How to Overcome Social Anxiety in Recovery
“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.” – Criss Jami
I have been a newcomer so many times that I can’t begin to count them. That awkward feeling of walking into a new meeting and not knowing anyone is harsh. I was also praying no one knew me. I knew I should ask for help, but believing vulnerability is a weakness and feeling emotionally injured just by seeing someone else be happy. I found it hard to talk to anyone. The distasteful combination of admiration, confusion, self-contempt, and envy is enough to make a person’s stomach turn; especially when it’s served on a platter of false pride and desperation.
The irony to that is when I was down to my last hit, you could find me asking people at bus stations, dressed for work, in the early morning if they knew where to score. It didn’t matter who, where or in what circumstance. If I were out of drugs, I’d ask a senior citizen in line at Publix if I thought she could have a ten percent chance of telling me how to get what I needed.
I’m the same guy that will walk into a meeting of strangers with the answers on how to change my life, who are welcoming me with open hearts and extended arms and I’ll tell myself “I’m shy.” Or better yet, “They will not get over on me! Weirdos! What is this, some kind of cult?”
I had to be trained out of that. I had to get through the awkward stages and go for it. I knew it was a matter of life or death for me. Recovery is in large part about becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable. Therefore, the surrender aspect is a must. Two main places can be looked at the training ground for this, the meetings and the phone.
How to Socialize Sober at Meetings
There are three meetings at every meeting; they mean it when they say “arrive early, stay late.”
The Meeting Before the Meeting:
Arriving early to the meeting gives us the ability to meet people beforehand. It will show us who approaches newcomers looking to help, who is looking for romance, or who is looking for a business connection. Meeting etiquette tells the whole story if we know what to look for. The small same-sex groups are where I had to position myself to be brave enough to walk up and introduce myself to someone. If they were carrying books, it was even better. Those are literature-based meetings.
The Actual Meeting:
During the meeting, it makes sense to listen to people who we are looking to approach after the meeting. It’s great to look for people we relate to and identify with, that part is essential. It is equally important that they are armed with the proper knowledge and know the process of the 12 steps. These people tend to speak along themes like the steps, sponsorship, sponsees, prayer, selfishness, resentment, and a higher power. These are the people you want.
The Meeting After the Meeting:
This is the most critical part of the meeting. Some find their next dysfunctional relationship, while others get a good sponsor here. We will likely know who we are looking to approach if we paid attention in the meeting. This is the hard part. Approaching a stranger and asking for help.
It doesn’t have to be so intense. We cut ourselves a break and start a light conversation. “I liked what you shared in the meeting.” Or “I’m new and looking to get a few supports” are perfectly fine icebreakers. General conversation about where we are from and our background in recovery is a great place to start. How long we have been sober if we have ever tried this before. What experiences we have had with past attempts. If it’s not received well, move on to someone else.
What to do After the Meeting
There is a wrench for every nut. Most importantly leave with a phone number and a polite request to call soon. The calling part is what most never do. That is a whole other blog in itself. See “When is a Good Time to Call Your Sponsor?” it explains what the calls should be about. It’s more of a habit-forming skill. If you can pick up the phone and call someone when you’re nervous about it, you get in the habit of always calling them.
If you’re nervous about calling them, remember that you would call anybody to get what you needed before. They have what you need now to stay sober. You owe yourself a shot. Call that person, if it doesn’t work out as a sponsor situation, it’s okay. You’ve gained another sober support. I was told if we chase our recovery with half the zeal we chased our drugs we would be just fine. I’ve seen that work for many people. Don’t shortchange yourself, always give recovery your all. It is a matter of life and death for many of us.