The Phenomenon of “FOMO” and the Alcoholic

In my drinking days I had to be at every party, every get-together, every “Dollar Shots Night” at the bar and any other occasion that involved social drinking. The irrational fear I experienced was that if I didn’t show up at one of these events I would miss out on something important. As they say, “the struggle is real.” This fear motivated my drinking and going-out habits for many years. I thought I was unique in experiencing this, but once I got sober I discovered “FOMO” — fear of missing out — is the real deal and pretty much all alcoholics experience it.

Google defines FOMO as “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.” Urban Dictionary calls FOMO “the fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great.” It seems to be a more common phenomenon among Milliennials these days, with the never-ending amount of social network posts and apps to check. It’s a constant battle to see who’s doing what and where.

I experienced this constantly while I was in active addiction. I could not let the fear of missing out get to me, so instead I made sure I was at every party and event. FOMO is why I moved to Ocean City, Maryland for the summer of 2008 and went out to the bars every single night. Every night was a new theme, a new party and a new crop of tourists. I wanted to be in the middle of it all. It’s the same reason I moved to Cancun, Mexico, and stayed there for so long. The thought of my friends out without me, having fun or experiencing something that I wasn’t, was a fate worse than death.

FOMO and Alcoholics

FOMO is the same, perpetual feeling of being an active alcoholic. Just like all alcoholics, I wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin. My way to achieve this was to be the popular party girl who knew everything that happened at every party and was up on all the latest gossip. FOMO got me to every party and drinking kept me there. FOMO is what kept my addiction going for so long.

Alcoholics drink to feel connected, to rid ourselves of eternal loneliness and to make ourselves relevant in this crazy world. Chasing this feeling, though, was crippling. While I was off avoiding my tragic FOMO, friends of mine were getting married, having babies and doing other important things that were of no relevance to me at the time. FOMO actually gave me a skewed vision of the world. It played into the part of my disease that wants more, more, more.

That fear eventually came to dominate my world and it fueled my addiction — until I got sober. I believe the FOMO phenomenon is inherent in the brain of every addict; that’s why we’re always chasing the next high, the belief that we’ll miss out on the next great thing.

How to Combat FOMO

For me, the best medicine for FOMO was getting sober. In my first few months of sobriety I attended a few birthday parties, weddings and nights out — all of which II dreaded going to. But I made it through them all sober and I actually had fun. It took me a few months to let loose and realize that FOMO had me in its grips only during active addiction. Sobriety brought on a new freedom and a new peace.

Today, I’m comfortable in my own skin and I’m comfortable with the thought of missing out. Not being at the party doesn’t bother me. I know exactly what goes on there because I was there for years. I know I’m not missing anything.

FOMO can be a real danger for those in recovery. It can bring many alcoholics close to relapse. That feeling of missing out can creep up at the most unexpected times and be a trigger, making you long for your former life. If you’re sober and FOMO is still rearing its ugly head in your life, this is the time to remember your past and why it’s your past. Think of how far you’ve come and where you’re going. One question that can put FOMO in perspective is: Will drinking alcohol make this situation any better? The answer for me is always no, that in fact, alcohol would make it worse.

So stop worrying about missing out and start living life, right now, in this moment. If a happy life without alcohol and FOMO is possible for me, it’s possible for you.

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