The Highly Sensitive Drinker

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“I drink to make other people more interesting.”
~Ernest Hemingway

Highly sensitive people (HSP) tend to be particularly sensitive to stimulating substances, like caffeine, processed foods, sugar and booze. In fact, these everyday food items and drinks can prove to be downright toxic to a HSP’s system. 

As an HSP myself, liquor was my go-to crutch to make it through parties, weddings, family dinners, an evening with friends and even to cope with a long, over stimulating day at work. A couple of drinks in and I was loose, disconnected from my reactive nervous system, and ready to mingle. It never even occurred to me that I could go out and not have some cocktails. 

I knew somewhere in my mind and soul that drinking wasn’t good for me, or at least drinking in excess, but I was young and didn’t know any other way. Being an extremely extroverted HSP—yes, you can be extroverted and highly sensitive—I always wanted to be the life of the party. The problem was the inevitable major blowback. Waking up the next morning after a night of partying often nearly took me down. I’d be sick, filled with anxiety and always questioning my life choices. “How did you fix that problem?” you ask? I would just do it all over again the very next night. Problem NOT solved. 

As I got older and more in-tune with my HSP personality traits, I realized something had to change. I had to get honest with myself and say, “Hey there, lady, what you keep doing is hurting you!” The pain of drinking too much started to become unbearable.

I started to connect the dots about why I felt compelled to drink so much when socializing, and I came to a pretty eye-opening conclusion. I was drinking: A) to quiet my intuition’s voice in my head (as with most HSP’s, I feel EVERYTHING!), and/or B) to make everyone around me more interesting. That is, the rich inner life HSP's tend to have (there’s typically a lot happening inside us, right?) makes it such that, many times, the outside seems somewhat flat, nowhere near as magical as what’s going on within. So, the kind of drinking I was doing was allowing me to see the more animated, amusing or intriguing side of people—even though it always came with consequences.  

As soon as I was honest with myself about what was really happening, not only did my choice of people I socialized with change, my attitude about drinking radically changed, as well.

First of all, why in the hell would I hang out with people who I needed to drink around to enjoy myself? Secondly, why would I drink more than I should and be sick the next day? Once I earnestly answered these two questions for myself, my old behavior stopped on a dime. Between feeling enough pain and coming to some crystal-clear verdicts about my HSP personality traits, I had my coming-to-Jesus moment. 

These days, I’m more picky about who I spend my time around. Hanging out with friends who elevate me and give me energy is the only way I roll. And I do not waver on this. I also know I do well with a glass or two of wine when I’m eating a full meal. (That is, not three or four glasses and not on an empty stomach!) I love wine . . . and in moderation, it’s perfectly fine for me to have a couple glasses on a night out with people I love. Testing out what works for me and always checking in with my honesty-meter to see how I really feel has done me right. 

The bottom line? You don’t have to go out and destroy your system to have a good time! It’s just not worth it for the HSP. Finding people who can see you, understand you, and who you find interesting will give you a bigger high than a margarita ever could. Begin to pay attention to how you feel when you sit down to have a drink—I think that’s a good beginning step for the balancing act all HSP’s eventually have to face. Cheers!

Peace, Love & Magic,
Valerie C. Gangas