Sobriety is Like Middle School


After giving up the drink, you will soon find out that facing the world newly sober is like going back to middle school.

You will suddenly morph into your 14-year-old self, and struggle to fit in. You are tongue-tied, awkward, overeager, and shy, all at the same time. Your clothes are weird and don’t fit right.

And you have to learn the basics of socializing all over again.

It doesn’t matter what personality you had in your drinking life, because with liquid courage, we were all super confident, talkative, funny, … charming even. (Until we had a little too much, but I don’t have to tell you that.)

Alcohol, being the great equalizer, has brought us all to this new playing field: middle school.

Your sober community (if you have one) is a great place to start honing your skills, but often they are as stunted socially as you are. And thriving in this community involves learning to speak in monologues and emote on cue, which are NOT assets in middle school. Still, try to hang out with some of the older kids in this group who know their way around the schoolyard. (And AVOID the ones selling pot on the playground, even though your lizard brain thinks they’re cool. Tell yourself you don’t want to be cool. Cool is for fools! Write this on your notebook where no one else can see it.)

Sooner or later, you will be forced out of your sober safety zone, like an eagle out of the nest. A gangly, awkward eagle who spits when he talks.

You might then begin venturing out with your old drinking buddies because that’s all you know. This doesn’t count. You can’t practice having a sober conversation with people who are drinking. They want to do all the talking, for one thing, and they aren’t listening to a word you say anyway. (You do this too.) They are performing. They need an audience. All you have to do is nod your head and laugh at their stories. Even little kids can do that.

Instead, after a few months of sobriety (a year, in my case), you must seek out some normal people and attempt to hang out with them.

I did this recently. My husband and I met another couple for dinner at a restaurant. I was pretty sure that no drinking would be involved because the other couple looked so respectable. We did our best to look respectable too. Drinking never even came up. (Did you even know people like this existed? People whose lives don’t revolve around whether or not they are going to order a drink?)

After I ordered my decaf coffee, right on cue, I morphed into a kid sitting at the grown-up’s table — tongue-tied, awkward, overeager, and shy, all at the same time.

I had to consciously think things like, Now it’s my turn to say something. Say something! I no longer even recognized the simple give and take of conversation.

The inner angsting continued. Don’t talk with your mouth full. Shift eye contact to the guy who’s talking. Don’t stare. Don’t say ‘shit.’ Don’t mention Trump. Wait, he just said ‘fuck.’ Does that mean I can say ‘shit’? No! It will seem like I’m trying to be cool. Be cool. Be cool. There’s a lull in the conversation … say something! Anything!

This from a girl who once smugly described herself as a social butterfly.

Mercifully, these middle school years don’t take as long as the first time around. They’re in dog years! Even faster. Right there at the table, I advanced to tenth grade.

I became that eager to please high school girl I once was. I jumped in to the conversation now and then, testing out my growing confidence. And the evening continued on pleasantly. It was fun even. We’re going to do it again soon.

What I remember now is that before I learned to drink, I learned to talk.

I learned to express myself. I watched what other people did to learn social cues. I risked talking to people, and then built on that experience to talk to someone else. I risked telling a joke. I failed, but didn’t let it destroy me. I tried again. I learned to be myself in a group. I found out that I have something to say.

Now, I get to learn who I am all over again. To relearn what I forgot mattered. To begin again with a clean slate.

And this time, I can do it right.

29 thoughts on “Sobriety is Like Middle School

  1. oh man I so relate to this!!! it SO DOES feel like you regress to an 15 year old…in some ways the best, and in some ways the worst!!! thank you so much for sharing, nice to know we are not alone 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know! And you just have to survive it instead of reaching for a glass of wine, like everybody else. (Or everybody else in my imagination.) It turns out other people grew up while I was regressing. ; )

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a good analogy. (And just like a middle schooler, I totally typed “anal” for analogy, giggled, then continued on.) It’s so true though. I have only ventured out a time or two so far to try to socialize and it’s been painfully awkward for me. I have hope that I’ll figure it out at some point though! Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your story as well. (I’ve been reading through your site.) I still have an immature sense of humor, but I think that’s permanent. And don’t you have a wedding this summer to attend? ; )

