in Alcoholics Anonymous call a “dry drunk.”
I still had all the rage and irrational behavior like a drunk, but without drinking.
I had to learn how to love myself before I could even talk to someone else in a nice way.
That was the key – and the more I did things I was proud of – like creating the Actualized Man Program and an awesome YouTube channel, and the more I spoke affirmations to myself, the more I came around.
I practiced looking at myself in the mirror and doing “shadow work” where you learn to love and accept those dark, and suppressed pieces of you – that typically made us run to alcohol in the past.
Some crazy stuff from your past will re-emerge the more self-development you do.
Don’t let the voices and bad dreams turn you off to loving yourself – love all the aspects of you and forget about the past.
Every second is a new moment you can start fresh.
Quick Story How I knew I Had Changed for the Better
I had always dreaded going to my wife’s parents house for Christmas.
I had skipped the year before, and the year before that I had to take a ton of natural herbs to relax me and run a few miles to burn off the excess adrenaline.
This year, I was going and I wasn’t going to jog or take a ton of supplements.
All I had was a little CBD Oil beforehand, but what really made me feel completely confident is that I had:
- Been closer to God – every night communicating with him to relieve my anxiety and to fill my heart with love again.
- Hammered the affirmations – yeah, they don’t seem like they work at first, but say something your subconscious will believe in more, like: “How do I love myself more today” say to yourself in the morning as you wake up, or “How can I be more confident tomorrow” as you go to bed. The more you can say affirmations during the day, the more you will notice subtle changes.
- Changed my environment – I had on new clothes and cologne, and we were driving our new car.
- Felt like a Member of Society by Giving – nothing feels better than donating a little money here and there – and volunteering at a local soup kitchen. I had donated a lot of money to an orthodox monastery in West Virginia.
- Gratitude – is huge – think about where you’ve come from – I was a drunk pissing my bed just 9 years earlier, now I had my health, a beautiful wife, and worked from home full-time in my slippers.
I also visualized hugging my wife’s family and being confident – visualizing what you want the outcome to be is crucial – professional athletes do it all day long. . .
When I stepped into her parent’s house, my visualizations became a reality and I was calm and confident.
I even surprised myself, but everything I imagined came true and it was the best Christmas ever.
That meeting made it official, I was a new man, and knowing that, spiked my self-esteem even higher.
Thanks for reading How Men Over 40 Can Develop Social Skills without the Drink.
Erik Christian Johnson is a full-time blogger, self-development advocate, and full-time network marketing Entrepreneur.