Whether it’s triggered by Facebook pictures of the party you weren’t invited to, or some news from your now-married ex, most of us will have experienced FOMO at some point. The Fear Of Missing Out is the social anxiety that comes from worrying that everyone else is having more fun, more excitement and more anecdote-worthy experiences than you are.
FOMO is nothing new; it’s human nature to flex the comparison muscle. We used to call it ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. The difference now is that we can keep up with the Joneses 24/7, thanks to their heavily filtered Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds. When their parties, partners and pregnancies are plastered across your screen day and night, it’s very easy to feel like you don’t match up.
A lot of people are scared that sobriety will propel them into a permanent state of FOMO. I remember being gripped by a very real fear that I would forever miss out on all the action, memories, photos, laughs, inside jokes… you name it. We live in a boozy world and not drinking means opting out of an activity that most people consider essential to having fun.
The good news is that alcohol-free living does not mean you need to resign yourself to a lifetime of loserdom. Sobriety will not make your life less fun, less spontaneous, less anything. If you get your head straight, you will find alcohol-free living can add to your life, whereas booze only takes away.
Here are 5 steps to fighting the FOMO:
There’s no law that says you have to be drinking in order to do certain things. There is nothing to stop you going out and partying till dawn if you feel like it. What you’ll probably find is that some nights are great – you’re with friends you love, the music is great, you feel good and the mood is brilliant. Other nights will suck, just as they did when you were drinking (haven’t we all had nights out that were dull, no matter how much we drank?) If you’re worried about missing out, then stay to the bitter end at least a couple of times. You might find that you quite like the company of tipsy friends and their mood is infectious. Or they might be the kind of drunks who become boring and repetitive. If it’s the latter, then you’ll know to leave earlier next time. Personally, I think you miss very little after midnight.
If you isolate from the rest of the world, you probably will feel like you’re missing out. Your social life is exactly that – yours to do what you want with. So make your own plans and engineer things you want to do. Organise lunches, brunches, walks, days out, shopping, trips to the cinema … whatever you feel like. A lot of what we do is habit and good friends will change and adapt with you.
Take a social media detox
When was the last time you posted a really unflattering selfie or let the world know about your long, boring weekend? Nope, me neither. We’re all guilty of projecting a certain side of ourselves online and deep down, we know everyone else is doing the same. But it’s really easy to forget that. If your social media is making you feel bad about yourself, take a break. Or you could remove the apps from your phone so you’re checking in a bit less. De-friend or unfollow the people who clog up your newsfeed with posts about wine o’clock. You’ll feel better for it!
Let’s look at things another way. Let’s say you do miss out on stuff because you’re trying to protect your sobriety and you don’t feel up to going out. First, remind yourself what you’re not missing: a hangover, expensive taxi rides home, drunk texts you may later regret … you name it. Then, look at the big picture. In a year’s time, will you look back on this one event and still regret not going? I doubt it. By saying no you’re actually saying yes to changing your life for the better. Remind that negative voice in your head that you’re working on something really big right now – you should be proud of yourself. You’re living life on your own terms, making your own decisions. You’re doing something that is going to make your life considerably better.
Know that soon, you won’t give a damn
There is nothing quite like sobriety to give you a kick in the pants and the confidence to be different. I’ve written before about the idea of being a sober rebel. I think drinking is all about fitting in, following the crowd and conforming, whereas sobriety is about doing your own thing and not being influenced by the masses. The beauty of alcohol free living is that you quickly become present enough to see how you’re spending your time and whether you’re genuinely enjoying it. So your idea of fun may well change – perhaps radically so – but trust me, it’ll be for the better.