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes!
    I am just now able to converse like an adult!
    Another reason why I don’t EVER want to drink again!
    I’d have to relearn my social skills all over again, when I’d have to quit again!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I LOVE this post and it made me want to pull you in for a big hug. Everything you say us so true and make me remember all the pain and angst. Your inner dialogue could be mine and the “don’t say shit, don’t mention Trump” made me laugh out loud.
    I think we need to reframe everything we think about sobriety and change it to make ourselves the heroes, the trailblazers, the sober pioneers. Maybe I’ll write a post about it or maybe you should as your posts are always so much better thought out and understandable.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Ginger. And once again, you have completely READ MY MIND! Your post idea is exactly what I have been prompted to do, over and over again. And funny you should say that about my posts being thought out — I had a ‘reading’ with a psychic who had come with very high recommendations, and he told me to STOP overanalyzing and editing these posts because it’s more authentic to just kind of free flow. Because I’ve had to write awful business articles for years, I am in the habit of using these ridiculous writing formats. They really don’t serve me well here at all, but they do give the articles a thought-out feel, which is not what a blog is supposed to be. See what I mean? I would much rather read a blog like yours than my own. But I’m working on it ….
      Big hug back to you!!!


  5. It’s so bloody difficult! I’ve been in a little sober bubble for the last 6 months. Have a social thing coming up in a month and I’m already nervous. Not because I think I may want to drink but because I am so frikking awkwardly anxious around new people. I read somewhere that you should do really strenuous exercise just before you go out because that activates your happy hormones and helps with confidence…


  6. Oh I just love this! I felt like it was about me! I told someone recently that I think I made it to twenty but maybe that is hopeful thinking lol. 😁❤ It really helped me to read some books on introverts because I discovered it is normal that I don’t do small talk well… At all. Learning who we are now is a trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! And I agree … I no longer hold myself responsible for making meaningless chitchat. I am OK with the silence now and then. I think it’s that performing thing wearing off. Drinkers really do end up being performers. They have to be ‘on.’ It’s so easy to see here in middle school. I can’t wait to turn 20 like you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Comment: Last nite i had a ,well i dnt know what it was but every worry,panic,fear,and negitive thought actually dissapeared.i am sober now 14 mnths tho still i didnt deep dwn feel any happyier, all the progress and improvements in my life to me have been easy too do as to me they were a necesity so i just done tho ppl say i have so much srength and willpower.i dnt feel happy or get excited bout shit all. I have been doing a blog last few mnths and my writing amazes pplbut still until last nite nothing felt any differant really. I am not any good with this computer lark and luckly threw facebook some american lady set up a page for me and is a english teacher so without changin my word edits all my writing and keeps my blog page good.but sitting here now scared to think to much about my expereience last nite incase it goes away that feeling were the world just made sense i i try to work it all out i just typed wat happen in short to google and this page came up so who ever you are there you go. I would just like 1 opinion about my experience from sumone….i am 43 yr old male frm a tough background in belfast n.ireland and i actually cried my eyes out at this experience ,i hope u get this email and write back.i will leave you my blog page so u can share on and know me a bit more… sitting here hoping to god that this feeling has not gone….thank you for listening…… my blog page is darren graham. I am sorry for sending you this as i am no good with computers and have just ended up here at this page looking for answers sumwere i suppose….im gonna just post this post everywere lol till i get answersthanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had an experience exactly like what you are describing. It was incredible. I believe you, and I hope the feeling never goes away, Darren. I think everything happens for a reason, and that your blogging will help change many people lives. I love hearing your story. ; )


      1. I love that! I am not overanalyzing mine as well. I accept it as a gift from God or the universe or whoever, and I am grateful. I take it to mean everything is going to be alright and I am not alone.


    1. What’s even better is the feelings of vulnerability go away, and once they pass, you’re so much stronger. Then you end up being the best version of yourself all of time, completely without alcohol. I can still laugh so hard that I cry. It’s way more fun once you graduate from middle school purgatory. 😀


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