I am a college student who has no interest in drinking. A friend of mine was killed in a drunk driving accident in high school and I cannot think about drinking without thinking of her. It makes me sick. You can guess the result of this feeling in college: I have no friends. I know that drinking is a big part of the way college students relax and have fun, but it’s just not my thing. I feel disgusted when I’m around people who are drunk and want nothing to do with them. But I’m also lonely. I know you are going to tell me to find other people who aren’t interested in drinking, and I have tried, but they just aren’t very fun to be around.
– Sober and Lonely
Dear Sober and Lonely,
You’re right, part of what I am going to say is exactly what you feared I would: It’s time to find friends who aren’t interested in drinking. But that’s not all. It’s also time for you to find friends who ARE interested in the other things that interest you (not just sobriety – that does sound boring). And if you are vetting potential friends based on the drinking tendencies of all applicants, it’s no wonder you aren’t having a lot of fun. It can be as important to consider what you want to do on a Friday night with friends as to consider what you don’t want to do. Work on framing these thoughts positively. It can have a real impact on your energy for going out and making new connections.
But the second half of my advice is this: You shouldn’t have flashbacks about the loss of your friend whenever you think about alcohol. That’s not okay. At best, it’s a sign of some unresolved feelings. At worst, it could be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a very real condition that responds well to treatment. Please reach out to your school’s counseling center or send me a private message. You do not have to feel this way forever. In fact, the more work you do to fully grieve the loss of your friend, the easier it may be to find new ones. ?
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.