How Introverts Can Avoid Using Alcohol as a Crutch for Socializing

An introvert drinks a glass of wine

Some introverts may drink alcohol to lessen their social anxiety. “Dry January” is the perfect time to reset and take a break.

It’s January, and for some people, this means participating in Dry January, abstaining from alcohol. Although you can do this any time of year, many people choose to do so in January after all the drinking-fueled holidays in December.

So what does this have to do with introverts? To lessen their anxiety in social situations, some introverts turn to alcohol to help them be more “social” and at ease.

We introverts may feel nervous in unfamiliar social situations, yet these situations are bound to arise now and then, whether it’s a work event, friend’s birthday party, you name it. While alcohol can, indeed, be a social lubricant, this can lead to someone relying on drinking… and then drinking too much as a result. They then feel they need alcohol to avoid being socially awkward. 

An unhealthy drinking habit can quickly develop, which may lead to alcoholism (also known as “alcohol use disorder”). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), moderate drinking is defined as 1 drink a day (or less) for women and 2 drinks a day (or less) for men. So you can see how drinking more than this can lead to excessive drinking

So if you’re an introvert who relies on alcohol as a social crutch, how can you break the cycle? Well, follow this guide to become more confident in social settings — without any liquid courage.

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4 Ways Introverts Can Avoid Using Alcohol as a Crutch for Socializing

1. Join the “sober curious” movement and participate in events that don’t involve alcohol.

I know — it’s unhealthy and unrealistic to stop socializing altogether. Even though introverts love their solitude, being alone all the time won’t solve the underlying (drinking) issue. And as much as you may want to stop using alcohol as a crutch, you’ll occasionally find yourself in challenging social situations.

If you still want to go out on weekends and maintain your usual social life — just without using liquid courage — you can always join the “sober curious” movement, which encourages you to rethink your relationship with alcohol. You don’t have to become sober for life, but just cognizant of how, and when, you use alcohol. If you want some inspiration, there’s even a book all about it, Sober Curious, by Ruby Warrington.

Plus, there are a growing number of sober and sober curious events that will allow you to feel less alone; you can all support each other without the pressure to drink alcohol. For instance, Zero Proofed hosts alcohol-free events around Los Angeles, wherein guests can buy fun mocktails to drink. Similarly, Party On! is a sober comedy show that takes place monthly (also in L.A.). And if you’re on the other coast, like in New York City, check out Sober Fun NYC. If you’re in other cities, look on or other online forums to find alcohol-free events in your area.

And if you’re at a non-sober event, no one will even know that the tonic water in your hand (complete with a lime wedge) is alcohol-free! While it may take practice talking to people while sipping a tonic water vs. vodka tonic, practice does make perfect. (Grab an extroverted friend to help you out.)

And, speaking of friends…

2. Build a strong support system (even if you don’t like asking for help).

Having a strong support system in place goes hand-in-hand with the above. Even though you’ll likely make new friends at the sober curious events you start attending, it also helps to confide in some of your close friends or family members, too. I know — introverts often don’t like asking for help. But trust me, your loved ones will want to be there for you.

If you need extra help, it’s also a good idea to speak to an authority figure about your issue with alcohol. This may mean a parent, extended relative, teacher, coach, church leader — any older adult who has had a positive influence on your early adult life. They might have been in your position at one point and have the advice you need to stop using alcohol as a crutch. You can also seek out a therapist or start attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. (Note: You do not have to be an alcoholic, per se, to attend; the support will be invaluable regardless.)

You can also extend your support system by volunteering at local community events, taking up a recreational activity or sport, or growing your professional network. 

It’s no secret that introverts may have a hard time opening up to people. If you’d rather not talk to a friend in-person, there are numerous online mental health forums you can join to voice your thoughts anonymously. These platforms tend to draw more introverts than extroverts, so you will likely find many similar personalities.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

3. Set firm boundaries with friends and family.

When you’re trying to drink less, or stop altogether, it’s important to set boundaries with those closest to you, like your friends, family members, and coworkers. Saying “no” to certain social events can help eliminate the temptation to drink, too. And if you have certain friends who love attending a weekly Happy Hour, you may want to skip it and meet up with them another time, perhaps for an introvert-friendly activity (sans alcohol).

While maintaining your boundaries can be very difficult — especially if you have persuasive friends or family members — just remember: You don’t have to be a people-pleaser. You have no obligation to drink alcohol. 

4. Start new self-care habits, like being less attached to your phone.

The most important step in recovering from unhealthy habits is to replace them with healthier ones. It’s much easier to break a drinking habit if you change your daily routine at the same time, replacing it with something more positive. The bigger the change, the better the results. Start by doing small, manageable self-care activities:

  • Make your bed first thing in the morning. (Research has found that this can make you more productive!)
  • Avoid using your phone immediately after waking up. Instead, start with something tech-free and more positive, like writing a gratitude list.
  • Expose yourself to small doses of sunlight throughout the day. Vitamin D can help boost your mood, is good for your bones, and can reduce inflammation, among other things.
  • Stay hydrated (make water your BFF) and avoid snacking. Or, opt for high-protein, good-for-you snacks, like a handful of almonds, instead of an easy-to-grab candy bar.
  • Set aside some time for reading, meditation, or another silent activity. After all, these introvert-friendly activities will help you recharge, as well!

These small habits will help you decrease overwhelm and build momentum. You can then implement bigger lifestyle changes, such as going to the gym every day, starting a new eating regimen, or fixing your sleep schedule. 

You might have noticed that all of these habits revolve around health and fitness, which isn’t a coincidence. Introverts have high sensitivity to dopamine and don’t require much stimulation to be happy. While drinking alcohol can seem stimulating in the moment, alcohol is a known depressant and can increase anxiety, which is not what we’re going for here. Furthermore, introverts may be more prone to “hangxiety,” an increased state of anxiety during hangovers. 

Therefore, a low-key lifestyle focused on long-term results — instead of short-term gratification — is much better-suited to introverts. Research shows that habit formation may take several weeks, but the results are definitely worth the wait.

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